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The E-Sylum (3/21/2010)

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Dick Doty of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution submitted this review of Atom Damali's new book on Ottoman coinage. Thanks! -Editor

Damali History of Ottoman Coins Many scholars and collectors are aware of a recent, and very welcome, improvement in the physical appearance of numismatic publications coming from Russia. The new studies are fairly expensive, but the quality and mode of presentation of their content more than justifies their cost. Now I'm pleased to report that Turkey has joined this trend: a case in point is a superb new volume by Dr. Atom Damali, Osmanli Sikkeleri Tarihi/History of Ottoman Coins, I, five years in the making

This is the first in a projected series that will eventually comprise eight volumes, taking the story from the very beginning of Ottoman coinage under Osman Gazi (ruled AH699-724, 1299-1324CE) all the way down to the early twentieth century, and the end of the Turkish Empire itself. Dr. Damali's first volume covers almost exactly two centuries, from Osman Gazi down to Selim I (ruled AH918-926, 1512-1520CE).

The catalog portion of the work is prefaced by a general historical sketch; a detailed account of manufacturing techniques used in Ottoman coinage (of particular interest to me); valuable explanations concerning symbols and motifs appearing on the coinage across time; history of the various denominations introduced and superseded across the centuries; metrology of all sorts, lucidly presented; and useful information about the plethora of mints striking coinage for the Empire, scattered from western Africa all the way to the Persian Gulf.

The catalog itself is simply superb. Anyone dealing with early Ottoman coinage knows that it largely consists of small, poorly-struck pieces in silver of varying fineness. It's very difficult to decipher, unless you're an expert – or have an expert to assist. This book gives that kind of expertise: the coins are clearly photographed in color, depicted on average 2.5 times their actual size. Weights are given. Inscriptions and other data, including mint marks, are clearly laid out. Armed with this catalog, it will be virtually impossible not to find one's way through the centuries-broad maze of Ottoman coinage. This book will represent the standard text for the early period of the Ottoman Empire; and I have every expectation that Dr. Damali's upcoming volumes will do the same for all subsequent issues.

As with the new publications coming from Russia, this one is fairly expensive. It costs $160, post-paid. But in my judgment, the clarity of text and images, the sheer amount of information and the concise, easy-to-follow way it is presented – all make this book worth the price, if not more. And prospective purchasers may be interested to learn that a goodly percentage of the proceedings will be used by the Nilufer Damali Education Foundation for several worthwhile projects, including the purchase of books for primary schools and the provision of scholarships to sight-impaired students at no fewer than eight universities around the country. There, they can study anything they choose – including Numismatics.

I give this book my highest recommendation.

(Dr. Atom Damali, Osmanli Sikkeleri Tarihi/History of Ottoman Coins, I [Istanbul 2010], pp. v + 439, ill. ISBN 978-975-93279-3-4.) For ordering information, go to, or contact Dr. Demali directly:

To read the complete article, see: NEW BOOK: HISTORY OF OTTOMAN COINS BY DAMALI (

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