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, ON ANGLO-SAXON Coins. There are few subjects of historical enquiry more deeply involved in darkness and perplexity, than the coinage of the Anglo-Saxons. So entirely is this the case, that the most laborious investigators are still unable to decide whether certain terms, expressing a standard inedium of interchange among the Anglo-Saxons, be intended to signify a real coin, or a determinate weight of precious metal, equivalent to a specified number of lawful coins. Our object, in the present place, consists chiefly in such remarks as explain the character of existing coins of the various Anglo-Saxon potentates; but allusions to the more obscure denominations of the representative medium, used in important as well as ordinary transactions, are so frequent in many volumes of the “ Beauties of Eugland,” that a few brief, preliminary observations appear to be indispensable.
It is sufficiently evident that money was coined by the AngloSaxons during the Heptarchy, or Octarchy, and in every reign afterwards; but there is room for doubting whether they pos. sessed a coinage before their invasion of Britain, and conversion to Christianity.*
In Domesday-book, the payments to be rendered are stated in pounds, shillings, pence, and farthings. But several other terms were used in valuing money amongst the Anglo-Saxons. The whole of these, whether relating to actual coins, or a nominal substitute for a specific aggregate, are comprehended in the under-written enumeration, which commences with the highest
• Turner's Hist. of the Anglo-Saxons, Vol. II. p. 130. In a subsequent page of the same volume, Mr. Turner presents the following observation : “ That the Anglo-Saxons did not use coined money before the Roman ecclesiastics introduced the custom, is an idea somewbat warranted by the expression they applied to coin. Tbis was mynet, a coin ; and from this mynetian, to coin, and mynetere, a person coining. These words are, obviously, the Latin moneta and monetarius; and it usually happens that when one Dation borrow's such a term from another, they are indebted to the same source for the knowledge of the thing which it designates."
Anglo-Saxon name for money, and ends with the lowest: The Pound; the Mark; the Mancus; the Ora ; the Scyllinga, or Shilling ; the Thrymsa ; the Pening, or Penny; the Sceatta, Scætt, or Sceat ; the Helfling : the Feorthling ; the Styca.
That the Anglo-Saxon Pound, like that of the present time, was a denomination of money, and not a coin, will be supposed without any effort at demonstration. But the value of their pound, in other estimated syms, or in actual coins, has been much disputed, and is still an unsettled question. It is evident, from Domesday, that, in the time of Edward the Confessor, a pound consisted of twenty shillings, and a shilling of twelve pence. According to a passage in the Mercian laws, it appears that the pound in Mercia contained sixty shillings.* Several authors, however, contend that the pound consisted of forty-eight shillings only.t To reconcile these diversities of opinion, it has been suggested that the value of the shilling varied in different ages. But such suggestions are more plausible than satisfactory, as there is reason to believe that the shilling was, in fact, merely a nominal sum, like the pound.
The Mark was an imaginary sum of money, introduced to English modes of reckoning by the Danes; and is believed, by some authors, to have been equivalent to half a pound in weight. By others it is supposed to have signified the value of eight ounces.
The Mancus is often mentioned in Anglo-Saxon charters, wills, and other documents; and, in describing its relative value, it is often termed the mancus of gold. No coin answering to this character is known to exist; and it seems probable that the
• Turner's Hist. of the Anglo-Saxon, Vol. II. p. 135, apud Hickes, Dissert. Ep. p. 111. &c.
+ As Camden, Spelman, and Fleetwood.
# Various authorities for these respective opinions are cited in Henry's Hist. of Britain, Vol. IV. p. 258—262 ; and Turner's Hist. of the AngloSaxons, Vol. II. p. 187.
mancus, like the pound, was merely a weight, and nominal representative of a specific quantity of the circulating medium.* · The Ora appears to have been a denomination of money, in. troduced by the Danes, and is stated by Stiernhoökt to have been the eighth part of a mark. The ora is the name for money, used in the Danish compact with Edward. I
The Scyllinga, or shilling, often occurs iu the laws, and other writings, of the Anglo-Saxons, but is unknown as a coin; and is supposed by Mr. Turuer, “ to have been a quantity of silver, which, when coined, yielded five of the larger pennies, and twelve of the smaller.”
The Thrymsa is a species of money sometimes mentioned in Anglo-Saxon laws, but so utterly unknown to historians and au. tiquaries, that some have supposed it eqnal in value to three Saxon shillings, and others equal only to one Saxon penny. The erudite author of the Anglo-Saxon history, quotes a passage which seems to express that the thrymsa and the sceatta were the same.
The Helling and the Feorthling, which are occasionally noticed in Saxon writings, were undoubtedly copper monies.ll
The Sceatta, the Pening, or Penny, and the Styca, require more extended remarks.
I have already observed that a perplexity, hitherto inextrica- ble, prevails in regard to the money of the Anglo-Saxons; and its influence is still felt, when we attempt to appropriate vames,
• Some opinions favouring the idea of the mancus being really a coin, are adduced in Dr. Henry's Hist. of Britain, Vol. IV. p. 262, et seq. Arguments on the contrary side, are advanced in Mr. Turner's Hist. of the AngloSaxons, article Money ; and the conclusions of the latter writer are strengthened by the tenour of Mr. Pinkerton's remarks, in his Essay on Medals, Vol. II.
+ As quoted by Dr. Henry, Hist. of Britain, Vol. IV. p. 265.
Ibid, p. 136.
although, in the instances under consideration, written documents are in some measure illustrated by existing contemporary coins.
The term Scatt, or Sceat, occurs in the earliest Anglo-Saxon laws, as a small definite quantity of money; and is considered by Mr. Turner as having“ been mostly used to express money, generally.” That author believes the word to have meant a “ definite piece of metal, originally in the uncoined state;" and supposes “the sceat and the scyllinga to have been the names of the Saxon money in the Pagan times, before the Roman and French ecclesiastics had taught them the art of coining."* According to an ingenious calculation, presented in the same page, “the value of the scæt, in the time of Æthelbert, would appear to have been the twentieth part of a shilling."
Descending, in the process of his narration, to a date three centuries later, Mr. Turner observes that the sceatta now appears to resemble in value one of the smaller Anglo-Saxon pennies. He then enables the future writer on numismatics to present an opinion, which, although hypothetical, is highly worthy of consideration; namely, that the sceat was the smaller penny, and the pening, properly so called, was the larger one.
The Pening, or Penny, was the standard coin of the AngloSaxons; and that by which they frequently reckoned, although the art of numeration was simplified by various nominal values. It is indicated, in the preceding paragraph, that there were two kinds of pennies, the greater and the less; and this would appear to be proved by a passage in the laws of Alfred, where it is directed that “the violation of a man's borg should be compensated by five pounds, mærra peninga, of the larger pennies.”+
The Styca was a small coin of copper, or billon, (base metal) worth about half a farthing. It is only ascertained to have pre
• Hist. of the Anglo-Saxons, Vol. II. p. 192.
Ibid. Vol. II. p. 197.
tailed in Northumbria, and in the later period of that kingdom.*
Such are the names for money which occur in the writings of the Anglo-Saxons; in their laws, charters, wills, and other surviving documents. But, in forming the above explanatory enu. ineration, I have avoided to notice many speculative opinions of incidental writers on this dark subject; and have principally adhered, in the outline of my brief remarks, to the guidance of Mr. Turner, in his Anglo-Saxon history, and Mr. Pinkerton, in his Essay on Medals. On the same authorities, aided by some personal opportunities of intelligence, I submit to the reader the following observations.
Notwithstanding various endeavours to establish a persuasion of gold coins having been issued by Anglo-Saxon potentates, it is certain that not any have been discovered, under such circumstances as to become recorded, and known to the public. We may, therefore, venture to presume, in the present state of information, that no such coins existed, especially when we recollect the numerous specimens of silver money which have descended to our time, without any peculiar effort at preservation, or zeal of research. It is, however, clear, from a passage in Bede, translated by King Alfred, that the historian and the king were both acquainted with coins of gold. To profit by the words of Mr. Turner, “it, certainly, can be hardly doubted that when gold coins circulated in other parts of Europe, some from the different countries would find their way into England. The use of the word aureos, in the Historia Eliensis, implies gold coin; and that coins called Aurei were circulated in Europe, is evident from the journal of the monks who travelled from Italy to Egypt, in the ninth or tenth century.”+
Although we have no proof that the Anglo-Saxons used gold
• Pinkerton's Essay on Medals, Vol. II. + The itinerary of these monks is still extant, and is noticed in the History of the Anglo-Saxons, Vol. I. p. 318–19.