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Auction 170  15 Jun 2024
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Lot 173

Starting price: 5000 USD
Price realized: 14 000 USD
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[Dupré, Augustin]. Dupré, Narcisse. HANDWRITTEN CATALOGUE AND LEDGER RECORDING THE ENGRAVED WORKS OF AUGUSTIN DUPRÉ. Folio ledger [34.5 by 23 cm], original green vellum-backed mottled boards. 116 pages, irregularly numbered (see comments). 77 of the pages have been used, primarily to record in meticulous detail, the medals, coins and other works designed and engraved by Augustin Dupré. Additional annotations in manuscript on the front pastedown and both sides of the flyleaf. Binding professionally repaired, but original. Contents neatly written and entirely legible. Near fine.

An extraordinary volume of exceptional historical interest, from the Dupré Family Archives. Augustin Dupré (1748–1833) remains one of the most important engravers of French coins in modern history, and his designs for early U.S. medals have ensured his lasting fame in the western hemisphere. An engraver by trade, Dupré began to work on medals in the early 1770s and quickly became adept. Notable works include several classic medals of the Comitia Americana series: those for Nathanael Greene, John Paul Jones and Daniel Morgan, as well as the related Diplomatic Medal and the Libertas Americana medal. Had the last been his only contribution to the field of American medals, he would justly have remained famous in this country. During the French Revolution, however, he became interested in applying his ideas to the new national coinage that was under discussion. In September 1790, the National Assembly appointed a committee charged with studying the coinage laws. The following month, Dupré published a short work addressed to the committee, criticizing the existing Mint administration and suggesting changes. This work caught the attention of the Assembly, which in 1791 adopted some of Dupré's ideas and initiated a contest for new coin designs under the eye of painter Louis David. Dupré won the competition and became the 14th graveur général des monnaies on July 11, 1791. His neoclassical designs would win him fame and admiration that continue to this day. Dupré managed to retain his position through the turbulent revolutionary period, continuing in the role of graveur général until being replaced by Pierre-Joseph Tiolier in 1803.

This volume deserves more attention than can be given to it here. The material recorded in the early pages is diverse, beginning with a note written by Narcisse Dupré reminding himself to "Faire graver une médaille l'après mon Père et endonner un exemplaire à chague souscripteur (voir M. Montagny)" ["Have a medal engraved after my Father and give a copy to each subscriber (see Mr. Montagny)." This leads directly into a listing of French mintmarks as they existed in 1789, followed by a listing of those that remained after a number of them were closed in 1795. This is followed by a catalogue of French coins by mint and year for 1791–1793 and for l'ans 4–11 of the Republic. These years correspond roughly to the years during which Augustin Dupré served as graveur général des monnaies. In other words, it provides a catalogue raisonné (to the best of his son's ability) of Augustin Dupré's coin work at the Paris Mint. From there, a long series of pieces is listed, with prices affixed ("Prix d'achat de diverses pièces"). The exact context in which this price list was compiled is unclear, but bears closer examination.

The more important sections of the volume begin on page 21. Here we find the beginnings of a catalogue of the medallic works (medals, coins and essais, as well as remnants of the design and production processes) that were included in the Dupré archives at the time of writing. The listing begins with two pages of creux (literally "hollows," or shells) of various coins and medals-the first two pieces listed are for obverse and reverse impressions of the Diplomatic Medal. This is followed by pages of reliefs (including of Daniel Morgan and a petite tête de Franklin), jetons and medals, some of them priced, and some of them described in detail. A page is even devoted to books and pamphlets ("livres et brochures sur les monnaies et sur les médailles") belonging to Dupré's estate. Another listing of shells in various metals is given ("Note des creux en cuivre, en plomb, etc., etc.," which includes a Daniel Morgan reverse), followed by a note regarding a planned donation to the museum at Saint-Étienne that apparently did not end up taking place. Finally, we have the start of Narcisse's catalogue of his father's works-"Etat de la collection des pièces gravées par mon Père"-beginning on page 41.

This part of the catalogue begins in earnest with Année 1789. This is the year in which the French Revolution began, and in which Dupré first petitioned the Assemblée nationale constituante for a commission to commemorate the events with a medal-beginning his professional association with the new government. The catalogue runs through 1817, at which time Dupré more or less retired. Between these years, the present catalogue lists some 379 medallic works (including coins and essais), in gold, silver, copper, bronze, gilt bronze, lead, tin, métal, wax, and variations on these materials. The majority of these coins and medals trace the end of the ancien régime and the perambulations of the Revolution, with the majority of the works here catalogued being from the mid-1790s and before. The final years of Louis XVI are commemorated in detail, as are the opening years of the First Republic. This is an important catalogue of Dupré's numismatic output, recording in some detail legends and designs, and indicating if another engraver was responsible for one side of the piece. It presumably constitutes the earliest catalogue raisonné of Dupré's work, and as such is of considerable historical importance.

The manuscript is generally in good condition and the writing is relatively easy to read. The pages are partially numbered. Pages 1–61 have the odd pages numbered by hand in the upper-right corner [pages 13–16 have been neatly sliced out near the gutter]. Most pages following this are unnumbered, except for pages 71, 81 and 101 [pages 89–94 are missing]. Inexplicably, what would be page 117 in our enumeration is numbered 331, despite the fact that the original spine to the ledger makes it clear that it never accommodated that many pages. A scrap of different paper is affixed to one leaf with a pin. Some modest repairs have been made to the structure of the binding, intended to maintain it rather than to enhance it. Parts of it have been restitched, and the spine covering (which had become detached before the Bonhams sale) has been reaffixed to the boards. The binding itself is original. This highly important catalogue of Dupré's work was unknown to modern numismatists until the April 2, 2014 sale of the Dupré Family Archives by Bonhams in New York, in which it was included (though it was described there as being by Augustin, not Narcisse). This is the first time that this volume has been offered for sale since the acquisition of the Dupré Archives. An important opportunity.

Estimate: 7500 EUR
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