EXCHANGE RATES ILLUSTRATED
Carte ou liste contenant le prix de chacun marcq, once, estrelin & as, poids de Troyes, de toutes les especes d’or & d’argent deffendues,
Antwerpen, Verdussen, Hieronymus I, 1627
FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. . Roman letter. Large woodcut of Spanish Royal arms on title, innumerable woodcuts of coins presented recto and verso, ‘no. 3064 de mon catalogue’ in Cl8th hand on first fly. Some browning, a little heavier in places, fore-edge and lower outer corner of t-p. a little chipped. A good copy in early C18th French speckled calf, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, single gilt ruled in compartments richly gilt with large pomegranate tool at centres red morocco label gilt, a.e.r. corners worn.
Rare first edition of this work issued after the meeting of the Spanish Council of Finance in March 1627 in an attempt by Phillip IV to regulate and control the exchange of currency across his empire. It is an official publication giving the set rates of exchange in the Spanish Netherlands for a vast number of foreign coins, all of which are illustrated. Philip IV of Spain had, from the beginning of his reign, clear intentions to try to control the Spanish currency, which had become increasingly unstable during the reign of his father and grandfather, but in practice, inflation soared. Partly this was because in 1627 Olivares the King’s favourite had attempted to deal with the problem of Philip’s Genoese bankers, who had proved uncooperative in recent years, by declaring a state bankruptcy. With the Genoese debt now removed, Olivares hoped to turn to indigenous bankers for renewed funds. Spain imported vast amounts of goods yet exported little. Her balance of trade deficit was large and had to be made good by the bringing in of more bullion. The fact that bullion imports were shrinking greatly hampered Spain. The fall in silver imports lead to the government minting copper coinage called vellon. 1599 to 1620 saw two decades of vellon production. This had a two-fold effect. First, it increased inflation. Secondly, it created a crisis in confidence. No-one valued the new coinage. Ironically, the copper to produce the vellon came from protestant Sweden, was purchased in Amsterdam and paid for with silver. In practice, the plan was a disaster. The Spanish treasure fleet of 1628 was captured by the Dutch, and Spain’s ability to borrow and transfer money across Europe declined sharply.
The work establishes the “pris & valeur intrinsecque” of the currencies of Europe at the time and their exchange rates. It illustrates a vast repertory of coins including those of the Castille, Aragon, Portugal, Milan, Florence, Rome, Mantua, Savoie, Austria, Tyrol, Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Denmark France etc. It also includes old coinage and as such provides an almost encyclopaedic overview of European coins at the beginning of the seventeenth century in Europe. Such a practical work would have been used to death by money lenders and copies of this work in reasonable condition are hard to come by.
USTC 1003830. cf. Kress 378 (Dutch version, dating from 1621)