Numismatic books come with all kinds of endorsements and recommendations.
Some are printed on a “What Readers Are Saying” page in the front. For example, the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties has endorsements from Mark Borckardt, Jeff Garrett, Dr. Richard Doty, and other well-known numismatists. Len Augsburger, president of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, says, “With this single volume, the eagle-eyed collector will be prepared to identify valuable coins that many others have missed.”
For some books, endorsements can appear on the outside. On the dustjacket of Kenneth W. Rendell’s memoir, Safeguarding History, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says: “This eloquent, captivating, and moving memoir takes the reader on the journey of an 11-year-old boy growing up in a poor neighborhood, who, with the sale of a single 1806 coin, experiences the magic of collecting, and goes on to become the world’s most notable collector, dealer, and appraiser in historical letters, documents, and artifacts. What a journey it is!”
Another part of a book that frequently contains praise is the foreword. In the foreword to the third edition of the Guide Book of Barber Silver Coins, John Frost, president of the Barber Coin Collectors Society, says this about the book’s author: “Q. David Bowers introduces a new generation of collectors to Charles Barber, and fuels their passion for his important and wonderful coins.”
There’s another kind of endorsement, of sorts, that comes from a perhaps unexpected source: the Roman Catholic Church, whose official approval is known as Imprimatur.
Under the Code of Canon Law, canon 827, the Church recommends that books dealing with sacred scripture, theology, canon law, ecclesiastical history, and religious or moral disciplines, “as well as writings which especially concern religion or good morals,” be sent to the local Catholic authority for judgment before publication.
Imprimatur allows a book to be used as instructional text in elementary, middle, and higher-level schools, and to be exhibited, sold, and distributed in churches and oratories.
In the formal process of Imprimatur, a book manuscript is first reviewed by a censor liborum, typically a priest, who’s authorized to certify it with Nihil Obstat. Translated as “Nothing Hinders,” this is the Church’s official declaration that the manuscript is unobjectionable on moral grounds and has no doctrinal errors.
Barring any objections from the censor liborum, or following any corrections, the manuscript is considered by the local bishop. It’s within his authority to grant it Imprimatur, the Church’s formal approval for publication.
During the editorial process for Kenneth Bressett’s most recent book, Bible Lore and the Eternal Flame, we submitted his manuscript to the permanent-deacon chief of staff at the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Douglas Flinn. He became our main guide through the process. The manuscript was assigned for review to The Rev’d Lawrence C. Brennan, who earned his S.Th.D from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, and at the time was director of diaconal formation for the Diocese.
“I am very impressed with the sweep of the history that [Mr. Bressett] presents,” Fr. Brennan wrote after his review of the manuscript. He recommended a few small edits (for example, “Bishop Jerome of Dalmatia . . . is more commonly known as St. Jerome”). His careful reading of the text was evident. “On page 66,” he observed, “it is stated that Constantine established Christianity as the state religion of the Empire. Constantine ended the persecution of Christianity in 313, but the establishment of Christianity as the state religion is attributed to Theodosius I in 391.”
“Overall,” he wrote, “I find nothing in the manuscript that is offensive to faith or doctrine.”
After minor corrections to the text, and with Fr. Brennan’s declaration of Nihil Obstat, the Church’s Imprimatur was granted by The Most Rev’d James R. Golka, Bishop of Colorado Springs.
Following Church guidelines, we printed the Imprimatur on the reverse side of the book’s title page.
After nearly 100 years of creating numismatic books, folders, and albums, you’d think Whitman Publishing would have seen and done everything under the sun. But it wasn’t until Bible Lore and the Eternal Flame that we sought an official Imprimatur from the Roman Catholic Church.
As far as I’m aware, this was the first time a Whitman Publishing book has earned this distinction. Of course, most of our books have no reason to be reviewed for Imprimatur, but still, it was a nice affirmation! And a feather in the cap of Ken Bressett, for writing an excellent manuscript deserving of the Church’s confidence.
Dennis Tucker is a Life Member of the congressionally chartered American Numismatic Association, a member of the Saturday Evening Post Society, and since 2004 the publisher of Whitman Publishing, the leading producer of books, storage and display supplies, and other resources for collectors and hobbyists. His column “Notes Published” covers books and publishing in general, with a special emphasis on antiques and collectibles. To read more, visit the “Notes Published” archives. Other of his columns include “From the Colonel’s Desk” (exploring Kentucky’s rich connections to numismatics) and “Behind the Scenes: First Spouse Gold Coins” (about the United States Mint’s gold coin program).