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Princeton hosts paper exhibit

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Princeton University’s Numismatic Collection is featuring a paper currency exhibition titled “Money on Paper: Bank Notes and Related Graphic Arts from the Collections of Vsevolod Onyshkevych and Princeton University,” on view in the Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts in Princeton’s Firestone Library Aug. 30 through Jan. 2, 2011.

The Princeton exhibition includes a large selection of Benjamin Franklin’s nature-print notes, as well as issues of Paul Revere and the South Carolina engraver Thomas Coram, who brought classical imagery to that colony’s bank notes.

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One of the highlights of the exhibit is the first public display of the recently discovered bank note engraving of a grouse by John James Audubon, the wildlife illustrator’s first published work. On display with a sample sheet containing the vignette is an original watercolor by Audubon, a steel printing plate from The Birds of America, and the Princeton first edition of the elephant folio book open to the page with Audubon’s drawing of the pinnated grouse.

A section of the Princeton exhibit explores the divergence of imagery on the bank notes of Northern and Southern issuers before and during the Civil War. Collectors of paper money will be especially interested in the complete set of six notes printed by the National Bank Note Company in New York and smuggled into the Confederacy in 1861 for distribution as notes of Montgomery, Ala., and Richmond, Va.

The American section of the exhibition ends with the high point of American bank note art, the Educational Series of 1896, designed and engraved by some of the most important illustrators of the day.

Also on display are examples of European notes on loan for the exhibition from the collection of Vsevolod Onyshkevych.

A publication titled Money on Paper by Alan M. Stahl, Princeton’s curator of numismatics, accompanies the exhibit. It contains a full catalog of the bank notes on display with color photographs of many of them. There are three additional illustrated essays in the catalog: Mark Tomasko’s “Bank Note Engraving in the United States,” Francis Musella’s “Benjamin Franklin’s Nature Printing on Bank Notes” and an edited version of the article by Robert Peck and Eric P. Newman titled “Discovered! The First Engraving of an Audubon Bird.”

The book is available for $40 from the Friends of Princeton University Library, One Washington Road, Princeton, NJ 08544. Inquiries about ordering can be made to Linda Oliveira at loliveir@princeton.edu or (609) 258-3155.

In a public lecture at 3 p.m. Oct. 17 in McCormick Hall 101, paper money expert Mark Tomasko will speak on “The Art of Bank Note Engraving.” The free lecture will be followed by a reception in Firestone Library and a curatorial tour of the exhibition.

Additional curatorial tours will be held at 3 p.m. Nov. 22 and Dec. 12.

“Money on Paper” exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It is closed on holidays. For more information, contact Stahl at astahl@princeton.edu, or (609) 258-9127.

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