Ilustrated collection of French drawings, £15.00
Height: 110.000 mm
Width: 134.000 mm
CM Collection numismatique du Général Court, vol. 1;CM CM 1894,5-6.556
Enlightenment: Ancient scripts
General Claude-Auguste Court's book of coin rubbings
Made in northwest Pakistan/India and France, AD 1829–80
Record of a coin collection made by a French general in the Punjab
After the defeat of Napoleon I, Claude-Auguste Court (1793-1880) was one of several French army officers who sought their fortunes elsewhere. From 1827 to 1843 he was employed to train the army of the Sikh Maharajah of the Punjab, Ranjit Singh (1799-1839).
Court was one of the first Europeans to become interested in the coins of South Asia, which he collected from 1829. All trace of the collection vanished until 1994, however, when three albums came to light in an English book sale. They contain 627 rubbings, allowing many of Court's coins to be identified. These had been bought by Alexander Cunningham and entered the British Museum with his collection in 1888-94. Cunningham may also have owned the albums.
The rubbing illustrated is of a gold coin of the Kushan king, Kanishka I (AD 127-150). It shows the king standing before a fire-altar, with Ardochsho, goddess of good fortune, on the back.
The inscriptions are in the Bactrian language, using Greek script with additional letters. Court's transcription shows that he did not realize that the P with an elongated vertical was the Bactrian letter for 'sh', not the Greek 'r'. So the legend does not read 'raonanorao ...', but 'shaonanoshao ... ishka Kushano' (king of kings ... ishka Kushan). Court also misidentified the king as 'Overki' (a misreading of Huvishka, the next Kushan king). The drawing of the coin was published in 1836 by James Prinsep and reprinted by Horace Wilson in 1841. Both correctly identified its issuer as 'Kanerkes', i.e. Kanishka. This suggests that the rubbing was made before 1836 and that the reference to Wilson's work was added later.
H.H. Wilson, Ariana Antiqua: a descriptive (London, East India Company, 1841)
E. Errington, 'Rediscovering the coin collection of General Claude-Auguste Court: a preliminary report', Topoi, 5:2 (1995)
J. Prinsep, 'New varieties of the Mithraic, or Indo-Sythic series of coins, and their imitations', Journal of the Asiatic Society, V (1836)