'HE DID IT MORE DUE TO HIS STUPIDITY RATHER THAN ANY OTHER REASON'. BISHOP STEPHANUS VON NEIDENBURG (1412-1495)
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An excerpt from the Preussische Chronik (approx. 1526-1530) by Simon Grunau is the oldest known message on collecting numismatic items in Prussia in the 15th century. Judging by Grunau's words Stephanus von Neidenburg (approx. 1412-1495), Bishop of Kulm, owned a coin collection that was remarkably significant for its owner. Yet, more important is the fact that it renders a possibility to decide on the attitude of the people of the time towards an interest in old coins. Such a passion was totally beyond comprehension. The chronicle says he had a rich collection of old and rare numismatic items. Grunau's comment that the bishop was interested in old coins due to his senility and stupidity is very important. It points out that at that time collecting activities in Poland were only in their infancy so even S. Grunau, a well–educated person, did not understand the bishop's passion for 'old and foreign' coins. Grunau mentioned the character of the collection: it contained coins of all countries. Thus perhaps the bishop's collecting passion was meant to accomplish a definite goal, perhaps just in part it was deliberate and pre-planned, not unintentional. However, it is probable that the collection comprised coins contemporary to the bishop. At that time all over Prussia issues from many countries occurred together with Teutonic coins. The bishop might have collected more interesting specimens which were then in 'circulation'. Moreover one cannot exclude that he also possessed ancient and medieval coins found in Prussia. Occurrence of Roman issues in medieval hoards was remarkably frequent. Thus one might suppose that even a single assemblage of this type being in Neidenburg's possession might have implied that he had coins from 'all countries'. The subjectivity of Simon Grunau's comments is worth emphasizing. Von Neidenburg's dances with young girls alongside his numismatic interests provided arguments against him. One might suppose that Grunau coloured at least part of information on the bishop. However, it would be difficult to presume that information on von Neidenburg's coin collection was a mere product of imagination. At that time coin collecting was such a rare phenomenon that Grunau could not have confabulated it. .
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