The Thomason Medallic Bible
By John Sallay
The Thomason Medallic Bible is a set of sixty medals struck in 1830 that captures the essence of the entire Holy Bible in medallic art. The obverse designs were inspired by the works of well-known Renaissance artists and executed by several different engravers. The reverse of each medal contains a dense text quotation or explanation describing the topic of each medal. The set was produced in Birmingham, England by Sir Edward Thomason, who felt divinely inspired to “promote the glory of God by impressing the Word of God upon gold, silver and other indestructible metals”.
In 1970, the Franklin Mint issued a small-format recreation from newly engraved dies, with much simplified text. While the original Thomason medals were struck in gilt copper and white metal with a diameter of 73mm, the Franklin Mint Version medals were struck in bronze with a diameter of 44mm. They were sold in a custom binder, with a description from Sir Edward Thomason’s Memoirs During Half a Century quoted on the inside front cover:
It appeared to me, in 1827, that I might, through God’s assistance, become a humble instrument to effect a unique and novel medallic work to further and promote the glory of God, by impressing the Word of God upon gold, silver and other indestructible metals, with emblematical and symbolical designs, and with a short condensed explanation on the reverses of the medals, and thereby be the first author of a Medallic Bible.
In this feeling my heart rejoiced, my soul was willing, but my flesh was weak, and I prayed unto the Lord to give me grace and strength of mind to accomplish so arduous an undertaking.
I first applied myself in reading over the sacred volume of the Bible, the authority of which is received by inspiration from God, and universally admitted. I found, after taking down copious notes, that I should be unable, by the most condensed arrangements, to produce a tolerably continuous , or even contracted, development under less number than sixty of the largest size medals, each being three inches in diameter, the obverses of which to contain the historical devices, and the reverses filled with lettered explanation; and it was also essential for my purpose that the historical pieces should be obtained from the pictures of the Ancient Masters. I did not despair in accomplishing this apparent difficulty in obtaining copies for my artists to work from, because I held at this period the appointment of eight consulships from foreign governments, which gave me facility to procure copies of such pictures from the Continent which I might not conveniently find in England.