ECKHEL, Josef Hilarius von
Jesuits’ College, Vienna; numismatic research in Italy, 1772-4.
- Professional Experience:
Ordained, 1764; teacher, Leoben, Steyr,, Vienna, 1764-6; prof. poetry & rhetoric, Steyr, Vienna keeper of Coin Cabinet, Jesuits’ College, 1772-4; prof. antiquities & numismatics, Vienna, 1773-97; keeper of Imperial Coin Cabinet, 1774.
Numi veteres anecdoti (1775); Catalogus musei Caesarei Vindobonensis numorum veterum (Vienna, 1779); Descriptio numorum Antiochiae…, (Vienna, 1786; Kurzgefaßte Anfangsgründe zur alten Numismatik (Vienna, 1787); Choix des pierres gravées du Cabinet Imperial des Antiques (Vienna, 1788); Doctrina numorum veterum , 8 vols. (Vienna, 1792-8): Part 1: De Numis Urbium, Populorum, Regum. Vol. 1: Continens Prolegomena Generalia, tum Numos Hispaniae, Galliae, Britanniae, Germaniae, Italiae, cum Insulis (Vienna, 1792); De Numis Urbium, Populorum, Regum. Vol. 2: Reliquas Europae Regiones cum Parte Asiae Minoris (Vienna, 1792); De Numis Urbium, Populorum, Regum. Vol. 3: Reliquam Asiam Minorem, et Regiones deinceps in Ortum sitas (Vienna, 1794); De Numis Urbium, Populorum, Regum. Vol. 4: Continens Aegyptum, et Regiones Africae deinceps in occasum sitas. Observata Generalia ad partem I. huius Operis, et Indices in Partem I. (Vienna, 1794); De Moneta Romanorum. Vol. 5: Continens Numos Consulares et Familiarum subiectis Indicibus (Vienna, 1795); Part 2: De Moneta Romanorum. Vol. 6: Continens Numos Imperatorios a Iulio Caesare usque ad Hadrianum eiusque Familiam (Vienna, 1796); De Moneta Romanorum. Vol. 7: Continens Numos Imperatorios ab Antonio Pio usque ad Imperium Diocletiani (Vienna, 1797); De Moneta Romanorum. Vol. 8: Continens Numos Imperatorios, qui supersunt, pseudomonetam, Observata Generalia in Partem II et Indices in Volumina VI VII VIII. (Vienna, 1798); Addenda, ed. A. Von Steinbuchel (Vienna, 1826).
Eckhel’s parents had court connections during the holy Roman Empire and as a child young Eckhel wrote paeans to the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. He was sent to the Jesuits’ College in Vienna, where at 14 he was entered into the Jesuit order of St. Anna. He proved proficient in ancient languages and while a schoolboy wrote a grammatical commentary on the Book of Haggai, a short book of the Tanakh or Jewish Bible. As is sometimes the case with the offspring of a wealthy family, he became interested in ancient coinage and began a collection. Vienna at that time had two outstanding numismatists, Erasmus Frölich (1700-58) and Fr.Joseph Khell (1714-72), both of whom had wide international networks or experts and collectors. Khell, whose chief interest was coins of the ancient world, afforded Eckhel access to rich private and imperial collections. Illness put an end to Eckhel’s teaching career in 1772 and he turned more intensely to the study of coins. When Eckhel was put in charge of the coin collection at the Jesuits’ College, he set out to research coins in Italy, where he researched the collections in Bologna and Rome and managed the collections of such luminaries as Cardinal Leopold de’ Medici (1617-75) and ultimately arriving in Florence where he was commissioned to manage the collection of Grand Duke Franz I Stephan (1708-65) of Lorraine. His adventuress in coin-hunting for these worthies and the personalities he encountered are recounted in his Numi veteres anecdoti (1775). The Jesuits had long been nettlesome to the ruling classes of Europe not only for their rigid doctrine but for their involvement in politics. The move to suppress the order in Europe began in 1759 and was finalized by Pope Clement XIV (1705-74) in 1773. When Eckhel returned from Italy in 1774, he received, thanks to his connections with the Empress Maria Theresa (1717-80), a professorship at the University of Vienna and a year later was made Abbé director of the antique department of the Imperial Coin Cabinet. He published his Catalogus Vindobonensis numorum veterum in 1779. Eckhel established himself as the founder of scientific numismatics with his next work, Doctrina numorum veterum (1792-8), in which he gathered masses of information into an orderly comprehensive account. In all of these works he took the work of amateurs and dilletantes and created a rational system based on geography and minting history to identify and catalogue coins. He was, in the words of Sandys, “the founder of the scientific study of Numismatics.” The information he compiled was of great value to historians and made numismatics a formal part of historical research.
P. Lacroix, Revue belge de numismatique et de sigillagraphie (1879) 45-9; C. Bursian, Geschichte der klassische Philologie in Deutschland (1882) 496-9; Sandys, 3:44-5; Wilamowitz, 92-3; Peter Robert Franke, ADB 4 (1959) 302-3.