Summary

Robert Cooper Ready and his sons made tens of thousands of electrotype copies of coins, medals and seals in the British Museum's collection between 1859 and 1931.

Robert Cooper Ready (1811-1901), a modeler and sealmaker, was hired by the British Museum in 1859 to make copies of its coins, medals and seals, using the new technique of electrotyping. Ready made over 22,000 electrotypes and trained his sons to continue the tradition into the twentieth century. Charles Joseph Ready (1849-1922) and August Papworth Ready (b. circa 1857) made tens of thousands more, until 1931. Augustus Ready joined the permanent staff of the museum in 1897 as a restorer. A third son, William Talbot Ready (1857-1914) was employed by the British Museum as a repairer and cleaner of antiquities until around 1884, then became a collector and dealer in antiquities, coins, medals and gems.

Electrotyping involves taking a mould of the item being copied, then placing the mould in an electrolytic solution, so that a thin layer of copper is deposited to the desired thickness. A coin or medal required the preparation of two electrotypes, which would then be joined around a base metal blank to form an accurate copy of the original; this would then be coated with a thin layer of metal such as gold, silver or copper to replicate the original. The Readys would typically (although not invariably) stamp the edge of the electrotype with initials to indicate it was a copy; they variously used ‘RR’, ‘R’ or ‘MB’. Weighing a copy and the original was sometimes the only way to differentiate them, if an initial had not been stamped on the copy.

The Readys made copies for research and display purposes and with the permission of the British Museum these were sold to museums and collectors around the world. In the early 1920s the British Museum advertised the price as 2s. 6d. each.

Harrington E. Manville (2009). Biographical Dictionary of British and Irish Numismatists, London: Spink & Son, p. 236
Head, B.V. (circa 1923). A Guide to the Select Greek and Roman Coins Exhibited in Electrotype, Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum
Wilson, D.M. (2002). The British Museum: A History, London: British Museum Press

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