Nicholas Briot

Last updated

Nicholas Briot (about 1579 24 December 1646) was an innovative French coin engraver, medallist and mechanical engineer, who emigrated to England and became chief engraver to the Royal Mint in 1633 and is credited with the invention of the coining-press.



He was born Nicolas Briot at Damblain, in Lorraine, in the Vosges department of France, a frontier town famous for its bellfounding and metalworking industries. He is one of a distinguished Huguenot family of patternmakers, diecutters and craftsmen in metal in the 16th and 17th centuries, whose members included Francois Briot, master pewterer and medallist represented in the main national collections (uncle of Nicolas), and Etienne Briot, engraver. His father, Didier, and brother, Isaac, were both notable medallists.

After serving his apprenticeship, Briot travelled to Montbéliard and Langres in 1599, where he produced his first portrait engravings. He migrated to Paris in 1605, where he was appointed engraver-general (chief engraver) at the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) in 1605–6, and produced coronation medals for the young Louis XIII.

He began to experiment with the mechanisation of French coin production, developing improvements in the 'balancier' presses introduced from Nuremberg in Germany for striking coins and promoting a 'mill and engines which will prevent counterfeiting' which he submitted to the Paris authorities in 1615. In that year he published 'Raisons, moyens et propositions pour faire toutes les monnaies du royaume, a l'avenir, uniformes, et pour cesser toutes fabrications, etc.' He promoted the coining press to replace the traditional hammer-striking methods of coinage production, the prototype of which is generally attributed to the engraver Antoine Brucher who had first tried it about 1553 for the coining of counters in the court of Henri III. Briot, however, was unable to convince the French government to adopt his new technology, and was accused of fraud.

England and Scotland

Briot fled to England in 1625, pursued by creditors, and offered his services and machinery to Charles I of England. He met with more success than in France, and in 1626 he was commissioned to make puncheons and dies for 'certain pieces of largesse of gold and silver in memory of his Majesty's coronation', producing his successful Coronation Medal, the first of the sequence of medals for Charles I, in that year. This established his reputation, when he was given 'power and authority to frame and engrave the first designs and effigies of the king's image ... to serve in coins of gold and silver'. He went on to produce a considerable number of dies and moulds for medals and coins in the following years.

In 1633, he was sent to Scotland to prepare and coin the coronation pieces of Charles I, as well as the Scottish Coronation Medal (1633). His Coronation medals and the 'Dominion of the Seas' medal (1630) demonstrated his artistic skill and the technical superiority of the new coining machinery. On the death of Sir John Foulis, Master of the Mint in Scotland, Briot was appointed to the office in 1635, and superintended the Scottish coinage for several years.

Briot was recalled to England by the king and was appointed chief engraver to the Royal Mint in 1633. On the outbreak of the English Civil War he followed Charles I to York and Oxford; 'he took possession of the punches, roller instruments, and coining apparatus at the Tower, by order of his Majesty, and had them removed, trussed up in saddles, at the hazard of his life, for the purpose of continuing the coining operations in the cause of the King'.

He travelled to France in 1641 and 1645, sending presses to his brother Isaac, now in a senior position at the Paris Mint. He died on Christmas Eve 1646.

His dies for coins and medals have been called "gems of medallic art".

See also

Related Research Articles

Napoléon (coin)

The Napoléon is the colloquial term for a former French gold coin. The coins were minted in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 40, 50, and 100 francs. This article focuses on the 20 franc coins issued during the reign of Napoléon Bonaparte, which are 21 mm in diameter, weigh 6.45 grams and, at 90% pure, contain 0.1867 troy ounces (5.807 g) of pure gold. The coin was issued during the reign of Napoleon I and features his portrait on the obverse. The denomination continued in use through the 19th century and later French gold coins in the same denomination were generally referred to as "Napoléons". Earlier French gold coins are referred to as Louis or écu. Gold Napoléons have historically proven more resilient than other gold coins to economic forces, such as after the Suez crisis when unlike other coins Napoléons did not weaken.

History of the English penny (1603–1707)

The history of the English penny from 1603 to 1707 covers the period of the House of Stuart, up to the Acts of Union of 1707 which brought about the Union of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland.

Milled coinage Manner of coin production

In numismatics, the term milled coinage is used to describe coins which are produced by some form of machine, rather than by manually hammering coin blanks between two dies or casting coins from dies.

William Wyon

William Wyon, was official chief engraver at the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death.

Benedetto Pistrucci Italian engraver (1783–1855)

Benedetto Pistrucci was an Italian gem-engraver, medallist and coin engraver, probably best known for his Saint George and the Dragon design for the British sovereign coin. Pistrucci was commissioned by the British government to create the large Waterloo Medal, a project which took him thirty years to complete.

Royal Mint Government-owned mint that produces coins for the United Kingdom

The Royal Mint is Britain’s oldest company, and the official maker of UK coins.

Half sovereign British gold coin

The half sovereign is a British gold coin with a nominal value of half of one pound sterling. It is half the weight of its counterpart 'full' sovereign coin.

Thomas Simon English medallist

Thomas Simon, English medalist, was born, according to George Vertue, in Yorkshire about 1623.

From c. 1124 until 1709 the coinage of Scotland was unique, and minted locally. A wide variety of coins, such as the plack, bodle, bawbee, dollar and ryal were produced over that time. For trading purposes coins of Northumbria and various other places had been used before that time; and since 1709 those of the Kingdom of Great Britain, and then of the UK.

Petition Crown

The Petition Crown was a pattern coin produced in 1663 by Thomas Simon, a celebrated English medallist and coin-designer. The coin was submitted directly by the artist to King Charles II as a personal 'petition' against the contemporary coins designed by the Flemish brothers John and Joseph Roettiers, and for the further Royal consideration that only Simon's designs be used for all future specie now that machine-made currency had been adopted universally for the production of British coinage.

John Roettiers was a celebrated English engraver and medallist.

George William de Saulles was a British medallist. He designed the obverse of coins of the United Kingdom and its colonies under Queen Victoria and King Edward VII.

Leonard Charles Wyon English engraver (1826–1891)

Leonard Charles Wyon was a British engraver of the Victorian era most notable for his work on the gold and silver coinage struck for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 and the bronze coinage of 1860 with the second ("bun") head portrait, in use from 1860 to 1894.

Thomas Rawlins (1620?–1670) was an English medallist and playwright.

John Croker (engraver)

John Croker, born in Saxony and known in his youth as Johann Crocker, was a master jeweller who migrated to London, where he became a medallist and engraved dies for English and later British coins and medals.

Romain-Vincent Jeuffroy

Romain-Vincent Jeuffroy was a French gemstone engraver and medalist. He was active before and during the French Revolution and the First French Empire, and made many medals for Napoleon.

Eloy Mestrelle, first name sometimes spelled Eloye, was a French moneyer who was responsible for introducing milled coinage to England.

Castaing machine Device used to add lettering and decoration to the edge of a coin

The Castaing machine is a device used to add lettering and decoration to the edge of a coin. Such lettering was necessitated by counterfeiting and edge clipping, which was a common problem resulting from the uneven and irregular hammered coinage. When Aubin Olivier introduced milled coinage to France, he also developed a method of marking the edges with lettering which would make it possible to detect if metal had been shaved from the edge. This method involved using a collar, into which the metal flowed from the pressure of the press. This technique was slower and more costly than later methods. France abandoned milled coinage in favour of hammering in 1585.

Cecil Thomas (sculptor)

Cecil Walter Thomas, FRBS, was a British sculptor and medallist. As a sculptor, he created many private memorials for display in churches and cemeteries and as a medallist was regularly commissioned by the Royal Mint.

Old Head coinage British coins depicting Queen Victoria

The Old Head coinage or Veiled Head coinage were British coins struck and dated between 1893 and 1901, which featured on the obverse a portrait by Thomas Brock of an aged Queen Victoria wearing a diadem partially hidden by a widow's veil. It replaced the Jubilee coinage, struck since 1887, which had been widely criticised both for the portrait of the Queen, and because the reverses of most of the coins did not state their monetary values. Some denominations continued with their old reverse designs, with Benedetto Pistrucci's design for the sovereign extended to the half sovereign. New designs for some of the silver coinage were inaugurated, created either by Brock or by Edward Poynter, and all denominations less than the crown, or five-shilling piece, stated their values.