Up pretty betimes, but yet I observe how my dancing and lying a morning or two longer than ordinary for my cold do make me hard to rise as I used to do, or look after my business as I am wont. To my chamber to make an end of my papers to my father to be sent by the post to-night, and taking copies of them, which was a great work, but I did it this morning, and so to my office, and thence with Sir John Minnes to the Tower; and by Mr. Slingsby, and Mr. Howard, Controller of the Mint, we were shown the method of making this new money, from the beginning to the end, which is so pretty that I did take a note of every part of it and set them down by themselves for my remembrance hereafter. That being done it was dinner time, and so the Controller would have us dine with him and his company, the King giving them a dinner every day. And very merry and good discourse about the business we have been upon, and after dinner went to the Assay Office and there saw the manner of assaying of gold and silver, and how silver melted down with gold do part, just being put into aqua-fortis, the silver turning into water, and the gold lying whole in the very form it was put in, mixed of gold and silver, which is a miracle; and to see no silver at all but turned into water, which they can bring again into itself out of the water. —[Not water—a solution of Silver Oxide. D.W.]— And here I was made thoroughly to understand the business of the fineness and coarseness of metals, and have put down my lessons with my other observations therein. At table among other discourse they told us of two cheats, the best I ever heard. One, of a labourer discovered to convey away the bits of silver cut out pence by swallowing them down into his belly, and so they could not find him out, though, of course, they searched all the labourers; but, having reason to doubt him, they did, by threats and promises, get him to confess, and did find 7l. of it in his house at one time. The other of one that got a way of coyning money as good and passable and large as the true money is, and yet saved fifty per cent. to himself, which was by getting moulds made to stamp groats like old groats, which is done so well, and I did beg two of them which I keep for rarities, that there is not better in the world, and is as good, nay, better than those that commonly go, which was the only thing that they could find out to doubt them by, besides the number that the party do go to put off, and then coming to the Comptroller of the Mint, he could not, I say, find out any other thing to raise any doubt upon, but only their being so truly round or near it, though I should never have doubted the thing neither. He was neither hanged nor burned, —[No! They probably copied his technique. D.W.]— the cheat was thought so ingenious, and being the first time they could ever trap him in it, and so little hurt to any man in it, the money being as good as commonly goes. Thence to the office till the evening, we sat, and then by water (taking Pembleton with us), over the water to the Halfway House, where we played at ninepins, and there my damned jealousy took fire, he and my wife being of a side and I seeing of him take her by the hand in play, though I now believe he did [it] only in passing and sport. Thence home and being 10 o’clock was forced to land beyond the Custom House, and so walked home and to my office, and having dispatched my great letters by the post to my father, of which I keep copies to show by me and for my future understanding, I went home to supper and bed, being late. The most observables in the making of money which I observed to-day, is the steps of their doing it.
- Before they do anything they assay the bullion, which is done, if it be gold, by taking an equal weight of that and of silver, of each a small weight, which they reckon to be six ounces or half a pound troy; this they wrap up in within lead. If it be silver, they put such a quantity of that alone and wrap it up in lead, and then putting them into little earthen cupps made of stuff like tobacco pipes, and put them into a burning hot furnace, where, after a while, the whole body is melted, and at last the lead in both is sunk into the body of the cupp, which carries away all the copper or dross with it, and left the pure gold and silver embodyed together, of that which hath both been put into the cupp together, and the silver alone in these where it was put alone in the leaden case. And to part the silver and the gold in the first experiment, they put the mixed body into a glass of aqua-fortis, which separates them by spitting out the silver into such small parts that you cannot tell what it becomes, but turns into the very water and leaves the gold at the bottom clear of itself, with the silver wholly spit out, and yet the gold in the form that it was doubled together in when it was a mixed body of gold and silver, which is a great mystery; and after all this is done to get the silver together out of the water is as strange. But the nature of the assay is thus: the piece of gold that goes into the furnace twelve ounces, if it comes out again eleven ounces, and the piece of silver which goes in twelve and comes out again eleven and two pennyweight, are just of the alloy of the standard of England. If it comes out, either of them, either the gold above eleven, as very fine will sometimes within very little of what it went in, or the silver above eleven and two pennyweight, as that also will sometimes come out eleven and ten penny weight or more, they are so much above the goodness of the standard, and so they know what proportion of worse gold and silver to put to such a quantity of the bullion to bring it to the exact standard. And on the contrary, [if] it comes out lighter, then such a weight is beneath the standard, and so requires such a proportion of fine metal to be put to the bullion to bring it to the standard, and this is the difference of good and bad, better and worse than the standard, and also the difference of standards, that of Seville being the best and that of Mexico worst, and I think they said none but Seville is better than ours.
- They melt it into long plates, which, if the mould do take ayre, then the plate is not of an equal heaviness in every part of it, as it often falls out.
- They draw these plates between rollers to bring them to an even thickness all along and every plate of the same thickness, and it is very strange how the drawing it twice easily between the rollers will make it as hot as fire, yet cannot touch it. —[Many principles of Physics had not yet then been deliniated. D.W.]
- They bring it to another pair of rollers, which they call adjusting it, which bring it to a greater exactness in its thickness than the first could be.
- They cut them into round pieces, which they do with the greatest ease, speed, and exactness in the world.
- They weigh these, and where they find any to be too heavy they file them, which they call sizeing them; or light, they lay them by, which is very seldom, but they are of a most exact weight, but however, in the melting, all parts by some accident not being close alike, now and then a difference will be, and, this filing being done, there shall not be any imaginable difference almost between the weight of forty of these against another forty chosen by chance out of all their heaps.
- These round pieces having been cut out of the plates, which in passing the rollers are bent, they are sometimes a little crooked or swelling out or sinking in, and therefore they have a way of clapping 100 or 2 together into an engine, which with a screw presses them so hard that they come out as flat as is possible.
- They blanch them.
- They mark the letters on the edges, which is kept as the great secret by Blondeau, who was not in the way, and so I did not speak with him to- day.1
- They mill them, that is, put on the marks on both sides at once with great exactness and speed, and then the money is perfect. The mill is after this manner: one of the dyes, which has one side of the piece cut, is fastened to a thing fixed below, and the other dye (and they tell me a payre of dyes will last the marking of 10,000l. before it be worn out, they and all other their tools being made of hardened steel, and the Dutchman who makes them is an admirable artist, and has so much by the pound for every pound that is coyned to find a constant supply of dyes) to an engine above, which is moveable by a screw, which is pulled by men; and then a piece being clapped by one sitting below between the two dyes, when they meet the impression is set, and then the man with his finger strikes off the piece and claps another in, and then the other men they pull again and that is marked, and then another and another with great speed.
They say that this way is more charge to the King than the old way, but it is neater, freer from clipping or counterfeiting, the putting of the words upon the edges being not to be done (though counterfeited) without an engine of the charge and noise that no counterfeit will be at or venture upon, and it employs as many men as the old and speedier. They now coyne between 16l. and 24,000l. in a week. At dinner they did discourse very finely to us of the probability that there is a vast deal of money hid in the land, from this:— that in King Charles’s time there was near ten millions of money coyned, besides what was then in being of King James’s and Queene Elizabeth’s, of which there is a good deal at this day in being. Next, that there was but 750,000l. coyned of the Harp and Crosse money, and of this there was 500,000l. brought in upon its being called in. And from very good arguments they find that there cannot be less of it in Ireland and Scotland than 100,000l.; so that there is but 150,000l. missing; and of that, suppose that there should be not above 650,000 still remaining, either melted down, hid, or lost, or hoarded up in England, there will then be but 100,000l. left to be thought to have been transported. Now, if 750,000l. in twelve years’ time lost but a 100,000l. in danger of being transported, then within thirty-five years’ time will have lost but 3,888,880l. and odd pounds; and as there is 650,000l. remaining after twelve years’ time in England, so after thirty-five years’ time, which was within this two years, there ought in proportion to have been resting 6,111,120l. or thereabouts, beside King James’s and Queen Elizabeth’s money. Now that most of this must be hid is evident, as they reckon, because of the dearth of money immediately upon the calling-in of the State’s money, which was 500,000l. that came in; and yet there was not any money to be had in this City, which they say to their own observation and knowledge was so. And therefore, though I can say nothing in it myself, I do not dispute it.
- Professor W. C. Roberts-Austen, C.B., F.R.S., chemist to the Royal Mint, refers to Pepys’s Diary and to Blondeau’s machine in his Cantor Lectures on “Alloys used for Coinage,” printed in the “journal of the Society of Arts” (vol. xxxii.). He writes, “The hammer was still retained for coining in the Mint in the Tower of London, but the question of the adoption of the screw-press by the Moneyers appears to have been revived in 1649, when the Council of State had it represented to them that the coins of the Government might be more perfectly and beautifully done, and made equal to any coins in Europe. It was proposed to send to France for Peter Blondeau, who had invented and improved a machine and method for making all coins ‘with the most beautiful polish and equality on the edge, or with any proper inscription or graining.’ He came on the 3rd of September, and although a Committee of the Mint reported in favour of his method of coining, the Company of Moneyers, who appear to have boasted of the success of their predecessors in opposing the introduction of the mill and screw-press in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, prevented the introduction of the machinery, and consequently he did not produce pattern pieces until 1653 … . It is certain that Blondeau did not invent, but only improved the method of coining by the screw-press, and I believe his improvements related chiefly to a method for `rounding the pieces before they are sized, and in making the edges of the moneys with letters and graining,’ which he undertook to reveal to the king. Special stress is laid on the engines wherewith the rims were marked, `which might be kept secret among few men.’ I cannot find that there is any record in the Paris mint of Blondeau’s employment there, and the only reference to his invention in the Mint records of this country refers to the ‘collars,’ or perforated discs of metal surrounding the ‘blank’ while it was struck into a coin. There is, however, in the British Museum a MS. believed to be in Blondeau’s hand, in which he claims his process, ‘as a new invention, to make a handsome coyne, than can be found in all the world besides, viz., that shall not only be stamped on both flat sides, but shall even be marked with letters on the thickness of the brim.’ The letters were raised. The press Blondeau used was, I believe, the ordinary screw-press, and I suppose that the presses drawn in Akerman’s well-known plate of the coining-room of the Mint in the Tower, published in 1803 [‘Microcosm of London,’ vol. ii., p. 202], if not actually the same machines, were similar to those erected in 1661-62 by Sir William Parkhurst and Sir Anthony St. Leger, wardens of the Mint, at a cost of 1400l., Professor Roberts-Austen shows that Benvenuto Cellini used a similar press to that attributed to Blondeau, and he gives an illustration of this in his lecture (p. 810). In a letter to the editor the professor writes: “Pepys’s account of the operations of coining, and especially of assaying gold and silver, is very interesting and singularly accurate considering that he could not have had technical knowledge of the subject.”