Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Simon, Thomas

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SIMON, THOMAS (1623?–1665), medallist and seal-engraver, born about 1623, was one of the sons of Peter (or Pierre) Simon by his wife Anne, daughter of Gilles Germain of Guernsey. He was a younger brother of Abraham Simon [q. v.], the medallist. Peter Simon is described as a native of London, but he probably belonged to a Guernsey family named Simon. His marriage took place at the Walloon church in Threadneedle Street, London, on 12 Sept. 1611. Vertue records the tradition that Thomas Simon was born in Yorkshire, and that he there chanced to attract the notice of Nicholas Briot [q. v.], the mint engraver. All that seems certain is that Simon was introduced (about 1635?) into the service of the London mint by Sir Edward Harley, and that he there received instruction from Briot. In 1639 he made the ‘Scottish Rebellion’ medal, and Hawkins (Silver Coins) supposes that some of the Tower mint ‘crowns’ of Charles I were his work. From about 1645 his productions as a medallist and seal-engraver become numerous. In official documents his name sometimes occurs as Simons and Simmonds.

In 1645 Simon was appointed, with Edward Wade, joint chief graver of the stamps for coins, with authorisation to engrave all the royal arms and seals. The salary was 30l. shared with his colleague, together with the usual lodgings and perquisites. In 1648 he was authorised to engrave the great seal of the Commonwealth, and in 1649 was appointed sole chief graver to the mint and seals.

In September 1650 he was sent to Edinburgh to take the portrait of the lord-general for the ‘Dunbar’ medal. Cromwell, in the same year, recommended him for promotion at the mint, for ‘indeed the man is ingenious and worthy of encouragement.’ In 1651 Simon made the great seal of England. On 20 March 1654 he was given a salary of 13l. 6s. 8d. per annum for the sole making of all medals for his highness and for the public service; in addition to this he had 30l. per annum as the salary attached to his post of sole chief graver of the mint and seals. On 16 March 1654 he was ordered to engrave the great seal, privy seal, and seal manual; and in 1655–6 he also made many seals for the public service, including the great seals for Scotland and for Ireland, and seals for the English, Scottish, and Irish councils, and for the English law courts and the admiralty.

Simon engraved the dies for Cromwell's projected coinages of 1656 and 1658, probably the finest in the English series. Simon's bust for the so-called ‘fifty-shilling piece’ (a pattern ‘broad’) is now in the Royal Mint, together with other punches and dies made by him. The frosting observable on these coins appears to have been introduced by Simon. The actual striking of the specimens was undertaken by Blondeau. On 14 Jan. 1657–8 Simon laid before the council his account for making medals, badges, silver boxes for treaties, presses for seals, &c., amounting to 1,728l. 5s. 8d., of which 700l. had been paid in 1655. On 3 Aug. 1658 he again petitioned the council to discharge the debt. ‘I beg you’ (he says) ‘to consider that I and my servants have wrought five years without recompense, and that the interest I have to pay for gold and silver eats up my profit.’ Simon was employed to model the face of the effigy of Oliver, carried in the Protector's funeral procession on 23 Nov. 1658.

At the Restoration, Thomas Rawlins [q. v.], the royalist medallist, was reinstated as chief engraver, but Simon successfully petitioned for employment, and was actively occupied in making dies for the ‘hammered’ English coinage of 1660. On 31 May 1661 he obtained the grant of the office of one of the gravers of the king's arms, shields, and stamps; and on 2 June 1661 was made by patent one of the king's chief gravers of the mint and seals, with the salary of 50l. At this time he prepared the following seals: the great seal and privy seal, the great seal for Ireland, the great seal for Jamaica, and seals for the order of the Garter, the lord high admiral, the council of Wales, and the Royal Society.

In January 1662 Simon and John Roettiers [q. v.] were ordered to engrave dies for the new ‘milled’ coinage, but, ‘by reason of a contest in art between them,’ they could not be brought to an agreement. They were therefore each directed (7 Feb. 1662) to engrave a trial-piece for a silver ‘crown,’ to be submitted to the king. Charles decided in favour of Roettiers, and Simon's employment at the mint then practically ceased. In 1663 Simon produced as a sample of his abilities his famous pattern for a crown piece known as the ‘Petition Crown,’ from the following petition engraved in minute letters on its edge: ‘Thomas Simon most humbly prays your majesty to compare this his tryall piece with the Dutch [i.e. John Roettiers's crown], and if more truly drawn and emboss'd, more gracefully order'd, and more accurately engraven to releive him’ (cf. Numismatic Chronicle, 1854, xvi. 135, where fifteen specimens of the petition crown are mentioned). In April and September 1664, Simon was employed in engraving seals for the king's service. He died in June 1665 of the plague, leaving directions in his will that he was to be buried in the church of St. Clement Danes, London, in which parish he had long resided.

Simon married Elizabeth, daughter and sole heiress of Cardin Fautrart of Guernsey, and had by her several children. The will of Thomas Simon, citizen and goldsmith of London, was proved in the Consistory Court of Canterbury on 23 Aug. 1665. He left his son Samuel his farm in Shorne, near Gravesend, Kent, and also his paintings, drawings, and medals. To his nephew William, son of his brother Nathaniel, deceased, he left his punches and graving tools. Simon's widow petitioned the king about 1669 for the sum of 2,164l., claimed by her as arrears of payment due to her husband.

A portrait of Simon occurs on an oval medal, cast and chased by Stuart in the eighteenth century, from an unknown original probably executed by Abraham Simon circ. 1660. A seventeenth-century miniature, formerly in the possession of Sir A. W. Franks, has been identified as probably a portrait of T. Simon.

In the preparation of many of his portrait medals Simon had the advantage of working from the admirable wax models of his brother Abraham, but his own work on coins and seals proves that he was an accomplished designer, endowed with a keen sense of what was appropriate for the circular ‘flan’ of the coin and the seal. His technical skill is triumphantly evinced by his petition crown, and, taken altogether, he must be pronounced the finest medallist who ever worked in England. His usual signature is T. S.

The following is a list of his principal medals, many of which are not struck but cast and chased: 1. Scottish Rebellion, 1639. 2. Sir John Hotham, 1644. 3. Sir Thomas Fairfax, 1645. 4. Baron de Reede, 1645. 5. Death of Earl of Essex, 1646. 6. Edward Rossiter, 1646. 7. Cromwell, Lord General, 1650. 8. Henry Ireton, 1650. 9. Battle of Dunbar, 1650. 10. Naval Reward, 1650. 11. Naval Reward, 1653. 12. Cromwell, Lord Protector, 1653. 13. Saving the Triumph (Blake's flagship), 1653. 14. Henry Scobell. 15. John Thurloe, 1653. 16. Sir James Harrington, 1653. 17. Bulstrode Whitelock, 1653. 18. Death of Cromwell, 1658. 19. General Monk, 1660. 20. Restoration, 1660, a. obverse, Moses; reverse, inscription; b. rev. ‘Magna opera Domini;’ c. ‘Probasti me;’ d. ‘Magnalia Dei.’ 21. Solicitor-general Cooke, died 1660. 22. Coronation, 1661; rev. Charles on throne (struck for official distribution; Simon's charge was 110l.). 23. Coronation, 1661, ‘Jam florescit.’ 24. Earl of Clarendon, 1662. 25. Earl of Southampton, 1664. 26. Dominion of the Sea, 1665.

[Hawkins's Medallic Illustrations, ed. Franks and Grueber; Grueber's Guide to English Medals in Brit. Mus.; Henfrey's Numismata Cromwelliana; Vertue's Medals, Coins, &c., by T. Simon (with numerous engravings of his seals and medals); numismatic works of Ruding, Hawkins, and Kenyon; Wheatley and Cunningham's London; Notes and Queries, especially 2nd ser. ii. 115, 276, xii. 2, 3; Numismatic Chronicle, iv. 211 ff., v. 161 ff. (Simon's will), vii. 22 f.; Calendars of State Papers, Domestic, 1649–65.]

W. W.