Our Journey Into the Unknown

How we came to discover the secrets of our world

Throughout history, academics and adventurers alike have been fascinated by the far-flung places and people they don’t understand. We Germans have the perfect word for these unknown aspects of the world: ‘Fremde’. Today, Wikipedia defines ‘Fremde’ as a term for anything considered to deviate from what is familiar, so anything that is, or is perceived to be, very different or far away from what is conventional and understood. But does this concept still have any relevance nowadays? Can anything seem at all “fremd” in an age when it takes 21 hours and costs 600 francs to travel to the other side of the world? The answer is yes. With ethnocentrism, xenophobia, culturally insular attitudes, and fear of foreigners undoubtedly on the rise in recent years, it’s clear to see that there are still aspects of our everyday lives that we find strange and frightening, which we attempt to exclude and marginalize as a result.

Has it been like this for centuries? Have we always been so frightened of things we don’t understand? To find the answer to this question, we’re embarking on a journey back in time. And we won’t be traveling by airplane or camel caravan. Instead, our means of transport will be the books from the MoneyMuseum’s library. In six stops covering a total of twelve books, we’ll use these texts and illustrations to show you how our view of foreign lands and cultures has gradually broadened and changed over time. Our journey will take us from Marco Polo’s 13th-century travelogue, documenting his time in Kublai Khan’s Empire, right up to Erich Scheuermann’s 1920 work “The Papalagi.”

Journey with us into the unknown – back to a time when the other side of the globe was still truly worlds away.

traditional payment

Traditional Means of Payment

Traditional societies have a hierarchical organization. The position of a person, and with it his prestige, depends not on how much he possesses, but on how many goods he has given to the other members of the society.

Money in the Roman Republic

As a rule, coins are not manufactured to provide future generations with an insight into their users’ environment, but to be recognized as a reliable currency in the largest possible geographic area. The recognition effect was important – for instance, the most successful coins from Greek antiquity, the tetradrachms introduced by the Athenians and by Alexander the Great, featured the same image for more than one and a half centuries.

The denarii of the Roman Republic, on the other hand, are a completely different matter! Here, in the excited first century BC, the coin motifs change quicker than the years. We find everything: scenes from the past, allusions to the present, images of everyday political life, buildings, people, and of course deities. The ones responsible seem to have squeezed their whole world into the small space a denarius provides for coin motifs.

The exhibition highlights the phase of the Roman Empire when it was still Republican and focused on virtues, which enabled this state to fly high later.


Introduction to our library with rare books and modern literature. 

Visit our specially dedicated website: Bookophile.com

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