MINT. The place in which the king's money is coined. Formerly mints existed in almost every country, for notwithstanding the coining of money appears at all times to have been considered a special prerogative of the crown, the Saxon princes ceded the privilege to their subjects to a great extent, reserv ing at the same time eight mints for the City of London. This arrangement was continued by the Norman 'kings with little alteration until the period of Richard I., who procured from the east of Germany, persons well skilled in thy art, for the purpose of improving the coinage. From this time to the accession of Edward II. A. D. 1307, but small progress appears to have been made. That prince however endeavoured by introducing many alterations in the con stitution of the mint, to improve the coinage. From this period a considerable time appears to have elapsed, without any material changes taking place, until the appointment of a Committee in 1798, to consider the establishment and constitution of his Majesty's mint, the result of which was the erection of the present mint on Tower Hill, between 1805 and 1810, with highly improved machinery, and increased facilities for carrying on the process of coining exten sively and advantageously. The various chemical manipulations necessary for reducing the metal to its due degree of purity previous to coinage, it is not our province to enter into; we shall, therefore, proceed to a description of the dif ferent processes of coining, after the metal has been received in the melting house. The usual mode was to melt the silver in black lead pots, and a consi derable coinage of tokens for the Bank of Ireland was produced in this man ner. The importations being entirely Spanish dollars, and the tokens of the same standard, the melter could easily melt them in quantities of 60 lbs. troy, which was done. But the inconvenience of this mode was ultimately severely felt, because ingots of silver of different qualities could not be used for coinage, from the difficulty of blending several together in one pot to produce the proper standard of our money. This obstacle was so severely felt that, in 1777,
Mr. Alchome, then principal assay master, was commissioned by Government to visit the mints of Paris, Brussels, Rouen, and Lille, for the purpose of collecting information with respect to the arts of coining as practised in those mints, and. more particularly the most approved mode of melting silver in large quantities. Alchorne's intimate knowledge of the English mint, together with his great acquirements as a practical chemist, eminently fitted him for the undertaking ; and his observations on the coin and coinage of France and Flanders, are alike creditable to his judgment and knowledge.
It is recorded in the documents of the mint, that at the recoinage of William III. the pots of silver weighed 400 pounds troy, and upwards, and it is somewhat extraordinary, that no trace of the process by which this was accomplished has been found ; it is, therefore, mere matter of conjecture that pots of wrought iron were used.
In 1758, some trials for melting silver in wrought iron pots took place, by means of a blast furnace, bat they were found so inconvenient, laborious, and pro fitless, as to cause the process to be abandoned. In 1787, some new experiments were tried by Mr. Morrison, (then deputy master and worker,) who conducted the meltings. A blast furnace was again tried and again abandoned. He next attempted to melt the silver in large black lead pots, containing from 100 lbs. to 120 lbs. troy ; but the repeated breaking of these pots, although guarded on the outside with luting, proved a great interruption to the business, and serious loss to the inelter. Trial was likewise made with cast iron pots, but these were found subject to melt, and the iron consequently got mixed with the silver. The work too was continually stopped by the king's assayer, the metal not being of the proper standard, in consequence of being refined by the process of melt ing, and lading it with ladles from the pot.