I tried to learn German over many months last year, mainly from a philatelic perspective, but have not succeded much. A few days back I wrote to Philip Robinson curious as to how he brought himself up to the level where he is translating long philatelic texts from German to English. Philip's reply attached a short memoir which traced how his interest in the language was aroused and how he got into translating texts. The memoir contains a remarkable story of Anglo-German friendship; that British and Germans could develop so close a relationship especially so soon after a devastating war is astounding. I requested Philip if I could have his never-before published piece on this blog and he has graciously agreed. This is the first guest blog on this website.
A year or so later, Karl Fauser had become such a good friend of the Whittles and Robinson families that when I put in my appearance in April 1948 he was chosen as my godfather. Whenever I saw Karl in later years he always told me how surprised he was at the friendliness that he found in Sheffield - after all, the people had suffered during the war. He repaid this friendship many times, for example by bringing gifts that he had made himself in the camp workshop, or commodities that were rationed but more easily available to camp inmates. Then the time came in the summer of 1948 for Karl to return home to Ludwigsburg, but the contacts continued. In 1949 Karl and his wife Hilde came to stay with my grandparents in Sheffield, and the following year my grandparents and sister Valerie visited Germany.
Meanwhile, as a philatelist I had made contact in 1980, quite by chance via the Great Britain Philatelic Society, with Burkhart Beer. A keen philatelist and something of an Anglophile, Burkhart lived with his wife Brigitte and daughter Bettina in Monheim, a town on the Rhine halfway between Cologne and Düsseldorf. The following year, while touring Germany by train with my railway-enthusiast friend David, I visited the Beer family - this being the first of the 24 occasions when I signed the visitor’s book at Dachsbau 12!
So needless to say, Burkhart and I hit it off, and visits in both directions followed. In September 1982 I visited Germany again to show my line-engraved GB collection at meetings of the Forschungsgemeinschaft Groβbritannien in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, and in the 1980s I showed my GB stamps and early Siberian postal history at local and regional exhibitions in Düsseldorf, each time receiving a Gold medal.
Meanwhile, my interest in Siberia had begun with a journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1978. At first I simply studied this part of the world - its history, geography, ecology etc., and collected books on Siberia. But a chance purchase in 1980 of the first issue of “Stamps” magazine was fortuitous. Therein was an article on Imperial Russian railway postmarks by the late Rev. Leonard Tann, which included some illustrations of Siberian railway marks. This made me realise that my interest in Siberia could be developed philatelically. Another fortuitous event was a chance contact, via the philatelic literature dealer Harry Hayes, with a Russian philatelist, Anatoly Kiryushkin. By 1994 I had written and published two editions of Siberia: Postmarks and Postal History of the Russian Empire Period, had co-written with Anatoly Kiryushkin Russian Postmarks and Russian Railway Postmarks, and had made other contributions to Russian philatelic literature. This led indirectly to more links with Germany, as I began to visit German collectors of Russia, and to attend meetings of Russia collectors in Germany. And as time went on, the name Harry von Hofmann repeatedly turned up in the context of Russian philately in Germany.
In 1993 Harry had written and published ‘ЗAKAЗHOE - Recommandirt’, the first book on Imperial Russian registered mail, an excellent study. Although it was in German, I was aware that many English-speaking collectors had purchased it, as they could learn much from the illustrations alone. How much better it would be, I thought, if they could read the book. I decided to translate the text into English, so that I could then place copies of the translation in specialist philatelic society libraries. The book seemed to be so predominantly composed of high-quality illustrations that surely it could not be too hard a task to translate the text. In fact the English translation ran to some 30,000 words, but I plodded on doggedly until I had translated the whole book. Meanwhile, halfway through the work, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be a good idea to tell Herr von Hofmann what I was up to.
I wrote to Hamburg in my best German (made better with Burkhart’s help) and in due course received a reply. Harry was interested in my project, and in the course of his beautifully-worded letter in “High German” of the highest calibre, he mentioned some German philatelic/postal words and phrases that might “challenge” a translator. Some were indeed difficult, but I came up with translations which seemed to please my new-found friend at Hartmutkoppel 2. In due course Harry was so keen to make the English text of the book available to readers that he published it separately as a non-illustrated booklet.
An invitation to Hamburg followed and thus I was able to meet Harry and his lovely wife of many years, Annelore. They had come to war-torn Germany in the 1940s as refugees from the Baltic German community. Under the “secret protocol” of the Moltov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact, ethnic Germans had been expelled from their ancestral homelands in the Baltic States in 1939-1941. Harry and Annelore had spent the war years as youngsters in Poland, and after a very difficult beginning had made a new life for themselves in the German heartland. Having met at a refugees’ social event, and having married in 1958, they now had grown-up children and grandchildren and were enjoying well-earned retirement at Rissen, just outside Hamburg.
As time went on it became more clear to me that people with the ability to translate philatelic German into English - with all its specialised terms such as Nachnahmegebühr, Kreuzbandsendung and Annahmestempel - are few in number. And so it was perhaps not surprising that the telephone began to ring, or emails arrive, with requests to translate German philatelic texts. For example, I helped with the English translation of Theo Brauers’ book on scarce Victorian stamps on cover, and the English translation of the book Die Erfindung der Briefmarke about the “Prussia find”. The end result is that I seem to have become a German-English philatelic “wordsmith”, and I am more than pleased to be able to help the English-speaking philatelic community to understand and appreciate some of the high-quality philatelic literature that is published in Germany.
This story began with an account of “humanitarian” efforts towards Anglo-German understanding and cooperation in the post-war period. I hope that in a very small way I have been able, in recent decades, to pursue a similarly worthwhile course of action in regard to philatelic literature.
zweite Heimat = second homeland
Forschungsgemeinschaft Groβbritannien = Great Britain Study Group
Nachnahmegebühr = Cash on delivery fee
Kreuzbandsendung = Newspaper wrapper
Annahmestempel = Acceptance mark
Die Erfindung der Briefmarke = The invention of the postage stamp
In my previous blog I had mentioned that the F. A. Bellamy library was bought by Albert H. Harris (not to be confused with H. E. Harris of the US). This blog is about the man who was a philatelic literature dealer, writer, and proprietor and editor of various stamp magazines.
Albert Henry Harris was born at Croydon on 13 September 1885. He became interested in stamps at an early age. Party educated in Paris, on his return, Harris started The Enterprise Stamp Club in 1902 with two friends. This grew into the City of London Philatelic Society in October 1906 of which he was a member till his death.
Harris' initial career was in the advertising business but he gradually veered towards the stamp trade, in particular dealing in philatelic literature. His interest in journalism led him to cut his teeth as a junior in the editorial offices of Ernest Benn Ltd., then amongst the leaders of magazine publishers. Hence it is perhaps not surprising that, on 1 March 1911, Harris launched a new monthly magazine - the Philatelic Circular - for one of his other early enterprises, an exchange club called the Modern Collector's Club. After acquiring two other magazines and after 58 numbers, its name was changed to The Philatelic Magazine. In July 1919 the magazine became a fortnightly. Down the road, Harris also acquired the venerable Alfred Smith's Monthly Circular (1922) [Note 1], The Record of Philately (1936), and perhaps the most prestigious, Stamp Collectors' Fortnightly (1958). From 1914 to 1937, Harris also brought out 13 edition of Who's Who in Philately in book form; it was later amalgamated and published in Stamp Collector's Annual.
Harris' firm, Harris Publications Ltd., became an important supplier of philatelic literature in the 1920s and they maintained that position well into the 1940s. Apart from the Bellamy library which purchased in 1938, Harris also purchased many other important libraries like those of Hugo Griebert as well as considerable portions of the Edgar Weston stock. It may be pertinent to mention here that Weston traded under the name 'Victor Marsh' and was the biggest philatelic literature dealer of the early 20th century.
In his Introduction to the reprint edition of The Standard Index, Chapman gives a brief but remarkable insight into the man. He describes Harris as imbued with a devotion to good philatelic practices and having an "eagle eye" for empty "puffs". He was a hard taskmaster (which perhaps contributed to Baker leaving) and strict in his deportment. He was always ready to do wield swords in print, aware of but not intimidated by the laws of libel and working just within them. His battles with Stanley Phillips, the editor of Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal, which tended, "a little pompously, to consider itself the voice of British Philately" and the more down-to-earth Hugh F. Vallancey, the editor of Stamp Collecting, and Harris' main rival in the philatelic literature business, "kept Harris alive and well!" Finally, he was also a good businessman always looking for cost cutting and labour-saving; for example he used a Dictaphone for writing letters thus keeping the typist fully employed while he himself had extended lunches with friends and he introduced modern accounting systems replacing the "old-fashioned Dickensian monstrosities."
Harris died suddenly on 29 November 1945. His only child, Captain H. Gordon Harris was then serving with the Army in Burma and the business was carried on by Tom Morgan and Vera Trinder [Note 3]. Harris Publications was reorganised sometime later changing policies and premises. While some valuable philatelic literature titles were sold by auction through R. C. Jacombs in 1946, the rest of the stock, excepting current publications, was purchased by Vallancey in January 1947. Thus ended the philatelic literature reign of one of its greatest dealers of all time [Note 4].
Note 1: The Monthly Circular was published from January 1875 onwards. Its predecessor The Stamp Collector's Magazine was one of philately's earliest journals having been published from February 1863 to December 1874. After taking over the Circular, Harris renamed it as The Stamp Collector's Monthly Circular (later Journal) and published it from Spetember 1920 to August 1922. However he amalgamated it with the Philatelic Magazine in September 1922.
Note 2: The Index's genesis dates back to 1904 when Harris, as Honorary Secretary of the Enteprise Society, prevailed upon three members to index the society's library; the attempt failed. After many previous attempts had been scrapped, work on the Index as in its present state began in 1923. However it was only after Baker joined in April 1925 that the work started seeing progress. The work indexes handbooks of the entire world but journals of the Brtish Empire only.
Note 4: To complete the story, Harris Publications was sold by the Harris family to Urch Harris & Co. (no relation) of Bristol in 1967. Two years later, Stamp Collecting Ltd. took it over. The latter went into voluntary liquidation in July 1984. The two titles, The Philatelic Magazine and Stamp Collecting were bought by Stamp News Ltd. which then published a magazine of the same name. Stamp News itself ceased publication in October 1986.
Frank Arthur Bellamy was one of the greatest philatelic literature collectors of all time. After the library of the Earl of Crawford was bequeathed to the British Museum (now in the British Library), Bellamy's library was considered the largest in the world until its sale in 1938.
Bellamy was born in Oxford on 17 October 1863 as the seventh and last child of a college butler and master bookbinder (perhaps one of the reasons for his love of books). He was employed at Radcliffe Observatory from 1881 onwards and devoted 46 years to the Astrographic Catalogue, the first international scheme to use photography to catalogue stars in both hemispheres. Along with his niece, Ethel Bellamy, he catalogued some one million stars. While Bellamy was made as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1896, Ethel followed suit in 1926. In 1931, H. H. Plaskett was appointed as the new Chair of the Observatory; unfortunately Bellamy could not get along with his new superior and resigned from his post on 30 January 1936. He died, perhaps heartbroken, two weeks later on 15 February.
Bellamy started collecting stamps as a child of 5 years. His interest lay in the Oxford and Cambridge College Messenger Stamps of which he possessed some 2,500 items. These and some other stamps and material were acquired by John Johnson through Ethel Bellamy and is now in the world-famous John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera held by the Bodleian Library.
Bellamy was the author of Oxford and Cambridge College Messengers Postage Stamps, Cards, and Envelopes 1871-86 (1921) and A Concise Register of the College Messenger Postage Stamps, Envelopes, and Cards used in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge 1871-95, together with the stamps used by the Oxford Union Society 1859-85 (1925). He also co-authored A History of the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain and a Précis of the Proceedings at the First Four Congresses held at Manchester, London, Birmingham, Margate in 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912 (1914).
Bellamy's greatest contribution to the philatelic world was as a member and office bearer of the Oxford Philatelic Society (OPS). On 13 December 1890, a meeting was held in the Boys’ School Room at Gloucester Green to consider forming a “postage stamp collecting club or society in Oxford”. As a result, The Jubilee Philatelic Association came into being on 27 January 1891, with Bellamy as its Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. This association merged into (or more likely the earlier society was renamed as) the OPS on 22 March 1892. Bellamy continued in the same posts till 1930 and once again from 1933 or 1934.
Bellamy was a prickly person though meticulous and dedicated. For example, in 1889 he had helped form the Oxford Photographic Society but resigned in 1892 on a matter of principle and refused to join its successor, the Oxford Camera Club; he joined the Banbury Photographic Club instead! The gap of 3 or 4 years ins his OPS tenure came about thus: In a meeting of the OPS held on 12 March 1929, Bellamy was outvoted 8-1 on an issue of increasing the yearly subscription. He put forth his intention of resigning the same day though he agreed to continue to act as the Hon. Sec. and Treasurer until the next Annual General Meeting in January 1930. While one Captain Harley succeeded him, no further meetings were held till 25 July 1933. Bellamy came back to occupy his posts in either this or the next meeting held on 13 February 1934.
Bellamy's interest in philatelic literature dated back to probably the last two decades of the 19th century. He was Judge of philatelic literature at the London Philatelic Exhibition 1897. By 1916 Bellamy had amassed a massive library. Some items from his library was used by Edward D. Bacon while compiling the Crawford Catalogue.
By the turn of the century, Bellamy had made up his mind to donate his collection to the University of Oxford. He informally discussed this with the University in 1916 but was asked to wait for the end of the war. In 1920 he made a formal offer which was rejected six years later in 1926. The University rejected the offer "...on the ground mainly that philately is not a branch of the University studies and that the collection, however desirable, would be a source of expense to the University which it would not be justified in incurring."
Bitterly hurt, Bellamy wrote two letters, one which was published in The Times on 9 June and the other more detailed one in The Oxford Times on 25 June 1926. In them Bellamy claims that he had offered to bear all present and future expenses arising from this gift. Only space was required of which there was enough in several University buildings; further if it ran short later, the items could be removed or destroyed then! He felt that the University's Council had failed to appreciate the importance of postal history. Unsaid was that if the British Museum could accept the Earl of Crawford's bequest, why could not the University of Oxford his gift, which was of an equally high standard?
These letters were later reprinted as a monograph titled Statement and Comments upon the Result of a Proffered Gift to the University of Oxford. This monograph is now quite rare.
At the time of his death in 1936, Bellamy was under the impression that his collection was going to Queen's College (Cambridge). While Queen's had indeed provisionally accepted, they declined in view of the financial position of his two nieces who lived with Bellamy and were dependent on him; Bellamy himself dying insolvent.
The earliest books were from about 1500 AD being Acts and Postal Proclamations and road-books of pre-railroad days. A manuscript catalogue of the library is held in the John Johnson collection.
Bellamy's library was sold to Albert H. Harris in 1938. It weighed around 10 tons then. Since then Bellamy's books as evidenced by his bookplate (a rubber stamp 19 mm in diameter in black) on the front covers have been disbursed far and wide. However in recent times it has become quite difficult to find one; perhaps they are all hiding in existing collections.
Note: Originally published on 21 February 2020, this post has been extensively revised on 12 March 2020 after the author received a copy of the history of the OPS (can be ordered from the Society). Much new information have been sourced from this book.
Relative Scarcity of the Various Volumes of Robson Lowe's The Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps
Since the earliest days of stamp collecting in the 1860s to date, there have been so many great philatelists that it is almost impossible to choose the GOAT - greatest of all time. However it is certain that Robson Lowe (1905 - 1997) would find his name in any potential voter's top three list.
Auctioneer, dealer, writer, expertiser, not to mention a collector as well, Robson Lowe was as multi-faceted a philatelic personality as there has ever been. Interested readers may refer to Dr. Stanley Bierman's two-part biography of the man in the Quarter 1 and 2 issues of The Philatelic Literature Review.
As far as his writings is concerned, "Robbie", as he was affectionately called by his friends, is known for publishing The Philatelist, one of the best stamp magazines of its time, as well as editing it from its beginnings in the 1930s to the 1970s. However he is probably more famous across the world for his magisterial six-volume The Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps. Published between 1948 and 1991 they are arguably the most read philatelic books ever; particularly the first four volumes.
This blog is about the relative scarcity and prices of the six volumes. The first remark I would like to make is that despite being many decades old, these books are still quite useful and in demand and hence, unlike many other books in this internet age, never sell cheap.
Current dealer-quoted prices of the volumes in descending order is:
Africa contains information for many well-collected countries and hence sees good demand. Asia is sought after for the main reason that India and some other countries covered have not seen as much original research in certain areas. Further these two volumes were printed in lower quantities than some others. Leeward Islands was published not so long back and perhaps not that many copies have come back to second-hand market. British North America covers Canada and its provinces only and hence is not as popular. Finally Great Britain ranks towards the end since much original research has been published on it over the last 70 years or so.
Now it is frequently mentioned by dealers that Australasia is the rarest of all the titles in this series. So does that mean that the Australasia volume was printed in lower numbers than the others?
In a letter to the Editor published in Q2 1992 issue of The Philatelic Literature Review, Jim Ryan mentions the printing quantities of the Encyclopaedia; he received these details from Robson Lowe himself.
* Corrected and reprinted in March 1948
As can be seen, quantities printed of the Australasia book is the highest (along with G.B. and B.N.A.) in the series. So it begs the question: why are they termed scarce and consequently priced higher?
There could be two theories. One is that they are indeed scarce for some reason; perhaps many copies have been destroyed or pulped. So there is a 'supply issue'. Second is that someone started the adage sometime in the past and it has persisted into the present.
I think both these reasons may be to blame, to a greater or lesser degree.
What is surely scarce is finding these books with their dust jackets. While the final two volumes almost certainly have their dust jackets on, perhaps only 10-20% of the first four volumes are so lucky. Further the jackets are more likely than not to be in poor to fair condition only.
One reason for this is that these jackets were printed on not-so-thick paper and are fragile. Further these books are so good and so intensively used by their owners that the dust jacket suffer and are subsequently removed.
That's quite a shame since the dust jackets add quite a bit of charm to these books. There can be a price difference of 25-35% between the same title with and without a dust jacket.
Arthur Hind was arguably 20th century's greatest stamp collector. He was to the second and third decade of the century what Philippe De Ferrari and Thomas K. Tapling were to the final two of the previous one. Amongst his prized possessions were the British Guiana 1c magenta, currently the most expensive item in philately last auctioned in 2014 for US$ 9.48 million, and the "Bordeaux" cover with the one-penny orange and two-pence blue "Post Office" stamps of Mauritius.*
* In my book, this superb piece of philately and postal history, much more pretty and attractive than the ugly British Guiana stamp, is the most valuable philatelic item in existence and will likely realise upwards of US$ 10 million if it ever comes for auction.
Since this post is about the auction catalogues of the Arthur Hind collection, I am not going to dwell on the man and his philately. Those interested may want to read up on him in Dr. Stanley Bierman's The World's Greatest Stamp Collectors (from where some of the information given below is taken).
The Arthur Hind collection was auctioned by two great philatelic auctioneers in two of the biggest philatelic centres of the world:
The reasons behind this split is quite interesting.
The realisations of the US portion amounted to just US$ 244,810 (about £47,000), mainly due to two reasons - one was the ongoing Great Depression and the other was the careless way in which Hind had treated many of the priceless items including by affixing them to album pages with adhesive tapes and Band-Aid! After this sale concluded, Phillips had printed the catalogue and plates for a second sale of 3,506 lots of Hind's British Empire collection to be conducted on Mar 31 as well as Apr 2 to 7 and 9 of 1934. A third sale of Europe and Colonies was planned for Oct or Nov of that year and a few more were planned for 1935.
Given the disappointing first sale, Hind's nephew reached out to H. R. Harmer who, in Feb 1934, sailed to New York. After 24 hours of non-stop negotiations with the executors of Hind's estate - First Citizens Bank and Trust Company - he bought the British Empire and Foreign Countries collections (but not the British Guiana 1c magenta)** for US$450,000. Phillips' already announced Empire auction had to be hence cancelled and the catalogue's price refunded to anyone who wanted it. It was the "sale that never took place."
The Hind collection was duly brought to London and a series of 11 sales took place between Apr 1934 and Jun 1935. A total of 6,334 lots realised £135,000 (about US$ 675,000). The 11 Harmer auction catalogues were published staple bound with yellow card covers.
** Firstly the stamp was "lost" at that time and was eventually found in a registered letter in which it had arrived after being displayed in an exhibition; Hind had failed to remove the stamp from the envelope and the cover itself was found in his safe! Secondly the ownership of the stamp was being contested with Hind's widow, who had not been bequeathed his stamp collection, claiming that the 1c was a gifted to her by her late husband.
Today, will a US$ 10 million stamp travel across the seas in a registered letter? No way!
They were later bound up by the auction company in their house binding and published in two parts; the yellow front and back covers were however discarded.
Over the last couple of years I have frequently wondered why the two bindings that I have are different. The red is bound in quarter leather while the green in half. Was it that the green, which would have been published at a later date, given a more royal treatment now that the success of the 11 sales was known in entirety? However I have seen, on the internet, a red bound in half leather.
When I visited Stockholmia 2019 in May, I took the opportunity to see the city's Postmuseum. While browsing the shelves of its superb philatelic library, I happened upon the two house bindings. The difference is that the bindings are reversed: their red is bound in half leather and the green in quarter.
This leads me to believe that there was no particular logic in the way the volumes were bound; it seems to have been random. Sometimes just a simple (even if it is disappointingly so) explanation suffices!
There is this very popular saying in Hindi: जब भगवन देता है चपड़ फाड् कर देता है।
This literally translates as, "When God gives, he tears down the roof and gives." The implied meaning is that when good things have to happen, they often happen together in quick succession (Of course it applies equally to the not-so-good stuff in life as well!)
I have faced many such 'When God gives...' situations in my philatelic literature collecting journey. Books, which I have been searching for years to no avail, suddenly become available, well not in hordes, but in multiple copies. Given that most philatelic literature titles are scarce and the most popular and in-demand ones are rare to very rare, we surely cannot expect hordes.
I had been searching for one such extremely collectable book, Early English Philatelic Literature by P. J. Anderson and B. T. K. Smith, for many years. As die-hard bibliophiles will know, this is one of the most important works of philatelic bibliography ever written, perhaps only next to the great Crawford Catalogue. Further given that it is a work published by The Philatelic Literature Society, a society consisting of the giants of philatelic literature collecting and inquiry, makes it extremely collectable. Finally with just 125 copies* published, it is not a common title with just 15 unnumbered and 30 numbered copies identified as existing by Brian Birch in his magnum-opus The Philatelic Bibliophile’s Companion (available on Global Philatelic Library)
* While an earlier notice in The Journal of the Philatelic Literature Society mentions that the book will be a run of 120 copies, a later notice in the same journal says 125 copies were printed of which 20 were given to Mr. Anderson and 5 to Mr. Smith. I would assume that they were all unnumbered. In case you are wondering why unnumbered copies exist, you can read my articles on The Philatelic Literature Society and its publications. Briefly it is because this publication was printed only for members and their number in 1912-end were 79; hence apart from Anderson and Smith's copies, which would probably have been unnumbered, other unnumbered surplus copies exist.
Now coming back to my story. In late 2018 I acquired a copy from, very suprisingly, an Indian dealer. I would have never expected a copy to be lurking around in this country. The dealer informs me that the copy came in a lot which he had purchased years ago from England. There exists a small sticker of the bookbinder Higginbotham & Co., who were (still are but under an Indian management) one of India's most well known general books dealer with shops in Madras and Bangalore. This implies that one of the previous owners was an Englishman (there exists his signature on the title page, scroll down) stationed in India, maybe even born there.
That copy is numbered 89/120 and is bound; thankfully the covers are still intact and the deckled edges have not been trimmed.
Last last month I bought a copy from another unlikely source, a US non-philatelic eBayer; this arrived in my hands today. The copy is unnumbered and is in the same unbound uncut state (deckled edges and oversized card covers) in which it was published in 1912. How very rare and how very exciting!
So the number of known copies of this book has now increased from 45 to 47! I would think that my contribution to the 4.4% jump is pretty respectable!
I am right now so very excited with my latest acquisition that I think I will sleep tonight hugging the book! On second thoughts, that would not be good for the book; let me rephrase and say that I will sleep with the book on the sidetable next to me.
On the half title page are inscribed the presenter and the presentee? Can someone identify who they are? I can read "W. S. Mitchell" and "D. (or Dr) W. Douglas Simpson" respectively. Please do contact me if you have any information on these two gentlemen.
Update on 15 Aug 2019: When my blog went online last night, Casper Pottle of HH Sales immediately reverted back on my query. Dr. William Douglas Simpson was librarian at Aberdeen University Library for 40 years and William Smith Mitchell was the author of Catalogue of The Incunabula in Aberdeen University Library and A History of Scottish Bookbinding 1432 to 1650 both published by Aberdeen University. If one also considers that one of the co-authors, P. J. Anderson, was also a past librarian of the University and had bequeathed all his books to it, they all form a nice common connection.
So my next query: the bound copy has the following signature. Can anyone identify it for me? As mentioned above, it could be some Englishman stationed in India.
Update on 15 Aug 2019: Casper has once again identified the siganture. He thinks it is probably of H.F. Murland. Murland was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 2nd Battalion, Madras Pioneers (and wrote their Battalion history). He would have been stationed in Madras and that ties in with the binding details. Capt. H.F. Murland is listed as a member of The Royal Philatelic Society in 1917-18.
The 1948 issues of Mahatma Gandhi can be said to be the most popular and collectible stamps of modern India. Further, these stamps overprinted "Service" for exclusive use by the office of the then Governor General of India, C. Rajagopalachari, are known for their elusiveness being one of India's rarest stamps. Finally it is one of the most expensive post-World War II stamps in the world!
The definitive book on the subject is Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Issue of 1948 by Pradip Jain. Published in 2014 and authored by a well-known Gandhi collector, it is the last word on the subject. As per Jain, just 76 copies of the Rs 10 Service exist. Details are as follows:
In Jain's book the strip of 4 is shown through the courtesy of Stanley Gibbons. In Apr 2017 it was widely reported in the philatelic and popular press that Stanley Gibbons had sold (the same) strip to an unnamed Australian collector-investor* for £500,000. Earlier in Sep 2013, the auctioneer David Feldman had sold the finest known single copy for €168,000 (including buyer's premium) while in 2016 Gibbons had themselves sold another single to a collector in Uruguay (of all places!) for £160,000.
* While the identity of the Australian collector is known to many, he perhaps desires to remain in the background and hence his name is not being researched or disclosed.
While attending Stockholmia 2019 in late May, I visited Spink's stand. Spink, founded in 1666 and headquartered in London, are one of the world's leading auctioneers of not only stamps, but also coins, banknotes, medals, wine & sprits, etc. At the stand, the same strip of 4 was on display for sale for £550,000. A small booklet advertising this and a few other stamps available under Private Treary was also kept on the counter for anyone interested to pickup.
Pictured here is M. S. Ramu of Bangalore (right) with Geoff Anandappa, Director - Client Services, Spink at Stockholmia 2019. Ramu (not the new owner) is holding paper worth close to Rs. 5 crores or $700,000!
I am thankful to Ramu and Pragya Jain, two well-known Gandhi collectors and dealers, for going through this blog post and providing me their valuable inputs.
In the last few years of the 19th and the first couple of decades of the 20th century, The Philatelic Society of India (PSI) was the premier society in the British Empire outside of the UK or even London. It members consisted of the top most Anglo-Indian philatelists of the day many of whom were also members of The Phillatelic Society, London (later The Royal Philatelic Society London). Efforts to form a pan-India society had been on for many months before and PSI commenced its activities in the beginning of 1897.
However the first General Meeting of the Society took place only on 6 March 1897. This date is usually taken to be the one when the Society formally came into existance. The minutes of the meeting were recorded in the April 1897 issue of The Philatelic Journal of India (PJI); the PJI having being published from Jan 1897 itself. It must be an unique occassion when the journal of a society started before the society itself was formally constituted!
This piece is to clarify on the issue of how many members of the Society existed in the beginning. Common lore has it at 50. This myth has been perputated in all later writings. The editors of the PJI, C. F. Larmour and F. N. Schiller, are to be blamed when they report in Vol. 1 No. 1 that the PSI, "...commences its existence from the beginning of this year with just fifty members"
I am not sure why this number is mentioned since on the reverse of the very page a list of all the (initial) members are given! And a simple count totals to 49. Perhaps 50 is a round number easier to roll off the tounge than 49? However as a historian I would rather be precise and set the record straight, 122 years later!
Further support comes from the Feb 1897 issue of the PJI which has the list of new members added. It clearly says that the current membership is now 60. A count of the new members works out to 11 and this is a further confirmation that the number of initial memers were 49.
After many suggestions and discussions, eight stalwarts (of the 49 invited) met exactly 150 years ago on 10 April 1869 at 93, Great Russell Street and formed The Philatelic Society, London.
The Society managed to tide over the difficult years of the early 1870s and is now the oldest surviving philatelic society in the world; some earlier societies such as the French and American ones having faltered. It received the prefix "Royal" on 28 Nov 1906 from King George V, an avid philatelist himself.
Apart from being the oldest, I would say it is the most vibrant and, very importantly, the most diverse philatelic society with approximately 2400 members from 80+ countries. With its move later this year to its new premises at Abchurch Lane, the future of the Society have never looked better!
P.S. Those interested in the history of the Royal may want to refer to the above books brought out on 50 and 100 year anniversaries of the Society.
The Society is also publishing two catalogues on the occassion of the Sesquicentennial.
Volume 1: The Exhibition Catalogue
Volume 2: The Library Catalogue
More information including the table of conents of the two volumes is available on the exclusive website pertaining to the catalogues.
A few days back I bought, off eBay UK, a copy of Beech et al's New Zealand and Dependencies: A Philatelic Bibliograophy. The edition was shown as bound in bright red cloth and thank to Brian Birch's magnus opus, The Philatelic Bibliophile's Companion, I immediately recognised it to be the British Philatelic Trust's version - one of the 16 numbered copies. I could not believe my luck and placed a rather high bid; I was fortunate to get it for a decently low ball number.
I wrote to Brian mentioning my acquisiton and that it was numbered 5/16. Brian maintains a record of all limited edition bibliographic philatelic books and in his records this number was shown as belonging to the British Library in London. Both the Library and I sent Brian photos of the copies in our possession. It turns out that we both have ones numbered 5 (the British Library has another unnumbered copy as well) and there has obviously been an error in numbering. Possibly there is a 4 or a 6 missing in the world.
When I inquired from the eBay seller, he mentioned that this book was part of the Francis Kiddle library. Kiddle was, of course, the past librarian and President of the RPSL and a philatelic bibliophile. Brian says that Kiddle, who was also Chairman of the Trustees of the British Philatelic Trust, was responsible for publishing the Trust's edition. He mentions in his Companion:
"It was originally intended that the British Philatelic Trust would publish this book on behalf of the compilers. However, there were serious disagreements between the compilers and the Trust on policy and editing of the book so that the agreement on publication of the book by the Trust was eventually terminated and the compilers published it themselves. Since the Trust had expended a considerable sum of money on the publication, it produced a small edition of sixteen copies in order to recoup at least some of the money."
The authors self published their own edition a year later in 2004. The Trust's edition has great production values - a very high-quality buckram covered hard binding with rounded spine and impeccable gold lettering. The authors' own version is also quite good considering that it was meant for widespread distribution (published at N$ 80) and hence possibly costs needed to be controlled. I also speculate that superiority of the former's bookbinder may have also played a part.
It was sometime in 2012/13 that I started collecting Indian mails going to foreign destinations in the pre-UPU period. The comprehensive book on the subject is Martin and Blair's Overseas Letter Postage from India 1854 to 1876 but that covers only routes and rates and not accountancy markings on, well, the covers! As I struggled with making sense of the markings, I was trying to get hold of other books which would give me some insight.
So it was in Jan 2015 that I got in touch with an eBay seller who had a copy of Jane and Michael Moubray's British Letter Mail to Overseas Destinations on sale for £220. I later learnt that the seller was John W. Jackson, a well know philatelic literature enthusiast. I was not sure if this book* would help me and I requested John for more information. He explained that this was a standard book on 19th century British rates which had won the Crawford Medal and was quite popular with philatelists. The book was published in 1992 and had sold out within a short while and hence was rare and expensive.
At that point in time, the British dealer, Bill Barrell, had a copy for sale for £300 (which sold in the coming months). The German philatelic literature dealer, Phila Books or a.k.a. Burkhard Schneider, was willing to buy copies for €250 and later that year / early next he did list a couple of copies for €400 which sold quickly. Knowing that I was unlikely to find a cheap copy anytime soon and since John's copy had sold in the meantime, I threw in the towel and bought a copy off another eBay seller for £215 + postage**
At the time of buying the book I had no idea that a second edition was coming out soon. It was published by the Royal Philatelic Society of London in 2017 and met with good reception. It was priced at £75 for non-members and £68 for members.
While I ordered the second edition, I find that the first edition's value is falling off the cliff over the past year or so. Obviously those who want a book for its contents would rather buy the second edition with updated information for a lower cost. And there are very very few new collectors of philatelic literature. So the demand-supply ratio has flipped 180 degrees. From £250-300, the average price is in double digits now. I have seen copies not selling for months at even £50-75!
Philately is a science or atleast partly that. It follows that philatelic works are technical and similar to other pedagogical books where earlier editions have few takers. This is completely different from fiction or even many non-fiction works where first editions (rather first prints; the two words are often used synonymously and need to be distinguished) are desired. So unless a philatelic title is a valuable incunabula item your first editions are not worth much, both value and content wise.
* I now know that no one book helps and this is why I have had to assemble a jamboree of them even if most of them contain just a few pages of my interest. Check out my Maritime and Rates & Routes sections.
** Never forget postage when buying literature. It cost me £28!
It is generally recognised that the first journal dealing exclusively with the topic of philatelic literature is The Philatelic Literature Collector whose first (and only) issue came out in the Autumn of 1888. As the editorial says, "With this number, we present to our readers....a new venture in the way of philatelic literature, devoted to collectors of philatelic literature."
This journal's editor and publisher was one Mr. Herbert. C. Beardsley of St. Joseph, Missouri. He was a dealer and collector; in fact in this number he claims to be the only collector in his city of 75,000 inhabitants! While I have not researched on him much, I can glean from the Crawford Catalogue that his initial venture, Beardsley's Advertiser, saw its first and last issue in January that year. The failure of his first two ventures seem to have affected him for a short while only as he is associated with other publications in the mid to late 1890s.
Mr. Beardsley mentions somewhere that while "we don't expect to make any money out of it, we will guarantee every person who sends his or her 10c, four numbers." I wonder if subscribers or future advertisers were refunded back their amounts given that no further issues saw the light of the day!
The issue in discussion is a self-bound work of 4 pp. The first page lists philatelic magazines being currently published in America. The second and part of the third page contains extracts from P. J. Anderson's Notes on Early English Philatelic Literature and is acknowledged as being reprinted from the Philatelic Journal of America; in fact Anderson's article had originally appeared starting from the May 1885 issue of The Philatelic Record, perhaps the best magazine of its time.
The next two pages contain advertisement rates, general notes and titbits on the then philatelic happenings, a small list of literature collectors, an exchange section for journals, and last and definitely not the least, an announcement of an auction sale of 23 different journals. This is possibly the first auction ever held containing exclusively literature lots.
In 1996 was published The Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria Library: A History and Catalogue by Geoffrey Kellow (later an RDP, the highest award in philately) and Russell Turner. The library of the RPSV is perhaps the biggest in the Southern hemisphere. I have written an article on the library which can be found in the Articles section of this website and those interested may want to refer to that.
The Catalogue is perhaps one of the last, if not the last, of the big philatelic catalogues cum bibliographies to be published in printed form. While stamp collectors may be declining, the rate of philatelic output continues to be added at a prodigious rate and hence it is very difficult for printed works to be published and stay relevant for any length of time. The Global Philatelic Library on the internet is an initiative to provide a consolidated listing of philatelic publications, archives, museum items etc. held by libraries; so far 27 libraries have contributed their listings.
Now more on the Catalogue. It is a high quality work published in two editions:
(1) A pre-publication Subscribers' limited, and numbered edition of 75 hard bound in maroon cloth with a matching slipcase.
(2) A Standard, limited, but unnumbered, edition of 75 bound in blue cloth with a matching slipcase.
The information on (2) has been taken from the Auction Catalogue of The "Maharaja", Dromberg & Garratt-Adams (last part) Philateic LIbraries, Sale held 26-27 Apr 1997.
The subscriber's edition is signed by the authors as well as the President of the Society, John Trowbridge, on the Introduction page. It is also numbered (mine is no. 23). However I am unable to find any other difference between the two.
Needless to say any hardcore bibliophile will do well to have a copy of this book in his library.
What is the difference between the two booklets shown here (apart from the fact that the one has the price mentioned on top)? Both are exactly the same except that the one on the left is the first and the one on the right is the second edition of Fred.(erick). J.(ohn) Melville's Postage Stamps Worth Fortunes. This is one of the first, if not the first, book dealing exclusively with rare stamps of great value (Crawford 261).
Melville needs no introduction to philatelic bibliophiles, being the most prolific writer in all of philatelic history (more than 100 books can be attributed to him) Incidentally he published a booklet of 8 pp called Stamp Collecting in 1897 when he was just 15; he was later so embarrassed of his work that he actively hunted for it and destroyed the copies that he could lay his hands upon!
In their book, A "Melville" Bibliography (yes, such a book was needed to just list out the great man's works), the Williams brothers (L.N. and M. Williams) give the story behind the two editions. Apparently the first edition was published on 11 March 1908 in a run of 2,000 copies. All copies were exhausted in one day (!) warranting a second edition to be published three days later, again in a similar sized run. This fact is also printed in the second edition of the work.
Apart from the British edition, a Swedish edition came out in 1910, a Dutch edition in 1911, and an American one in 1918.
The Stamp Collector's Magazine (SCM) is the second journal on stamp collecting or philately ever published in the world. The reason I use the word "philately" after "stamp collecting" is because Georges Herpin had not yet coined the former word; he did so only in Nov 1864, almost a couple of years after the first issue of SCM came out in Feb 1863.
Published over 12 volumes from 1863-74, SCM set extremely high standards of philatelic journalism. It was edited by Dr. Charles William Viner till about end-1866 and thereafter by George Overy Taylor; Viner having left to edit The Philatelist.
Vol. 1 No. 1 was reprinted. In Vol. II No. 4 of The Journal of the Philatelic Literature Society, Edward D. Bacon, eminent philatelist, mentions two variations to distinguish the original from the reprint.
1. On page 15, in the advertisement at the top of the right hand column the letters "lake" of the name "Blake" are in small roman capitals in the original and in lower-case type in the reprint.
2. On page 16 the error of spelling in the words "Just Pubished" (missing "l") above the advertisement of "The Postage-Stamp Collector's Pocket Album" in the right hand column, is corrected in the reprint to "Just Published".
Bacon further adds that the original No. 1 was probably dispatched only in March 1863 since he has seen one postmarked March 4 while the reprint was not made until August 1863.
Note: My copy of Vol. 1 No. 1 is the original.