Philatelic literature

Philatelic literature

Philatelic literature is written material relating to philately, primarily information about postage stamps and postal history.

It is generally divided into the following categories:
# Stamp catalogs
## Single country catalog
## Worldwide catalog
## Geographic area catalog (e.g., Africa)
## Time period catalog (e.g., Reign of King George V)
## Specialized - postmarks, plate blocks, perfins, etc
# Periodicals
## Journals
## Newspapers
## Society newsletters
## Other
### Stamp market
#### Auction catalogs
#### Other - stamp dealer price lists
# Books
# Background material - Usually not focused on postal or stamp collecting but containing reference material useful to stamp collectors. For example, currency exchange rates between European countries for a given year.
# Bibliography of philatelic literature - Including everything from a topic by topic list of just book or article titles to a short abstract of each and every item listed in the bibliography

The nature of the postal system, as a ubiquitous but humble function of governments, means that there is a huge amount of information to be discovered, but at the same time it can be quite difficult to discover it. Consider for example a letter found in the attic, pressed between the pages of a grandparent's Bible, sent from a relative working on a plantation in a remote part of the world. How did the letter get from there to here? Was there a company mail boat that carried it to civilization, or was there a remote town with its own post office? Was the plantation in an independent country, or a colony too small to issue its own stamps? Why did the recipient's country accept the expense of carrying the letter the rest of the way, and if it didn't, how did it arrange to get paid for delivering the letter? Come to think of it, how did the letter cross the border?

Philatelic and postal history research answer these sorts of questions, and the results are then published in a variety of books and journals.

Perhaps the most basic sort of literature is the stamp catalog. This is basically a list of types of postage stamps along with their market values. The first such publication in the United States was "The Stamp Collector's Manual" by A. C. Kline (a pseudonym for John William Kline) in 1862. [ Herbert A. Trenchard and George T. Turner, "John William Kline America's First Philatelic Author", in "Philatelic Literature Review", Vol. 42, No. 1, pp. 24-41, 1993 ] The tradition was continued by stamp dealer J. W. Scott, who in September 1868, just 28 years after the introduction of stamps, issued the first of his annually updated Scott catalogues. Some catalogs, like the Michel catalog and various one-country catalogs, offer quite a bit of information going beyond the basic properties of each type.

Another common sort of book is the comprehensive "Stamps and Postal History" of a single country. These go beyond the basic date, denomination, and market price seen in the catalogs, explaining why particular stamps were issued, where and how they used, and more generally how the country's postal system worked in various periods. A good book will be profusely illustrated with most of the following types of information:
# Stamps
## Picture of the stamp itself
## Short description of the design and where the design came from
## Major and minor varieties of the stamp
### Perforation varieties
### Paper varieties
### Watermark varieties
### Printing errors
### Gum varieties
### Tagging varieties
## Trial printing proofs
## Forgeries
# Postal Rates
# Postal markings
## Postmarks
### Typical postmarks used for the country
### Example covers (envelopes)
### Illustrating slogan cancellations
### Postmark types
### Town, city, or post office list with postmark types used, dates of use and relative rarity of postmark
## Other postal markings
### censor markings
### Special handling, air mail, postage due handstamps, etc.,
### Forwarding agents, mail steamship postmarks
# Other
## Crash covers
## Postal rates
## Packet mail steamships - schedules, dates of operation, postal rates, postal markings
## Revenue usage cancellations - handstamp, signature, or perforated punch
## Post office listing - opening and closing dates, postmaster name

The next level of specialization is remarkable both for the level of minutiae and the number of works that have been published. Specialists write monographs summarizing everything that is known about a single type of stamp - the history of its design, the printing process, when and where the stamp was sold to the public, and all the ways it was used on mail. If the stamps is particularly rare (the Inverted Jenny or the missionary stamps of Hawaii), the book may actually include a census of every single copy known to exist. As might be expected, the audience is small, and the print runs of these books are small too. Classic works out of print may be much-sought-after, sometimes even more than the stamps they are describing!

Other kinds of specialized work include comprehensive studies of postal usage in limited areas and times, perhaps mail in Montana Territory before it became a state, or mail carried by steamboat on the Mississippi, or mail from missionaries in Uganda before it became a British colony.

In addition to books, there are a great number of philatelic journals, again ranging from the general, such as the "American Philatelist", which has been published since 1887, to those for specialties such as the US "Bureau" issues (printed by the government itself instead of being contracted out), to newsletters for local clubs. Again, the audience being small, many journals only run for a few numbers and then fail. But one of those numbers may have had an especially insightful or informative article, and modern-day collectors must work hard to find a copy of that article.

The scale and complexity of philatelic literature is such that it has its own journal, the "Philatelic Literature Review", published quarterly by the American Philatelic Research Library.

To give some sense of the scale, between 1911 and 1926 William Reynolds Ricketts published his "Ricketts Index", a bibliography of philatelic articles published up to that time. The Index was about 700 pages long, covering some 2,000 different journals, but only reached the letter "G". [Bill Welch, "Ricketts' U. S. Index To Be Published in PLR" in "Philatelic Literature Review", vol. 43, No. 2, p. 99, 1994] Since then there have been a number of incomplete attempts to index such literature, of which perhaps the most successful has been the German publication "Literatur Nachrichten" established in 1950.

Well Known General Philatelic Periodicals

* American Philatelist (USA) - worldwide topics with a focus on USA
* Canadian Stamp News (Canada) - worldwide topics with a focus on Canada
* Deutsche Briefmarken Zeitung (Germany)
* Gibbons Stamp Monthly (UK) - worldwide topics with a focus on Great Britain and British Commonwealth
* Linns Stamp News (USA) - worldwide topics with a focus on USA
* The London Philatelist - journal of the Royal Philatelic Society London with a focus on original articles and research
* Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News (USA) - worldwide topics with a focus on USA
* Scott Stamp Monthly (USA) - worldwide topics with a focus on USA


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