This page includes Book Review columns from the 1997 issues of Across the Fence Post.
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Philatelic Sourcebook - A Review of The International Encyclopedic Dictionary of Philately
By MaryAnn Bowman. Waukesha Count Philatelic Society
A firm believer of the importance of having a philatelic reference library, I had been awaiting the publication of The International Encyclopedic Dictionary of Philately. I eagerly agreed to write a book review for ATFP and had great expectations! I was to be in for a disappointment.
The book is divided into three major sections: an encyclopedic dictionary, a quick identifier, and a multi-language matrix. It is with the first section that I became disenchanted with the book and its contents. There are a lot of little things that bother me about this section and its use as a reference tool.
Many philatelic terms that beginner collectors might encounter are simply missing from the book. Such basic terms as album, catalog, checklist, magnifier, mint, mixture, kilo ware, space filler, and used are not listed. (But I did find mention of "chiropractic" compound stamps - no, they're not stamps with a backache.) Although I could find a listing for "definitive," there was no listing for commemorative. Likewise, there is a listing for "souvenir sheet" but not souvenir card.
Some stamps/issues better known by other names such as "Bluenose," "Farley's Follies," "Hermes Heads," "Merry Widow," "Mulready," and "Persian Rug" are conspicuous by their absence.
Searching for entries such as album weeds, expertization, cleaned, or repaired stamps? Not in this book. Interested in learning more about the different firms responsible for the printing of postage stamps? There are no entries for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing; Crown Agents; De La Rue; Perkins, Bacon & Co.; or Harrison & Sons. Also, do not expect to find out about wet and dry printings - they are not listed.
Cover collectors would be disappointed to find that advertising, crash, patriotic, and turned covers are not explained. Some delivery systems such as the Army Post Office, Pony Express, and Rocket Mail do not receive a mention.
Several biographies are included in the book. Some, such as Juana de Asbaje, seem totally irrelevant to philately as (according to the listing) he doesn't even appear on a postage stamp, and many of the biographies are seemingly too long for this type of book. I could find Winston Churchill or Benjamin Franklin in any encyclopedia. Missing are the names of many prominent philatelists whose entries are not in most encyclopedias. I would have expected to read about Ferrary, Col. Green, Alfred Lichtenstein, and Arthur Hind.
A listing under "centering" shows three examples of stamps with these descriptions: "good," "fair," and "awful." The listing for "first day of issue" showed an illustration of a U.S. $2 bill postmarked with the April 13, 1976, date stamp on the Independence Hall definitive stamp.
A listing under "Alexander Hamilton" mentions that he was born out of wedlock. It goes on to editorialize about his lack of recognition on U.S. stamps compared to the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean.
Perhaps it is a sign of the times. One listing is for "lambda philately." A 4'/2-page listing is given for the entry "nudity on stamps." (There is no listing for other popular collecting topicals such as cats, dogs, or horses on stamps.) A listing of "Love stamps" makes reference to only the U.S. examples, although other countries issue Love stamps, too. It was in this entry that I also learned that some collectors felt that the "O" in the 1973 Love stamp resembled a birth control pill.
Would you believe? There is an entry for "stupid-philately," a term that was unfamiliar to me until reading this book. I'll leave it up to you to figure out the meaning or obtain a copy of this book to find out for yourself. In "testing" a book, most collectors will look for words and terminology that relate to their specific collecting field. I am somewhat familiar with stamps of the Cape of Good Hope and, thus, was disappointed to discover they are not even mentioned under the "triangular" listing, nor is there mention of the famous "Woodblock" issue.
An in-depth photo identifier of hard-to-identify stamps is divided by regional areas of the world. It is over-complete in some aspects with redundance of examples for country listings. It would be more helpful to include some examples of common revenue stamps from those countries. The identifier is under-complete in that there is only random reference to letters/initials used in association with a particular country. For example, K.S.A. (Saudi Arabia) is missing. This section is 30 pages in length.
The last section is titled a "Multi-Language Matrix" and is approximately 100 pages in length. It provides translations of philatelic and other terms into 20 languages. Collectors receiving foreign auction catalogs and other reference material might find this useful.
The book is a good reference tool for those who do not own a similar publication. I would personally like to see an update and revision of Ken Wood's three-volume encyclopedia titled This is Philately. I have found it to be the single most useful set of books on my reference shelf. For ease of use and simplicity of information, Wood's This is Philately can't be beat. Since, however, it is now out of print, the publication reviewed here is probably the next best alternative.
The International EncyclopcPdic Dictionary of Philately was written by philatelist R. Scott Carlton. It is available from your favorite hobby-book dealer or directly from Krause Publications, Book Department TDR7, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001. Remit $39.95 plus $3.25 for shipping charges if ordering directly from Krause.
Latest update: June 12, 2005