Brookman, Lester G. 1966. The
United States Postage Stamps of the 19th Century. Second edition. 3vv.
H.L. Lindquist Publications, New York.
Johl, Max G. 1947. The United
States Commemorative Stamps of the Twentieth Century. First edition. 2vv.
H.L. Lindquist Publications, New York.
Johl, Max G. 1976. United States
Postage Stamps 1902-1935. Quaterman Publications, Inc., Lawrence MA.
There are many beautiful and important
books on philately. These six volumes are achievements in painstaking research
that shames much that emerges from the academy. When serious art history catches
up with United States postage stamps (as in due course it will), these books
will lead the way.
Brookman and Johl were collectors
of the old school, gentlemen with evident access to astonishing amounts of raw
material not only through their own collecting efforts but from the noblesse
oblige of others like themselves who put their treasures at these mens' disposal.
Johl had actually gotten a start in the mid 1930s with his 4-volume United
States Postage Stamps of the Twentieth Century, which covered all stamps
through about 1940.
US stamps are broadly broken
down into three large categories by collectors. These are "regular issues,"
the smaller stamps of many different denominations which are the workhorses;
"commemorative issues," which, depending upon your collecting temperament,
can be said to have started in 1869 or 1893 and are generally largish stamps
with developed images that, as their name suggests, commemorate a person, anniversary,
event, etc.; and "back of the book" issues, so-called from the normal
position of the pages for these stamps in collectors' albums, which include air
mail stamps, revenue stamps, postage due stamps, issues of the Confederate states,
etc. The arrangement of the standard philatelic catalogues of US stamps published
by Scott and Brookman reflect these practical divisions and to an extent have
canonized the arrangement. These are merely conventional categories, however,
and serious collectors make it a habit to impose special ordering upon their
stamps and not vice-versa.
Johl originally treated regular issues
and commemoratives together chronologically. The 100th anniversary of US postage
in 1947 offered a suitable opportunity to rearrange and update Johl's work.
Thus was published under separate covers The United States Commemorative
Stamps of the Twentieth Century, which left the regular issues with the
treatment in the 4-volume set of the 1930s.
This made sense because while
commemoratives used to come out 5 or 6 per year, regular issues tended to come
out in clumps every 10-20 years or so. (The recent practice of the USPS of issuing
hundreds of stamps in individual years is a result of privatization and a systematic
exploitation of collectors by producing as many collectable variants or new
issues as possible. The US government pockets virtually every cent paid for
a stamp that is bought but never used.) There was no call to similarly update
the discussion of regular issues in 1947 because Johl had already covered the
most recent issue, the so-called presidential series of 1938, and the next regular
issue was years in the future.
Alongside Johl's volumes in 1947
appeared Brookman's 2-volume set The United States Postage Stamps of the
19th Century. Although no new 19th century stamps had been discovered, those
barnstorming days of early printing, perforating, gumming, coloring, and other
techniques had led to vast numbers of unintentional oddities, variants, errors,
and similar problems in these first stamps. By 1966 a new edition in 3 volumes
was needed, and that year's Sixth International Philatelic Exhibition offered an excuse
to get it out.
Johl's 4-volume set had long been
out of print when Quaterman released (in 1976) the chapters dealing with regular issues
as United States Postage Stamps 1902-1935. Bound together with this
book were the original chapters on "back of the book" parcel post
and air mail stamps, as well as a 1941 pamphlet Specializing in Twentieth
Century United States Stamps as a sort of prologue.
These books are marvels of scholarship.
Good black and white photographs on fine, heavy paper mark the multi-volume
sets; the Quaterman edition lacks the quality of the others but arguably needs
it less because it has fewer illustrations (cost was certainly an issue). Every
individual stamp is taken from commissioning to design phase, and then through
production results (including oddities, errors, etc) and totals issued. Attention
is paid to the design sources for all stamps issued (where known), and there
are philatelically important discussions of postal cancellation marks, important
surviving blocks of stamps in prominent collections, and similar material useful
in the commercial aspects of the field.
Let's have a look at Brookman in
action. Even more valuable than the "inverted Jenny" early air mail
stamp is the shadowy, nearly legendary 4-cent blue Columbian. These stamps were part of a set issued in conjunction
with the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. They were larger stamps
than anything seen previously and were issued in 16 denominations, each
with a unique image (in "landscape orientation") commemorating some
aspect of Columbus and his voyages. Many would argue that these were the first
commemorative stamps, properly speaking.
The normal 4-cent issue of this series
was a pale ultramarine blue, and it showed Columbus' three ships
on the ocean. A few copies in a vibrant blue were found, evidently
saved scrap from a bad printing run. Brookman (3.62), tells us what he has seen,
where he saw it (offering a trail for those seeking provenience), and subtly
indicates his long reach in getting to see private collections ("in a western
collection"); he is also a master of the auction literature:
Many collectors have thought they
had the 4c Error of color but the truth of the matter is that few of them
ever have or ever will see one--let alone own one. The shade is very different
from the normal ultramarine and once seen it is not likely to be forgotten
. . . .
One error pane was found by J.V. Painter of Cleveland and bore the
plate number D17. It is almost certain that at least one more pane of these
existed in this shade, and that the used copies came from this other pane.
We understand that Theodore Steinway of New York found a used copy on mail
received by his father. When J.V Painter found the sheet he sold half of it
to George Worthington while most of the balance was purchased by J.W. Scott,
Sr. It is not known what became of the half sheet sold to Worthington as these
were not found among his stamps when his estate was sold.
A superb mint block of this 4c error was in the Col. Green collection and
there was a very fine mint block of 4--not the same block as was in the Green
collection--that was sold at the Robt. Laurence Sale of September 17, 1940.
We have seen a third block of four in a western collection and have seen several
mint singles but we have never seen a used copy although they are known to
exist. An Imprint Plate Number strip of 4 of the error was sold by Harmer,
Rooke, & Co., in 1962.
All of these works are out of print
and hard to find. Used sets of Brookman (in a 1989 reprint) can be had for
about $150.00. The Quaterman edition of Johl can be had used for about $100.00.
I have yet to see Johl's 1947 set be listed on Amazon (I paid $75 in 1998).
For those wishing to find scholarship
produced on US postage after the end of the period covered by Johl and Brookman,
the place to go is to back issues of The United States Specialist,
the journal of the Bureau Issues Association, Inc. and The United States Stamp
URLs for images
http://alphabetilately.com/commems.html (commemoratives including Columbians)
http://www.1847usa.com/identify/19th/1893.htm (Columbians with commentary)
Further looking turned up a cheaper source for philatelic literature than the standard book outlets at 1847USA.com: