As I become familiar with the philatelic publishing market, it is easy to form opinions on publishers and what they contribute to the hobby. Some titles, especially many that are self-published, are rather amateurish and do not command much respect. Titles released by large firms like Scott, Linn's, and Stanley Gibbons have a considerable history on which to base their experience and success. Krause, a relative newcomer, is on the verge of taking command in a number of important philatelic areas.
Cyprus' independent publisher James Bendon has expanded and improved his firm's offerings. Bendon is one of the finest of the purely philatelic publishers with some of the best contemporary writing in philately. Then there are a number of smaller enterprises that have much potential such as Saskatoon Stamp Centre in Canada. Another entity in the stamp publishing business is the organization that produces handbooks and monographs like The American Topical Association which has a lengthy list of quality books.
There is much to be sought in the industry but no one publisher has a hold on the philatelic market. Publishing in this hobby is limited to philatelists' demands, and, for the most part, the demands for quality literature are few. I wrote about that topic in an earlier column.
Philatelic publishers do produce excellent reference sources, some of which go on to be classics. In fact some earlier, less pretentious volumes are much sought after by bibliophiles today.
When one philatelic publisher stands out for exceptional and masterly work it is worthy of special citation. It deserves a salute and a celebration. The publisher I have in mind is the Collectors Club of Chicago. That group is not a publisher as such, but the directors of its publishing program have produced some excellent titles in a high-class professional manner.
Let me look at the most recent title from Collectors Club of Chicago - United States Patriotic Covers of World War II. Although I understand it is already sold out, I am confident some dealer or distributor will have copies for those who missed it. It will be unfortunate if you have to wait for it to turn up at an auction. An overview of the book clearly indicates the quality work and supports my superlatives.
Patriotic covers have long been cherished items among collectors in many parts of the world, so the addition of United States Patriotic Covers of World War II is welcome to the canon of philatelic literature. Compiled by Dr. Lawrence Sherman, this work gathers much previous information into one very user-friendly and handsome title.
Dr. Sherman presents his thesis very succinctly. Such covers "show us immediately, without translation, how Americans experienced the war, how they reacted to it, and how they imagined it, from its beginning in 1939 to its end in September 1945." Sherman divides his text into three parts; Evoking the War; Cachet Makers, Cachet Topics; and Catalogues. Each part features three chapters with appropriate sub-sections for the topics under discussion.
Like many of us, Lawrence Sherman was a child during World War II, but he has many vivid recollections which were magnified as he "began looking at them [patriotic covers], handling them" at a stamp show over 20 years ago. "Memories began to sharpen," he says, and those memories propelled the author into extensive research that resulted in a distinctive volume.
The United States did not enter World War II until late 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nonetheless, United States patriotic covers began to appear shortly after the declaration of war in 1939, many of which suggested the United States should remain neutral and stay out of the war. After Pearl Harbor, the covers became much more vocal and condemned all facets of the enemy. Some are clever, some are outright propaganda, and others are apt political and social comment of the time. They are educational and informative.
Just look at the contents of this book: United States Patriotic Covers of World War II has over 50 tables and more than 500 cover and cachet illustrations, including eight pages in color. Separate chapters relate the history and biographies of 25 major cover publishers while the lists total 627 publishers and 425 publisher imprints and trademarks. There is also an appropriate glossary, a bibliography, and an index. The bibliography, which allows for much additional research, is exceptionally extensive with five different sub-headings. The book is printed on high quality paper and bound in cloth.
The major portion of Sherman's text focuses on the Catalogue of Patriotic Cachets, which has just under 10,000 individual listings in alphabetical order by cachet wording. Painstaking work under the best of conditions! Each listing has the cachet color description, topic, publisher and value. I have taken the liberty of lifting a couple of the color illustrations to whet the appetite of those who want to own this truly magnificent volume. It belongs on your literature shelf.
If there is flaw in this work it is reflected in the reproduction of the covers, several of which are not properly outlined or framed. That may seem like a small matter, but it does affect the overall production of what is otherwise a special title.
United States Patriotic Covers of World War II is a wonderful example of what gives the Collectors Club of Chicago an outstanding record of producing first class research and fine quality materials for the stamp hobby. There is a tradition there that is difficult to match. Lawrence Sherman's writing and research and the Club's aim to produce this kind of material deserve high praise for continuing excellence with United States Patriotic Covers of World War II. This title, moreover, is not an exception from Collectors Club of Chicago. I have seen most of their books in the last five years, and I am always impressed.
What do you look for in a philatelic title? Let me know your opinion and thoughts on the matter. If someone out there can match the outstanding performance of Collectors Club of Chicago, I want to know about it. I will give such publishers appropriate space and celebration. Let's hear from you.
Stamp Universe wants your opinion to count for 2000, so get your ideas on the web. All worthwhile suggestions will get attention in this column.
Michael O. Nowlan was born in Chatham, New Brunswick Canada. He grew up on a nearby farm, was educated, and became a teacher. In retirement, he follows his life-long avocation of writing. His credits include 16 books (four books of poems, two children's titles, and anthologies for schools). In recent years, he has written extensively about stamp collecting for CANADIAN STAMP NEWS, GIBBONS INTERNATIONAL STAMP NEWS, and other philatelic publications.