Resource of the Month – Billig’s Philatelic Handbooks

One of the earliest and most detailed handbooks to explore various aspects of philately are what are commonly known today as the Billig’s Philatelic Handbooks. The 44 volumes that comprise the Philatelic Handbooks series are the product of Viennese philatelist, author, editor, auctioneer and stamp dealer Fritz F. Billig. Billig was born in 1902 in the Austrian capital and immigrated to the United States in 1938 where he took up residence in Jamaica, New York.

Page of Swiss Plate Varieites

From 1933 to 1938 while still in Vienna he wrote and published a 44 part handbook of philatelic forgeries in German titled “Großes Handbuch der Fälschungen.” [HE6184 .F721 B598] His philatelic writing continued into the U.S. when upon arriving in America he continued work on another 13 volume handbook series on postmarks with the first 7 volumes being in German and the remainder being in both German and English. Billig also produced an 11 volume set of specialized handbooks that dealt with the various stamp issues of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Greece, France and Canada. [HE6238 .B598r]

Page Illustrating Zurich Forgery

However starting in 1942 Billig began to compile and combine the contents of these aforementioned publications as well as adding some previously unwritten material to comprise what became his Philatelic Handbook series. [JOURNAL Billig’s Philatelic Handbook]. The 44 volumes of the handbook series include an incredible wealth of detailed material including specialized catalogue listings, postmark information, plating data and in many cases known forgery information. Although the values listed in Billig’s philatelic handbooks are somewhat dated and the series includes illustrations in black and white only, the details provided within the handbooks, not to mention the magnified detailed images provided (particularly when illustrating known forgeries), more than make up for any lack of color imagery or timeliness.

New York Foreign Mail Cancels

The list of topics in the 44 volume set are far too many to detail here but some of the highlights of the Philatelic Handbook series (beyond just specialized catalogue information for regular stamp issues) includes detailed information regarding local issues, handstamps, airmails, plate varieties, revenues, local post office locations with maps, and postal stationery for a wide variety of different countries. A very detailed listing and summation of what each of the 44 volumes that comprise the Billig’s Philatelic Handbook series can be found here .

Here at the APRL the Billig’s Philatelic Handbooks are shelved on the second floor of the public space of the library in our journals collection and can be borrowed by members or be consulted by others for scans or research by contacting the APRL at library@stamps.org.

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