Spectral database for postage stamps

Chemists have constructed a timeline of the substances incorporated in Italian postage stamps over 150 years using spectroscopy. The technique has already been used to detect two counterfeits.

The research is published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. The abstract is available for free, but a subscription or purchase is required to view the full article.

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New books in the APRL, November 2013

APRL acquisitions, October 16, 2013-November 15, 2013. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

book coverAusstellung Der Brief im Wandel von Funf Jahrhunderten: in der Frankischen Galerie Nurnberg vom 31. August bis 5. September 1961 anlasslich des 15. Bundes-Tages am 2. September und des 62. Philtelisten-Tages am 3. September des Bundes Deutscher Philatelisten e.V. (Nurnberg [Germany]: Ausstellung der Brief (Nurnberg: A. Hofmann), 1961): 104 p.: ill.; 21 cm. [In process 000046074]

Banning, Captain William and George Hugh Banning. Six horses (New York: Century Co., c1930): 410 p.: maps; 22 cm. [In process]

» Continue reading “New books in the APRL, November 2013″

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Exhibit explores personal libraries

An exhibit on personal libraries will open Nov. 15 and run through Jan. 6, 2014 at Penn State’s Pattee Library. I get many questions from readers of this blog and the Philatelic Literature Review about personal libraries and archives, so if you are planning to visit the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte in the coming months, you might consider a side trip to look at this exhibit. Penn State’s University Park campus is just over 10 miles from Bellefonte.

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Smithsonian publishes proceedings of First International Symposium on Analytical Methods in Philately

book coverProceedings of the First International Symposium on Analytical Methods in Philately (Smithsonian Contributions to History and Technology, No. 57) edited by Thomas Lera, John H. Barwis, and David L. Herendeen. Published 2013 by Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press. Available in hard copy or electronic PDF format at www.scholarlypress.si.edu.

This publication contains papers presented at the First International Symposium on Analytical Methods in Philately, hosted by the National Postal Museum in November 2012. Readers will find insights to research methods used across the entire spectrum of philatelic interests, from composition and physical characteristics of paper, to the chemistry and mineralogy of printing ink, to determining the genuineness of stamps, overprints, and the uses of adhesives on cover. Some of these projects were funded in part by the Institute for Analytical Philately and the National Postal Museum.

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New books in the APRL, October 2013

APRL acquisitions, September 16, 2013-October15, 2013. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

book coverThe 1907 Escalon “provisional?” issues and the overprinted Escalon postal stationery ([n.l.]: [n.p.],[n.d.]): [21] leaves: col. ill.; 28 cm. [In process 000045960]

2011/2012 South African stamp catalogue. ([Johannesburg?]: South African Post Office, 2012): 139 p.: col. ill.; 30 cm. [In process 000045909; In process 000045910; In process 000045911]

Bianconi, F., 1840-. Carte commerciales du Honduras et du Salvador [map] (Paris: La Libraire Chaix (Imprimerie et librairie centrales des chemins de fer; Imprimerie Chaix), 1891): 26 p., 1 folded map: col. map; 65 x 89 cm. folded to 27 x 22 cm. [MAPS G4801 .Q1 B578c 1891]

Bose, Walter B.L. Los origenes del correo en el Paraguay 1769-1811 (Buenos Aires: [Sociedad de historia Argentina], 1940): 30 p.; 27 cm. [In process 000045961]

Bowman, George W. The New Zealand Mt. Cook half-penny design of 1898 [exhibit]: [111] p.: col. ill.; 28 cm. [In process 000045896]

Bowman, R J M. Railway perfins of Great Britain ([n.l.]: Security Endorsement & Perfin Society of GB, 1976): 73 p. :ill.; 28 cm. [In process 000045897]

» Continue reading “New books in the APRL, October 2013″

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New book examines link between British postal rates and literary history


Photo: Penn State

A new book by Laura Rotunno, associate professor of English at Penn State Altoona, identifies the mid-1800s postal rate change in the United Kingdom as the turning point toward an increasingly educated middle class.

Postal Plots in British Fiction, 1840–1898: Readdressing Correspondence in Victorian Culture by Laura Rotunno. Published 2013 by Palgrave. ISBN 978-1137323798. Available from most major booksellers.

Read more in the Penn State press release.

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A visit to the Collectors Club

Collectors ClugAt the end of September, I had the pleasure of visiting the Collectors Club in New York. It was a beautiful autumn day as I approached the Club’s five-story brownstone in midtown Manhattan. The building was beautifully redesigned by architect Stanford White in 1902 and has been the Club’s home since the 1930s. It was renovated in 2000 and provides an elegant setting for the Club’s extensive library.

The library is open to the public five days a week and is easily accessible, located within walking distance of both Grand Central and Penn Station. It is a member of the Philatelic Union Catalog, and you can search its holdings by selecting CCNY from the list of libraries.

Library Chair (and APRL Trustee) Bruce Marsden started our tour on the fifth floor, which houses catalogs, including extensive runs of Scott and Stanley Gibbons.

UPU documents

We continued to the fourth floor, where treasures of the collection are housed. These include rare books, an extensive collection of Universal Postal Union documents, and photographs of the Knapp collection. This area is also used to process incoming material.

The third floor houses auction catalogs. Many philatelic libraries struggle to find enough space for their continually growing, yet infrequently used, collections of these catalogs. The Collectors Club Library, with finite space and no way to expand, has made the decision to downsize its collection. After consulting with specialist societies, they selected auction houses to keep and offered the remainder to the APRL. While I was at the Collectors Club, my husband and I sorted through the German auction catalog collection and boxed up the catalogs the APRL needed. We ended up with 10 boxes of catalogs!

Bruce Marsden and me in the library

The Club’s meeting and reception space is on the second floor, separate from library collections. The front room has a table with comfortable chairs and a fireplace, all framed by the large window. The back room provides space for presentations and exhibits.

The main library collection of books, pamphlets, and current periodicals is in the first floor reading room. Like most philatelic libraries, the primary organization is geographical.

The rest of the periodical collection is housed in compact shelving in the basement.

Irene Bromberger and meWhile I was at the Collectors Club, I also met with executive secretary Irene Bromberger. Irene assists visitors ranging from philatelic researchers to people who are curious about the building’s architecture.



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New books in the APRL, September 2013

APRL acquisitions, August 16, 2013-September 15, 2013. To request loans, copies, or scans, or to search our catalog, visit the APRL website.

book coverAlexander, Thomas J. [Papers]: 326 bankers boxes.

ARPHIL. Ferdinando di Borbone, Regno di Napoli, asta pubblica: May 30, 1986 (Milano [Italy]: Arphil, 1986): 48 p.: col. ill.; 17 x 24 cm. [NS Ferdinando di Borbone]

Austria [map] ([n.l.]: J.H. Kernot; J. Rapkin, [1851]): 1 map [Flat File Drawer 5]

Bongiovanni, Italo. Los treinta meses de la SCADTA en Ecuador (Quito: Italo Bongiovanni, 2013): 91 p.: col. ill.; 30 cm. [In process 000045609]

» Continue reading “New books in the APRL, September 2013″

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Reading the Library, Part 0

Don HellerAs Bullwinkle so famously said, Greetings, Poetry Lovers!

Some introductions first. I’m Don Heller, and I live in State College, PA. The reason for that is simple – I like the place, and it makes getting to the APRL really easy.

I’m employed by Penn State, and I’m on the faculty of the Computer Science and Engineering Dept., teaching courses in Operating Systems, Systems Programming, Programming Languages, and Computer Architecture. The inside stuff – no Windows (except when necessary), and no Word.

Philatelically, I collect Romania (stamps, stationery, postal history, revenues, just about everything up to 1950, but not so much after that), worldwide postal stationery (unused, up to the end of 1873, more about that in a later episode), assorted odds and ends (like, forgeries of the bogus Azerbaijan issues), and books (lots of books!).

The Mount Nittany Philatelic Society is the local stamp club, and I’m the president and show chairman. Our annual big event is SCOPEX, held the weekend before the APS Summer Seminar. Lots of fun – stop by some time!

Since August 2012, I’ve been on the APRL Board of Trustees, in the position previously held by Roger Schnell. The question of the Library’s use and acquisition of digital resources is an important topic that we’ll need to discuss further.

But, I don’t want to neglect the actual physical original books and journals, and that’s the main topic of these blog entries. I’m going to read the library. Not just a book, or a journal, but the entire library.

Completely nuts and unrealistic, since I can only read English, French, German, Dutch, and Romanian. Turns out that Spanish, Italian, Danish and Swedish aren’t so hard to figure out after a while, but I’m not going to try Chinese or Japanese. There’s only so far a brain can stretch.

As an example, I’ve gone through the first 60 volumes of The American Philatelist, up to 1947, reading the New Members information, looking for anyone living in Centre County, PA, where State College and Bellefonte are located. This is good background information for a club history, and it turned into a biography of George T. Bush, the first APS member in Centre County. No one would have indexed that data, and most of those volumes are not available (yet) for digital search. You just have to read all the pages.

Old books can be a real adventure. New ones, too. Let’s go have some fun!

OK, I warned you. Here’s your homework assignment. The next installment will be a look at The American Journal of Philately. So, get on the Internet, and find out everything you can about the AJP, without getting up from your chair. Don’t try to get the library staff to do the work for you. There are some standard resources to look for – the Crawford Catalogue, the Philatelic Union Catalogue, the National Postal Museum’s catalogue, WorldCat, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Google, and so on. You get the idea.

When was it published? How many volumes and pages are there to read? Is there anything in it worth reading today? (It’s an old journal, but there are indeed lots of things worth reading even now.) More importantly, is it indexed? Is there an online version that’s searchable?

And the big question, Can a digital version of an old journal substitute for an original version of an old journal? That’s a loaded question – both are useful, but only if you can find them.


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Giant concrete arrows and early air mail

A recent post by Ken Jennings (yes, the famous Jeopardy! champion and geography buff) on Condé Nast Traveler looks at giant concrete arrows that marked the Transcontinental Air Mail Route. Jennings’ post, This Really Exists: Giant Concrete Arrows That Point Your Way Across America, gives a bit of background about the air mail route and the arrows. It also includes a recreation of a 1920′s route map showing stops.

Unfortunately, it appears the recreated map mistakenly includes a stop in Byron, Illinois rather than Bryan, Ohio, which did have an air mail field from 1918-1927.

The Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum website includes a diagram of the generator-powered beacon that sat atop the concrete arrow.

A post from the EAA Southern Utah Chapter 936 provides information about the locations of several arrows near St. George, Utah. This post also includes a 1924 route map – correctly showing Bryan, Ohio – that could be the source for the recreated map in Jennings’ post.

Another post, this one from BonnevilleMariner.com, chronicles an attempt to shoot photos of arrows in Utah from the air.

You can find more images of the arrows by doing a Google Images search.

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