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Stamps - Art In Philately

( Originally Published 1893 )



IT certainly will require little or no demonstration to show that art is not only possible, I but really to be found in connection with Philatelic pursuits. But it may sound like a wild statement to say that without art there can be no true philately. However, this is a statement I shall take the responsibility of making, and if I become entangled thereby in difficulties from which there is no escape, my blood be upon my own head.

First, then, without art in some form, and to some degree, there would be no stamps to begin with. Of course in many of the earlier issues, and in too great a number of the current ones, there would be considerable difficulty in tracing any semblance of anything worthy the name, but it must be acknowledged that in most stamps may be seen indisputable evidence of artistic skill and taste, both in the invention of the design and in its execution. Then, too, in the matter of colors, it is becoming more and more the practice to employ those shades which are more pleasing to the eye in preference to those brindle and washed-out looking alleged colors so common in the oldest issues. But all this has to do with the manufacture of stamps, which, however necessary to Philately it may be, certainly can not be called a branch of Philately itself. What I want to speak of principally is the necessity of art in Philately and its importance to the success of a collection.

The Philatelist must have a certain degree of artistic taste and ability. Of course we do not select a stamp upon its artistic merits. That would be the height of absurdity. A collector, whether a specialist or a general collector, chooses a stamp because it completes or helps to complete his collection. Neither does the evidence of art in the design regulate the value of a stamp, which is of course based upon the genuineness, rarity, and sometimes other minor points in no way connected with the beauty or workmanship of the stamp itself. But in this day of specialism—and who shall deny that this plan of collecting is not daily growing more popular ?—printed albums are rapidly giving place to blank albums. Here it is that may be seen the artistic taste or the lack of it which makes or mars the beauty of a collection. It is not human nature to look for a long time at anything which is not in and of itself pleasing to the eye. And a badly arranged collection in a blank album is certainly not a pleasing thing, no matter how many rarities it may contain. Does it not require an artistic eye and executive skill to arrange stamps tastefully ? They should be mounted with regard to shape, size and relative position as well as in sets. In fact, I think in mounting stamps in a blank album more notice should be given to the symmetrical arrangement than to the chronological placing of the stamps. just one more word in this fine, and I rejoice to know that there are indeed very few who class themselves with advanced collectors to whom this word is necessary. No one is an artist in this line who permits tor a moment anything in his album or among his mounted specimens which is in any degree removed from neatness. So important is this that rather than have one finger mark or one little blot or tear on a page, it would be far better to remove the entire page and insert another.

What I wanted most to speak of, however, is art in Philatelic journalism. Philately has reached that stage where a few poorly edited and more poorly printed papers not only will not suffice, but ought not to exist. The art of journalism and printing is so far advanced that good papers are not only possible, but ought to be demanded. Philatelists want good papers, and should give them their support. Blurred printing, bad spelling, nightmare engravings, have no more place in Philatelic journalism than elsewhere, and should not be tolerated. Art need not be confined to illustrated magazines, hut has a place in the printed page just as truly as in the most elaborate engraving. It is gratifying to notice that high-class magazines are appearing, and it is to be hoped they will receive the support of Philatelists everywhere. Of course we should also demand a good quality of reading as well as artistic and pleasing workmanship on the mechanical make up, but where the latter is found it is hardly likely the former will he lacking. The two travel hand in hand. I remember noticing in a book I was reading some years ago a peculiar misquotation of a well-known saying, in which printing was spoken of as " the art deservative of all arts." " Well, that is not so bad. If any art is " deservative," or deserving of support, it is good printing. Let us not look always for the cheapest, but for the best.

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