Storie di Posta, n. 27, maggio 2023, pp. 108-09




FIL-ITALIA, VOL. XLIX, n. 2, SPRING 2023, pp. 96-97


         Francesco Giuliani - “Le Carte Dentellate – Studi sulla letteratura filatelica dell’Ottocento” (The Perforated Papers. Studies on the Italian Philatelic Literature of the 1800s) - Perfect bound, 224 pages (8¼”x12”) replete with black and white illustrations, in Italian, ISBN: 978-88-947321-0-8 - Felice Miranda Editore 2023, available for free download at Academia. Edu or from il Postalista, alternatively from the author at €20.


         In his introduction the author explains that “The nineteenth century is the century that saw the birth of philatelic collecting, the epic period par excellence, with undoubted charm. After a timid start, at the beginning of the 1860s the more advanced nations saw an explosion of passion for philately including books, catalogues, magazines, price lists, exchange and commerce networks. For the many opponents, who will never fail, even in more recent years, it’s a kind of mania, a form of collective madness, which is unnaturally linked to the much more concrete Rowland Hill innovation, successfully adopted by a growing number of nations. For others, however, philately is one passion, a hobby, a trade, which in some reveals a deep bond with culture, so much so that it becomes, if you think about it well, an eloquent metaphor for existence.”

         Professor Giuliani is rather vocal about the helpful role played by the internet where it is increasingly easy to retrieve and read from your home what not too long ago was only available at libraries. The advantages foremost the trump card of reading about what contemporaries knew about philately and what they thought about it. As a result the author says “We thus come across texts that confirm the cultural depth of this form of collecting, which throughout the world has produced an impressive number of titles of all genres”.

         In recent years Giuliani has shared what he has learned about the pioneers of philately who operated in Florence, Turin, Rome, and Bologna through articles published by philatelic periodicals of our century. As a result he has paid attention to the philatelic catalogs of Brecker and Franchi, to the monograph of Pio Fabri on the postage stamps of the State of the Church, to philatelic works of the young Teodoro Meyer, to the writings of personalities of substance who have operated in other areas, but have not disdained forays into the world of philately, like Giuseppe Fumagalli and Jacopo Gelli, who sided with cognoscenti like Rodlfo Renier.

         In this world Emilio Diena soon became a beacon of undeniable reliability and prestige at a global level, remembering other things as well as painful events such as the racial laws and the existence of a documented study on origins of the philatelic trade, in the 1860s, appeared unsigned between 1940 and 1941.

         In the fifteen chapters that follow we learn about forgers and speculators, representing, as in every field, the other side of the coin, but overall the picture outlined seems to illuminate a reality of great interest, rich in vitality, spirit of initiative and passion, of commitment. But above all, rich in meaning. In short, these pages, which Giuliani delivers to the attention of the benevolent reader, offer knowledge about a period of philatelic collecting and, at the same time, facilitate in some form that ‘search for meaning’ that must always be to the basis of philatelic collecting.

         This volume is indispensible for those who want to start ab ovo usque ad mala namely, at the origins of philately in an unbiased mode, without compromises and grey zones.

         After this unequivocal introduction we learn about the birth of the first stamp handbooks in 1864 preceded by those published in France, Great Britain and Germany. Italy made its debut in philatelic literature in 1864 when two handbooks, the Guide to all Stamps by Joseph Brecker, and the Handbook on how to build a stamp collection, which on its cover does not show the name of the author: Ulisse Franchi.

         To our eyes these handbooks are two short catalogues, which are closely linked to the commercial activity of the authors. The place of publication, in both cases, is Florence, home of the Italian language, which the following year will become the provisional capital of the Kingdom of Italy. These catalogues were surrounded by a sort of halo of mystery, for a very simple reason, namely that very few collectors had them in their hands. Brecker’s catalogue is rare, but that of Franchi’s is even more so. Their sources of information were respectively in German and in French.

         The 1870s Florence continued in its philatelic pioneer role. in 1872 Elia Carlo Usigli published his innovative New Catalogue of stamps, revenue stamps and artistic and iconographic curiosities – a veri rare book to find. Usigli enjoyed some notoriety, but on his dark side he sold forgeries. To keep his customers ut to date he published a quarterly titled Il Raccoglitore (The Collector).

         Teodoro Mayer, born in Trieste in 1860 from a Jewish family, and founder in 1881 of the local daily newspaper ‘Il Piccolo’. He cutivated Masonic and political contacts in Rome. In 1902 he bought half of the shares of the news agency Stefani; in 1920 he became senator. However, all of these achievements did not protect him against the 1938 racist laws that resulted in Mayer being removed from any public position and depriving him from owning the daily newspaper. He died four years later in Rome.

         Trieste was a lively business town since the days when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire; 1866 saw the debut of philatelic periodical in German. In 1875 Mayers started to publish an Italian version under the name ‘Il corriere dei francobolli’.

         The 1870s saw the publication of the firs italian philatelic monthly magazine ‘La Posta Mondiale’ which had only 12 issues between 1873 and 1874. In July 1876 ‘The Illustrated Philatelic Guide’ makes its debut in Bologna; during its first five years the publication saw various changes. The names of the people involved in this philatelic venture included Carlo Diena, Icilio Arturo Loli, Francesco Mignani and Francesco Carlo Tonolla, all of them directly involve in the stamp business.

         The most prominent name is Giuseppe Leoni, executive chief editor and in some periods also owner of the masthead, which began as a philatelic trader, and then focused in the field of journalism. His signature is found on the issues of the entire series, from July 1876 until December 1880.

         The firs philatelic monograph ‘The first stamps of the State of the Church’ was written by Pio Fabri and published by J.B. Moens in 1878. This very active publisher went on to publish small volumes devoted to the stamps of the Italian States and San Marino.

         The chapter that conclude this useful book focus on the major publications of Italian experts and specialists from Giuseppe Fumagalli, Teofilo Gay, Maria Rosa Tommasi, to Jacopo Gelli, Arturo Ermo Fiecchi, Vittorio Imbriani, as well as the greatest of all, Emilio Diena under whose masterful guidance Italy saw the publication of the ‘Victory Catalogue’ in 1923 which had a text highlighting the valued scientific dimension of collecting stamps with a resolute and courageous choice, this in highlighted flawlessly in the Preface: “Those who unfortunately are the majority in Italy – who delude themselves to provide an exact order of their collections following the weak footsteps marked by price lists and catalogues published with commercial intentions, have only to continue in their way, if they so choose, without consulting or monographs, neither the special catalogues nor the best periodicals, and sometimes ignoring their existence. Our task was t mark them a very differentr path.”

         Giuliani’s newest book will remain a reference work for generation to come; its digital version can be retrieved at no cost and readers are invited to take advantage of such a generous offer. On the other hand, it would be wise also to buy the hard copy.


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