Dimitrie Cantemir on Stamps

Dimitrie Cantemir (also known under his Russian name: Дми́трий Константи́нович Кантеми́р,or his Greek name: Δημήτριος Καντιμήρης, or his Turkish name: Dimitri Kantemiroğlu) was a Moldavian ruler and scholar, living between 1673-1723. His merits show him as a true Renaissance man, having had pioneering contributions in philisophy, history, music composition, linguistics, geography, and ethnography – to name just a few of the fields he was influential in his time for.

He was a member of the Royal Academy of Berlin, and published influential works such as a first history of Islam for Europeans, but also a referential history of the Ottoman Empire (in Latin: Historia incrementorum atque decrementorum Aulae Othomanicae; in English: History of the Growth and Decay of the Ottoman Empire). With his most known work, published in 1714, (in Latin: Descriptio Moldaviae; in English: Description of Moldova) he also made a first map of Moldova which stayed as a reference for the country’s geography up to the 19th century. If this were not enough, he also penned the first novel written in Romanian, A Hieroglyphic History (full title in Romanian: Istoriia ieroglifică în doasprădzece părți împărțită, așijderea cu 760 de sentenții frumos împodobită, la începătură cu scară a numerelor streine tâlcuitoare – in English: A Hieroglyphical History Divided in Twelve Parts, also Containing 760 Skillfully Embellished Sentences, from the Very Beginning Provided with Explanatory Foreign Numerals).

Given Dimitrie Cantemir’s enormous contribution to the world of politics and the sciences, he was a constant presence on the stamps of both Romania and Moldova, where he is still considered an epitome of his times, and a cool-headed, patriotic ruler. An addition to this collection comes from the former USSR. In what follows, we are going to take a look at Dimitrie Cantemir’s presence on stamps.


An early example is this set from 1938. Issued to honor the 6th anniversary of King Charles II’s enrhronement, it features 11 stamps.

Undertitled in Romanian Straja Țării (in English: Sentinnel of the Motherland) and therefore making a direct connection with the youth organization instated by King Charles II to combat legionnaire influences by an equally right-wing and nationalistic movement, the set depicts Dimitrie Cantemir, Maria de Mangop, Mircea the Elder, Constantin Brâncoveanu, Ștefan the Great, A. I. Cuza, Mihai the Valiant, Queen Elisabeth, King Charles II, King Ferdinand, and King Charles I.

A next set was issued in 1955, this time taking a different look at Dimitrie Cantemir’s contribution, as the set made out of 5 stamps illustrates early literary writers. Alongside Dimitrie Cantemir, the set shows Dosoftei, Anton Pann, Constantin Cantacuzino, and Ienăchiță Văcărescu.

In 1973, for the 300th anniversary of Dimitrie Cantemir’s birth, the Romanian Post issues again a stamp accompanied by a sheet, both depicting variations of Dimitrie Cantemir’s most known portrait, taken from his masterpiece Description of Moldova.

Next in 2004, a new minisheet is issued to honor Dimitrie Cantemir, this time in his role as a freemason, although his belonging to freemasonry remains to date a matter of debate. The minisheet is part of a 4-minisheet series brought together by the topic of international organizations.

In 2009, a series of stamps entitled România – Un tezaur european (in English: Romania – a European Treasure) depicts again Dimitrie Cantemir, this time alongside other personalities, landmarks, but also traditional activities that sum up Romania’s contribution to European culture. You can see on the sheet containing the 8 stamps of the series Dimitrie Cantemir with his magnum opus Description of Moldova in the background, but also George Enescu, the Three Hierarchs Monastery of Iași, the Black Church of Brașov, the Danube Delta, the Retezat National Reserve, the ethnographic heritage of Maramureș county, and the tradition of wine-making. Quite a sundry collection.

Last but not least, in 2018, a definitive series of stamps showing famous Romanians was issued, where Dimitrie Cantemir was again presented. I wrote a separate article devoted to the series here.


When it comes to Moldovan stamps, the first issue depicting Dimtrie Cantemir came in the context of celebrating 100 years of cinema in 1995. Three movies are presented in the series: Ultima lună de toamnă (in English: The Last Month of Fall, 1965, directed by V. Derbeniov); Dimitrie Cantemir (1973, directed by Gh. Vitanidis), and Lăutarii (in English: The Lute Players, 1972, directed by E. Loteanu).

A next issue comes from 2001, picturing Dimtrie Cantemir as ruler of Moldova.

Issued in 2003, this beautiful stamp from Moldova takes up a different potrayal of Dimitrie Cantemir, from an 18th century engraving, the author of which remains unknown.

A more recent from 2008, is devoted to the Cantemir family. The stamp presents Dimitrie Cantemir’s son, Antioh Cantemir (1708-1744), Russia’s envoy to London and Paris, a friend of Voltaire and Montesquieu, and a promoter of the westernization of the Russian Empire. He is also incidentally remembered as being the father of Russian poetry.

Former USSR

Not only Romania, but also USSR celebrated the 300th anniversary of Dimitrie Cantemir’s birth. Pictured above is the USSR stamp issued in 1973, that takes over a classical portrait of Cantemir. The stamps is unique not because of that, but because of the inscription at the bottom; it features the text in Russian 300 лет со дня рождения (in English: 300 years since birth), but also a replica of the same text in Romanian with Cyrillic script – 300 де ань де ла наштере. It is the only example I know where Romanian language written in Cyrillic script, as it was written in the Moldovan SSR, appears on a stamp.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to subscribe to Philately.Lately. Fresh articles about philately in your inbox, at the frequency you desire (instant/daily/weekly digest).

Stamps featured in post: 44 ; Period: early to contemporary (1938-2018); Pricing: moderate;  Michel Catalog no’s and prices: Romania Mi553-563 – 30EUR; Mi1530-1534 – 10EUR; Mi3126-3127 – 5.5EUR; Mi5888 – 6EUR; Mi6385-6392 – 15EUR; Mi7413-7421 – 41EUR; Moldova Mi187-189 – 8EUR; Mi415 – 5EUR; Mi474 – 3EUR; Mi626-627 – 3.5EUR; USSR Mi4175 – 0.3EUR Availability: not readily available, may surface in online auctions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.