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.


Romania

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.

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Theodor Herzl on Stamps

Theodor Herzl (in Hungarian: Herzl Tivadar, in Hebrew: בנימין זאב הרצל) was a Hungarian-Austrian playwright and journalist, but is best known for substantiating the Zionist movement, and is considered today the maker of the Jewish homeland in Israel. Born in Pest (today Budapest) in 1860, he is the author of the epoch-making book Der Judenstaat (Versuch einer modernen Lösung der Judenfrage) (in English: The Jewish State: Proposal of a Modern Solution for the Jewish Question), published in 1896 and considered the starting point of the modern movement of creating a Jewish state. Herzl strongly believed that the answer to the ever-growing anti-Semitism is the creation of a Jewish state, preferably in Palestine, but also envisaging different other options, among which Argentina. His writings gave a lot of impetus to the Zionist movement, which was aimed at the foundation of a Jewish homeland, but is now associated with pro-Israeli movements worldwide. Herzl died in 1904, not getting to see the day of Israeli independence in 1948; but is mentioned by name in the Israeli Declaration of Independence as the “spiritual father of the Jewish state”.

Given Herzl’s importance for the foundation of Israel, he is commemorated often on Israeli stamps. Some other countries as well, chose to honor the heritage of Theodor Herzl on their stamps.


Austria

Austria, together with Hungary and Israel issued in 2004 – the year of Herzl’s death centennial, issued stamps in a three-party joint issue. The stamps are identical in design and show an effigy of Theodor Herzl accompanied by the title of his best-known work, The Jewish State in German, Hungarian, Hebrew and English. Pictured above the Austrian stamp of the joint issue.

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Famous Romanians on Stamps

In 2018, the year in which Romania celebrated 100 years of independence and national unity, the Romanian Post issued in two batches a definitive series of stamps picturing famous Romanians. It’s been a while since a series of definitive stamps had been issued – the latest one being released in the 1990’s. The series is brought together by a common sketch-like portrait design and uses pastel colors. There are 18 values in total in the set.


Romanian Post has for some time gone in a quite risky game with its issues, diminishing the printruns to absurdly low quotas (there are stamps and minisheets issued in just a couple of hundreds of copies) and simultaneously raising the face value of stamps to similarly absurd values – values which do not correspond to franking needs. All of this points out to the fact that in an attempt to simplify their business model (sell less, earn more) they also make it kind of impossible for collectors to actually secure in their collections the latest releases.

The Famous Romanians definitive series of 2018 is no exception. Not only is it issued in quite a small printrun (some of the higher face value stamps are issued in something short of 20k copies), but also the face values are extreme, with the highest face value topping at 28.5 Romanian lei (6.85 EUR at the time of the issue). To just secure the entire set at face value, a collector would need to spend 111.5 Romanian lei (27.8 EUR at the time of the issue). That, of course, if they made it in time, many of the values of the series being as of 2020 already unavailable.


But let’s come back to the personalities pictured on the stamps. 17 of 18 have been active in their respective domains in the 20th century – which brings about the connection with the first century of Romanian independence and unity. Surprisingly, just one famous Romanian from the distant past is pictured in the series; Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), a famous Romanian scientist and politician.

An interesting fact is presented by the choice of famous Romanian in terms of them being a mix of people already honored on Romanian stamps, but also personalities which are for the first time commemorated on a stamp. Sofia Ionescu-Ogrezeanu, Ion Cantacuzino, Cella Delavrancea, George Apostu, Elvira Popescu are for the first time recognized as influential Romanians.


Pictured above: Cella Delavrancea (1887-1991, writer and piano player); Dimitrie Paciurea (1873-1932, sculptor); Victor Brauner (1903-1966, French-Romanian surrealist painter and sculptor).

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Astérix On Stamps

I have started collecting Astérix on stamps 2 decades ago when the French Post issued Astérix-themed stamps for Stamp Day. 2 decades later I am puzzled why there are so little Astérix stamps, given the fact that we are talking about a French epitome of an iconic comics character. There are of course the French stamps, and then some stamps issued by Belgium, Germany, and even Guernsey. But that’s about it. I think that Astérix is the perfect character for a stamp and can match so many collections.


Guernsey

The first Astérix were issued surprisingly neither by France or Belgium, but by Guernsey back in 2002.

The set of 5 stamps shows the salvage of a Gallo-Roman ship in the harbor of St. Peter Port from its building to its burning and saving. Asterix is shown only on the last stamp of the series – but the design of the entire 5-stamp set is in the recognizable pen of Albert Uderzo, the illustrator of the entire comic series which debuted in 1959.
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Raoul Wallenberg on Stamps

Swedish-born humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg is one of my all-time heroes. Needless to say, the fact that there are stamps around that commemorate his great person is a thrill for me. I started collecting Raoul Wallenberg stamps shortly after reading John Bierman‘s book Righteous Gentile: The Story of Raoul Wallenberg, Missing Hero of the Holocaust as part of my larger Holocaust commemorative collection.

Raoul Wallenberg has all it takes to be a hero, all the more a mysterious one. A Swedish architect born in 1912, he served as envoy to the Swedish Embassy in Hungary during WWII. He undertook life-threatening actions, through which he procured fake Swedish papers, thus saving tens of thousands of Jews from Hungary. I say life-threatening as his destiny is to date not known: as of 1945 he is listed as disappeared, and among the theories that surround his disapperance there’s death, kidnapping, imprisonment – none of which were confirmed.

His disappearance caused international actions of rescue – mostly motivated and engaged by his family, but also by the ones he himself rescued, but did not turn up any new conclusive evidence. It is assumed, due to the passage of time, that 108 years after his birth, he is no longer living.

His humanitarian role was honored in multiple ways and continues to be so. He was the second person to be granted honorary citizenship of the United States of America (after Winston Churchill), and the first one to be granted this right posthumously. He was also granted honorary citizenships in Canada, Australia, Hungary, and Israel. He is considered one of the most prominent Righteous among Nations by the State of Israel.

Raoul Wallenberg’s story on stamps is an important legacy that needs to be perpetuated. In my opinion, there are never enough Raoul Wallenberg stamps. I would like to see his personality, humanitarianism and humbleness honored on even more stamps than today.

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Constantin Brâncuși on Stamps

On 23.02.2009, in Paris’ Grand Palais, the Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé auction took place. Among the items exposed and auctioned, the sculpture Portrait of Madame LR by Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957) was adjudicated for USD37mil – making it a record price for a sculpture sold at an auction. The sculpture had belonged early on to painter Fernand Léger, but was bought by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970’s.

This is just one of the examples in which Romanian-born Constantin Brâncuși makes history. Today, modern art would be poorer and less inspired without his input. Today, also, we would look at a much blander art landscape were it not for his use of primordial forms.


Brâncuși’s art is featured on a lot of stamps from various parts of the world. What you can see below is a quite exhaustive selection, at the date of writing the article deemed as complete.

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Matsuo Bashō’s Haiku on Stamps

Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉 actually called Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa – 松尾 忠右衛門 宗房, lived between 1644–1694) is one of the most known names of the Edo period of Japan. His writings, including numerous haiku (俳句) is even today considered a standard form of poetry writing, and his style inspired many of the writers of the next generations. His collection of writings Oku no hosomichi (奥の細道, often translated as “The Narrow Road to the Deep North“, or “The Narrow Road to the Interior“) is one of the gems of the literature of Edo Period. The text describes Matsuo Bashō ‘s travels in 44 fragments, called “stations”. Each of the short texts includes a description of the travel and the people encountered on the way, and concludes with some haiku verse.

Between 1987 and 1989, the Japanese Post devoted as many as 40 stamps and 20 minisheets to the writing of Oku no hosomichi. The 40 stamps come in pairs of 2, the resulting 2-panel stamp being a haiku poem and an illustration of the respective haiku poem. 20 such panels result. Each panel is also accompanied by an imperforated sheet. The stamps and sheets are separated into 10 series, numbered from 1 to 10.

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Arthur Rimbaud on Stamps

Out of the many poets who have ever been featured on stamps, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) is probably one of the least prominent – at least this is how it looks at a first glance. However, among the “poètes maudits” (“accursed poets“), he is definitely the posterboy!

What’s more, some of the stamps featuring Arthur Rimbaud hide some interesting stories, so keep tuned!


France

In 1951, the French Post issued a series of 3 stamps devoted to the Symbolist poets, in which Arthur Rimbaud is featured next to Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine.


Each poet is featured against an intricated background of images referring to the imagery from their poems. In the case of Rimbaud, the illustration alludes to his poem “Le Bateau ivre” (“The Drunken Boat”).

Romania


Romania issued in the early 2000’s a couple of series related to cultural anniversaries. Among these, in 2004 a series featuring Arthur Rimbaud.

The personalities featured in the set pertain to different areas of interest: there’s Salvador Dalí, there’s the Romanian physician and bacteriologist Victor Babeș, but there are also poets: Alexandru Macedonski, and Arthur Rimbaud. The addition of the latter two is not incidental: Macedonski was one of the major promoters of French Symbolism in Romania. The stamp featuring Rimbaud includes the text “changer la vie”, which is taken from his text “La Vierge Folle” (“The Foolish Maiden“): “Il a peut-être des secrets pour changer la vie ? Non, il ne fait qu’en chercher, me répliquais-je.” (“Did he, perhaps, have secrets that would remake life? No, I told myself, he was only looking for them.“).

Belgium

One of the most courageous depictions of Arthur Rimbaud on stamps comes, however, not from Rimbaud’s native France, but from neighboring Belgium.

This sheetlet, issued in 2010 is devoted to literary anniversaries and includes Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Eduard Douwes Dekker, (pen name: Multatuli), Charlotte & Emily Brontë, and Victor Hugo). Since Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud had a fiery relationship, this stamp may well be the first stamp depicting a gay couple, be it an avant-la-lettre one.

Djibouti

It may seem weird, but Arthur Rimbaud also made it on the stamps of Djibouti as well. Not once, but twice!

The first time, in 1985, he is featured in a 2-stamp set together with Victor Hugo. I like the fact that although for the profiling of Rimbaud a traditional portrait photography was used, the designer chose to give it more personality by coloring Rimbaud’s hair in an excentric, parrot-like choice of colors.

The second time, however, in 1992, a more traditional approach was used for the 90F stamp – using the same gaze from the classical portrait photography; however the striking element comes via the 150F stamp: an older, more tired and apparently ill Rimbaud, hard to recognize after all, and all for a good reason; the accursed poet stays in history with his young, adolescent portrait, and not with his later life image.

And this is nothing surprising. Rimbaud died early, at the age of 37. His literary career per se was done when he was barely 21. Most of his known portraits date from the period 1871-1875 – when the young poet was at the height of his career. What about the later image from the second stamp? There are only a few images left from this later period, so the stamp design may very well be a work of fiction.

Last but not least, some words about the fascination with Rimbaud in Djibouti (which in a sense, I expect has little to do with his overt sexual orientation). After escaping the tumult of Parisian life and exile (London, Bruxelles), and after putting an end to his relation with Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud actually changed his lifestyle completely: gave up poetry and life in artistic cirlces, escaped from Europe altogether, and set base in different parts of the world – ultimately in Harar, Ethiopia – from where he traveled oftentimes to Obock in current-day Djibouti, trading in coffee and firearms.

Martin Luther on Stamps

The German-born professor of theology Martin Luther (1483-1546) had an incredible life that lead him to be one of the most prominent personae of the religious world. Not only was his life spectacular, but the heritage he left means a new faith, free of artifice and pretense. Of course, this did not leave him immune to the criticism of his contemporaries and even later, the Reformed Church had to struggle in order to gain the right to profess its faith. The strides made by this religious movement from the times of Martin Luther to being the most prominent faith in many countries is a thing we should all be in awe of.

The Reformed Church and Martin Luther himself were very often portrayed on stamps. Most notably, years such as 1983 (commemorating 500 years since the birth of Martin Luther), 1967 and 2017 (commemorating 450, and 500 years respectively since the Theses of Worms, which are considered the starting point of the Reformed Church) have proved to be very prolific. Below you can find most of the stamps related to the awesome journey of Martin Luther.

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Austria

Austria issued three stamps related to the history of the Reformed Church. The first one was issued in 1967 and features an abstract design with religious insignia.

009_Austria_Martin_Luther_Stamps

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The Smurfs on Stamps

This year, the colony inhabited by human-like blue elves that we know under the name of Smurfs is celebrating its 60th birthday! Imagined and inked by Belgian cartoonist Peyo (real name: Pierre Culliford), the Smurfs are a great example of long-living cartoon characters, since their popularity never faded since 1958, the year the first cartoons featuring the Smurfs were published. The characters got their own histories, new Smurfs joined the colony, and now there are at least 100 Smurf characters that are easy to recognize due to their appearance and to their well-constructed histories. Half of them exist ever since the first comics were published.

Of course, there are Smurf comics, and animations, TV series and full-length movies, but there are also various types of merchandise, video games and they are even featured in theme parks. Stamps could not go missing from the Smurf universe, so below you’ll find the official Smurf stamps issued ever since 1984.


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Switzerland

The Swiss Post issued two Smurf themed stamps in 2013.

 

Pictured above the self-adhesive stamps issued in Switerland.

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