​My links with Germany and how a philatelist discovered his ‘zweite Heimat’ by Philip E. Robinson

I tried to learn German over many months last year, mainly from a philatelic perspective, but have not succeeded much. A few days back I wrote to Philip Robinson curious as to how he brought himself up to the level where he is translating long philatelic texts from German to English. Philip’s reply attached a short memoir which traced how his interest in the language was aroused and how he got into translating texts. The memoir contains a remarkable story of Anglo-German friendship; that British and Germans could develop so close a relationship especially so soon after a devastating war is astounding. I requested Philip if I could have his never-before published piece on this blog and he has graciously agreed. This is the first guest blog on this website.

Philip E. Robinson

I was born in 1948, in a little house on the edge of Sheffield, a city that still bore the scars and showed the dereliction of wartime bombing. I well remember in the 1950s going to town on the tram with my parents, sister and brother and seeing the gaunt remains of factories, houses, city-centre shops such as the large Burtons store, and St Philip’s church – a garden now occupies its former site.

St. Philip’s Church in Sheffield. Heavily damaged in World War II and demolished in 1952.

Karl Fauser, the proud godfather. With the future translator!

A year or so later, Karl Fauser had become such a good friend of the Whittles and Robinson families that when I put in my appearance in April 1948 he was chosen as my godfather. Whenever I saw Karl in later years he always told me how surprised he was at the friendliness that he found in Sheffield – after all, the people had suffered during the war.  He repaid this friendship many times, for example by bringing gifts that he had made himself in the camp workshop, or commodities that were rationed but more easily available to camp inmates. Then the time came in the summer of 1948 for Karl to return home to Ludwigsburg, but the contacts continued. In 1949 Karl and his wife Hilde came to stay with my grandparents in Sheffield, and the following year my grandparents and sister Valerie visited Germany.

I had to wait until 1965 to see Karl again, but I well remember as a schoolboy taking the low-price AJS (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Jugend- und Studentenreisen) special train to Germany for a three-week stay. I learned more German during my brief time there than in a year or more at school (to say nothing of the local Schwäbisch dialect – which my German teacher would complain about when I went back to school).

Further links with Germany followed in the later years; by the 1970s we had telephones and in 1974 we were first able to make direct-dial calls to Germany, and so I surprised the Fausers with a call “across the miles”. In 1977 Karl’s granddaughters Jacqueline and Jeannette visited us, and I re-visited Ludwigsburg later in in 1977, and again in 1981, 1984 and 1994.

Meanwhile, as a philatelist I had made contact in 1980, quite by chance via the Great Britain Philatelic Society, with Burkhart Beer. A keen philatelist and something of an Anglophile, Burkhart lived with his wife Brigitte and daughter Bettina in Monheim, a town on the Rhine halfway between Cologne and Düsseldorf. The following year, while touring Germany by train with my railway-enthusiast friend David, I visited the Beer family – this being the first of the 24 occasions when I signed the visitor’s book at Dachsbau 12!

So needless to say, Burkhart and I hit it off, and visits in both directions followed. In September 1982 I visited Germany again to show my line-engraved GB collection at meetings of the Forschungsgemeinschaft Groβbritannien in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, and in the 1980s I showed my GB stamps and early Siberian postal history at local and regional exhibitions in Düsseldorf, each time receiving a Gold medal.

Meanwhile, my interest in Siberia had begun with a journey along the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1978. At first I simply studied this part of the world – its history, geography, ecology etc., and collected books on Siberia. But a chance purchase in 1980 of the first issue of “Stamps” magazine was fortuitous. Therein was an article on Imperial Russian railway postmarks by the late Rev. Leonard Tann, which included some illustrations of Siberian railway marks. This made me realise that my interest in Siberia could be developed philatelically. Another fortuitous event was a chance contact, via the philatelic literature dealer Harry Hayes, with a Russian philatelist, Anatoly Kiryushkin. By 1994 I had written and published two editions of Siberia: Postmarks and Postal History of the Russian Empire Period, had co-written with Anatoly Kiryushkin Russian Postmarks and Russian Railway Postmarks, and had made other contributions to Russian philatelic literature. This led indirectly to more links with Germany, as I began to visit German collectors of Russia, and to attend meetings of Russia collectors in Germany. And as time went on, the name Harry von Hofmann repeatedly turned up in the context of Russian philately in Germany.

In 1993 Harry had written and published ‘ЗAKAЗHOE – Recommandirt’, the first book on Imperial Russian registered mail, an excellent study. Although it was in German, I was aware that many English-speaking collectors had purchased it, as they could learn much from the illustrations alone. How much better it would be, I thought, if they could read the book. I decided to translate the text into English, so that I could then place copies of the translation in specialist philatelic society libraries. The book seemed to be so predominantly composed of high-quality illustrations that surely it could not be too hard a task to translate the text. In fact the English translation ran to some 30,000 words, but I plodded on doggedly until I had translated the whole book. Meanwhile, halfway through the work, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be a good idea to tell Herr von Hofmann what I was up to.

I wrote to Hamburg in my best German (made better with Burkhart’s help) and in due course received a reply. Harry was interested in my project, and in the course of his beautifully-worded letter in “High German” of the highest calibre, he mentioned some German philatelic/postal words and phrases that might “challenge” a translator. Some were indeed difficult, but I came up with translations which seemed to please my new-found friend at Hartmutkoppel 2.  In due course Harry was so keen to make the English text of the book available to readers that he published it separately as a non-illustrated booklet.

Noel Warr with the English translation of ‘ЗAKAЗHOE – Recommandirt’

Harry now of course had more time for philately, and during the course of my visit he told me “I am preparing another book, on Latvian postal stationery. Perhaps this could be published bilingually in German and English”. What transpired in the long run was that during the next two decades I translated another ten of Harry’s works on Baltic philately into English, comprising over 400,000 words. This of course enabled the books to be published bilingually, and so reach a wider readership. It also must have improved my knowledge of “philatelic German”!

Harry von Hofmann, RDP

An invitation to Hamburg followed and thus I was able to meet Harry and his lovely wife of many years, Annelore. They had come to war-torn Germany in the 1940s as refugees from the Baltic German community. Under the “secret protocol” of the Moltov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact, ethnic Germans had been expelled from their ancestral homelands in the Baltic States in 1939-1941. Harry and Annelore had spent the war years as youngsters in Poland, and after a very difficult beginning had made a new life for themselves in the German heartland. Having met at a refugees’ social event, and having married in 1958, they now had grown-up children and grandchildren and were enjoying well-earned retirement at Rissen, just outside Hamburg. 

As time went on it became more clear to me that people with the ability to translate philatelic German into English – with all its specialised terms such as Nachnahmegebühr, Kreuzbandsendung and Annahmestempel – are few in number. And so it was perhaps not surprising that the telephone began to ring, or emails arrive, with requests to translate German philatelic texts. For example, I helped with the English translation of Theo Brauers’ book on scarce Victorian stamps on cover, and the English translation of the book Die Erfindung der Briefmarke about the “Prussia find”. The end result is that I seem to have become a German-English philatelic “wordsmith”, and I am more than pleased to be able to help the English-speaking philatelic community to understand and appreciate some of the high-quality philatelic literature that is published in Germany.

This story began with an account of “humanitarian” efforts towards Anglo-German understanding and cooperation in the post-war period. I hope that in a very small way I have been able, in recent decades, to pursue a similarly worthwhile course of action in regard to philatelic literature.


zweite Heimat = second homeland
Forschungsgemeinschaft Groβbritannien = Great Britain Study Group
Nachnahmegebühr = Cash on delivery fee
Kreuzbandsendung = Newspaper wrapper
Annahmestempel = Acceptance mark
Die Erfindung der Briefmarke = The invention of the postage stamp


Albert H. Harris: Philatelic Literature Dealer

Albert H. Harris. What seems to be a Dictaphone is behind him.

In my previous blog I had mentioned that the F. A. Bellamy library was bought by Albert H. Harris (not to be confused with H. E. Harris of the US). This blog is about the man who was a philatelic literature dealer, writer, and proprietor and editor of various stamp magazines.

​Albert Henry Harris was born at Croydon on 13 September 1885. He became interested in stamps at an early age. Party educated in Paris, on his return, Harris started The Enterprise Stamp Club in 1902 with two friends. This grew into the City of London Philatelic Society in October 1906 of which he was a member till his death.

​Harris’ initial career was in the advertising business but he gradually veered towards the stamp trade, in particular dealing in philatelic literature. His interest in journalism led him to cut his teeth as a junior in the editorial offices of Ernest Benn Ltd., then amongst the leaders of magazine publishers. Hence it is perhaps not surprising that, on 1 March 1911, Harris launched a new monthly magazine – the Philatelic Circular – for one of his other early enterprises, an exchange club called the Modern Collector’s Club. After acquiring two other magazines and after 58 numbers, its name was changed to The Philatelic Magazine. In July 1919 the magazine became a fortnightly. Down the road, Harris also acquired the venerable Alfred Smith’s Monthly Circular (1922) [Note 1], The Record of Philately (1936), and perhaps the most prestigious, Stamp Collectors’ Fortnightly (1958). From 1914 to 1937, Harris also brought out 13 edition of Who’s Who in Philately in book form; it was later amalgamated and published in Stamp Collector’s Annual.

Stock of Books of Albert H. Harris (1942/43). Is it Vera Trinder behind the typewriter?

Harris’ firm, Harris Publications Ltd., became an important supplier of philatelic literature in the 1920s and they maintained that position well into the 1940s. Apart from the Bellamy library which purchased in 1938, Harris also purchased many other important libraries like those of Hugo Griebert as well as considerable portions of the Edgar Weston stock. It may be pertinent to mention here that Weston traded under the name ‘Victor Marsh’ and was the biggest philatelic literature dealer of the early 20th century.

Harris’ sticker on the front pastedown of Volume I of my copy of The Journal of the Philatelic Literature Society
Libraries bought by Harris. From the ‘Food for Thought’ Philatelic Literature Catalogue (1943 3rd Edition)

Individual Parts of Standard Index to Philatelic Literature (1926-32). Courtesy: Burkhard Schneider of Philabooks.
The individual parts were published as a book in 1933

Harris’ famous work on philatelic literature is The Standard Index to Philatelic Literature which is considered by the famous bibliographer, James Negus, to be the best single volume for tracing books and articles published in the early period to December 1925 [Note 2]. The original idea was to complete it in ten or more bi-monthly parts. However only six parts came out from 1926 to 1932 and the parts were published in book form in 1933 (and reprinted by James Bendon in 1991 with editing by James Negus).

While the first five parts were published by 1928, departure in February (or March) 1928 of Leslie A. J. Baker, who was in the main responsible for the work, and the Great Depression slowed down the project and the final part to 1932. While the index was already much complete when he joined the firm as a 17-year old two weeks before Baker left, most of the task to complete the work fell on the young Kenneth F. Chapman, later Editor of Stamp CollectingThe Philatelic Magazine, and Philately.

In his Introduction to the reprint edition of The Standard Index, Chapman gives a brief but remarkable insight into the manHe describes Harris as imbued with a devotion to good philatelic practices and having an “eagle eye” for empty “puffs”. He was a hard taskmaster (which perhaps contributed to Baker leaving) and strict in his deportment. He was always ready to do wield swords in print, aware of but not intimidated by the laws of libel and working just within them. His battles with Stanley Phillips, the editor of Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal, which tended, “a little pompously, to consider itself the voice of British Philately” and the more down-to-earth Hugh F. Vallancey, the editor of Stamp Collecting, and Harris’ main rival in the philatelic literature business, “kept Harris alive and well!” Finally, he was also a good businessman always looking for cost cutting and labour-saving; for example he used a Dictaphone for writing letters thus keeping the typist fully employed while he himself had extended lunches with friends and he introduced modern accounting systems replacing the “old-fashioned Dickensian monstrosities.”

Harris died suddenly on 29 November 1945. His only child, Captain H. Gordon Harris was then serving with the Army in Burma and the business was carried on by Tom Morgan and Vera Trinder [Note 3]. Harris Publications was reorganised sometime later changing policies and premises. While some valuable philatelic literature titles were sold by auction through R. C. Jacombs in 1946, the rest of the stock, excepting current publications, was purchased by Vallancey in January 1947. ​Thus ended the philatelic literature reign of one of its greatest dealers of all time [Note 4].

Note 1: The Monthly Circular was published from January 1875 onwards. Its predecessor The Stamp Collector’s Magazine was one of philately’s earliest journals having been published from February 1863 to December 1874. After taking over the Circular, Harris renamed it as The Stamp Collector’s Monthly Circular (later Journal) and published it from September 1920 to August 1922. However he amalgamated it with the Philatelic Magazine in September 1922.

Note 2: The Index’s genesis dates back to 1904 when Harris, as Honorary Secretary of the Enterprise Society, prevailed upon three members to index the society’s library; the attempt failed. After many previous attempts had been scrapped, work on the Index as in its present state began in 1923. However it was only after Baker joined in April 1925 that the work started seeing progress. The work indexes handbooks of the entire world but journals of the British Empire only.

Note 3: ​In 1969, Vera Trinder (Vera Webster before her marriage to Derrick Trinder) left the company to establish her own literature and accessories business. Not many in the stamp collecting world and over 40 are unfamiliar with Trinder! ​When Stamp Collecting went into liquidation in 1984, the literature business was acquired by Trinder. In 2006, Trinder sold the company to Prinz Publications (UK) Ltd. who closed the iconic physical shop at 38 Bedford Street on 30 June 2014 but still retails books on eBay UK and catalogues on their website. Vera Trinder died in June 2016.

Vera Trinder from Harris Publications Stamp Dealers Directory 1950/51. Courtesy: Casper Pottle of HH Sales.

​​​Note 4: To complete the story, Harris Publications was sold by the Harris family to Urch Harris & Co. (no relation) of Bristol in 1967. Two years later, Stamp Collecting Ltd. took it over. The latter went into voluntary liquidation in July 1984. The two titles, The Philatelic Magazine and Stamp Collecting were bought by Stamp News Ltd. which then published a magazine of the same name. Stamp News itself ceased publication in October 1986.


23 March 2020: The blog has been translated into German by Hans-Joachim Schwanke, the ex-owner and auctioneer of Schwanke Auctions. It can be found here:

July 2020: This post has been re-published in Wolfgang Maassen’s Phila Historica. The bibliographical details are:

Bhuwalka, Abhishek. “Albert H. Harris: Philatelic Literature Dealer.” Phila Historica: Zeitschrift für Philateliegeschichte und Philatelistische Literatur. (=Phila Historia: Journal of the History of Philately and Philatelic Literature) No. 2 June 2020: 171-175

The journal can be downloaded from the following website for a limited time period:


  1. Williams, L.N and M. “Philately’s Great Loss.” Philatelic Magazine: 53 No. 25 Whole Number 795 (December 14, 1945).
  2. Harris, Albert H., ed. The Standard Index to Philatelic Literature 1879-1925. London: Harris Publications Ltd., 1933.
  3. Chapman, Kenneth F. Introduction to The Standard Index to Philatelic Literature 1879-1925. London: Harris Publications Ltd., 1991.
  4. Negus, James. Biographies in The Standard Index to Philatelic Literature 1879-1925. London: Harris Publications Ltd., 1991.
  5. Negus, James. Philatelic Literature: Compilation Techniques and Reference Sources. Limassol, Cyprus: James Bendon, 1991.
  6. Bacon, Sir E. D. Catalogue of the Crawford Library of Philatelic Literature at the British Library. Fishkill, N.Y.: The Printer’s Stone Limited, 1991
  7. Birch, Brian J. The Philatelic Bibliophile’s Companion. Montignac Toupinerie, France: The Author, 2018.


Frank Arthur Bellamy and his Philatelic Library

F. A. Bellamy (1863 – 1936)
Bellamy at his desk at Radcliffe Observatory, 1934. Photo from Oxford Philatelic Society: A History.

Frank Arthur Bellamy was one of the greatest philatelic literature collectors of all time. After the library of the Earl of Crawford was bequeathed to the British Museum (now in the British Library), Bellamy’s library was considered the largest in the world until its sale in 1938.

Bellamy was born in Oxford on 17 October 1863 as the seventh and last child of a college butler and master bookbinder (perhaps one of the reasons for his love of books). He was employed at Radcliffe Observatory from 1881 onwards and devoted 46 years to the Astrographic Catalogue, the first international scheme to use photography to catalogue stars in both hemispheres. Along with his niece, Ethel Bellamy, he catalogued some one million stars. While Bellamy was made as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1896, Ethel followed suit in 1926. In 1931, H. H. Plaskett was appointed as the new Chair of the Observatory; unfortunately Bellamy could not get along with his new superior and resigned from his post on 30 January 1936. He died, perhaps heartbroken, two weeks later on 15 February.

On 8 October 2019, a plaque under the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Scheme was unveiled at their residence, 2 Winchester Road where they lived from 1930 to 1949.

Bellamy started collecting stamps as a child of 5 years. His interest lay in the Oxford and Cambridge College Messenger Stamps of which he possessed some 2,500 items. These and some other stamps and material were acquired by John Johnson through Ethel Bellamy and is now in the world-famous John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera held by the Bodleian Library.

Bellamy was the author of Oxford and Cambridge College Messengers Postage Stamps, Cards, and Envelopes 1871-86 (1921) and A Concise Register of the College Messenger Postage Stamps, Envelopes, and Cards used in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge 1871-95, together with the stamps used by the Oxford Union Society 1859-85 (1925). He also co-authored A History of the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain and a Précis of the Proceedings at the First Four Congresses held at Manchester, London, Birmingham, Margate in 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912 (1914).

Bellamy’s greatest contribution to the philatelic world was as a member and office bearer of the Oxford Philatelic Society (OPS). On 13 December 1890, a meeting was held in the Boys’ School Room at Gloucester Green to consider forming a “postage stamp collecting club or society in Oxford”. As a result, The Jubilee Philatelic Association came into being on 27 January 1891, with Bellamy as its Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. This association merged into (or more likely the earlier society was renamed as) the OPS on 22 March 1892. Bellamy continued in the same posts till 1930 and once again from 1933 or 1934.

Bellamy was a prickly person though meticulous and dedicated. For example, in 1889 he had helped form the Oxford Photographic Society but resigned in 1892 on a matter of principle and refused to join its successor, the Oxford Camera Club; he joined the Banbury Photographic Club instead! The gap of 3 or 4 years ins his OPS tenure came about thus: In a meeting of the OPS held on 12 March 1929, Bellamy was outvoted 8-1 on an issue of increasing the yearly subscription. He put forth his intention of resigning the same day though he agreed to continue to act as the Hon. Sec. and Treasurer until the next Annual General Meeting in January 1930. While one Captain Harley succeeded him, no further meetings were held till 25 July 1933. Bellamy came back to occupy his posts in either this or the next meeting held on 13 February 1934.

Bellamy’s interest in philatelic literature dated back to probably the last two decades of the 19th century. He was Judge of philatelic literature at the London Philatelic Exhibition 1897. By 1916 Bellamy had amassed a massive library. Some items from his library was used by Edward D. Bacon while compiling the Crawford Catalogue.

Privately published by Bellamy and containing two letters written when the University of Oxford rejected his gift of over 200,000 philatelic items.

By the turn of the century, Bellamy had made up his mind to donate his collection to the University of Oxford. He informally discussed this with the University in 1916 but was asked to wait for the end of the war. In 1920 he made a formal offer which was rejected six years later in 1926. The University rejected the offer “…on the ground mainly that philately is not a branch of the University studies and that the collection, however desirable, would be a source of expense to the University which it would not be justified in incurring.”

Bitterly hurt, Bellamy wrote two letters, one which was published in The Times on 9 June and the other more detailed one in The Oxford Times on 25 June 1926. In them Bellamy claims that he had offered to bear all present and future expenses arising from this gift. Only space was required of which there was enough in several University buildings; further if it ran short later, the items could be removed or destroyed then! He felt that the University’s Council had failed to appreciate the importance of postal history. Unsaid was that if the British Museum could accept the Earl of Crawford’s bequest, why could not the University of Oxford his gift, which was of an equally high standard?

These letters were later reprinted as a monograph titled Statement and Comments upon the Result of a Proffered Gift to the University of Oxford. This monograph is now quite rare.

At the time of his death in 1936, Bellamy was under the impression that his collection was going to Queen’s College (Cambridge). While Queen’s had indeed provisionally accepted, they declined in view of the financial position of his two nieces who lived with Bellamy and were dependent on him; Bellamy himself dying insolvent.

A book with Bellamy’s bookplate on the covers. Courtesy: Burkhard Schneider of Philabooks
Bellamy’s bookplate. Courtesy: Jan Vellekoop

The earliest books were from about 1500 AD being Acts and Postal Proclamations and road-books of pre-railroad days. A manuscript catalogue of the library is held in the John Johnson collection.

Bellamy’s library was sold to Albert H. Harris in 1938. It weighed around 10 tons then. Since then Bellamy’s books as evidenced by his bookplate (a rubber stamp 19 mm in diameter in black) on the front covers have been disbursed far and wide. However in recent times it has become quite difficult to find one; perhaps they are all hiding in existing collections.


12 March 2020: Originally published on 21 February 2020, this post has been extensively revised after the author received a copy of the history of the OPS (can be ordered from the Society). Much new information have been sourced from this book.

22 March 2020: This post has been translated into German by Hans-Joachim Schwanke, the ex-owner and auctioneer of Schwanke Auctions. It can be found here:

July 2020: This post has been re-published in Wolfgang Maassen’s Phila Historica. The bibliographical details are:

Bhuwalka, Abhishek. “Frank Arthur Bellamy and his Philatelic Library.” Phila Historica: Zeitschrift für Philateliegeschichte und Philatelistische Literatur. (=Phila Historia: Journal of the History of Philately and Philatelic Literature) No. 2 June 2020: 156-159.

The journal can be downloaded from the following website for a limited time period:

  1. Hughes, A. M. Oxford Philatelic Society: A History. Oxford: Oxford Philatelic Society, 2016
  2. Birch, Brian J. Philatelic and Postal Bookplates. Montignac Toupinerie, France: The Author, 2018
  3. Birch, Brian J. The Philatelic Bibliophile’s Companion. Montignac Toupinerie, France: The Author, 2018