Still more free stuff for stamp collectors, from online sources

Jan 14, 2016, 4 PM

By Janet Klug

In Linn’s issue of Jan. 4, a number of free resources for stamp collectors were presented in this column, and that theme will be continued here.

It seems as though there is an endless supply of stamp-related reference material available on the Internet. You might be surprised to find 19th-century books and magazines on Google Books.

Type the name of what you are seeking, whether it is a book title, author’s name or a subject about which you wish to find more information.

The first illustration here shows the search parameter “India telegraph stamps.” (You might want to enclose the search terms within quotation marks, to limit your search to exactly/only those words. Otherwise, you might get results for items containing each of the individual words, which might truly be too much information for your purpose.)

India telegraph stamps are a somewhat obscure subject to search for, but certainly worth a try. A list of available books will be presented once you hit the “enter” button.

The first few suggestions on the list are usually of a commercial nature, and they are marked with a yellow box that says “Ad.” The books that are available to read at no cost will be marked “READ” in blue type.

Some books are marked “PREVIEW,” which means you get to read a few pages or a chapter or two, but then you would have to buy the book to finish reading. If you want free books, keep looking for those marked “READ.”

The fourth item on the list of options available was a book titled The Postage Stamps, Envelopes, Wrappers, Post Cards, and Telegraph Stamps of British India and Ceylon, compiled and published by the Philatelic Society, London, in 1892. I clicked on that, and the book popped up on my computer screen, as shown in the second illustration.

Notice that some of the words are highlighted in yellow, because they were my search words.

I was seeking information only about telegraph stamps, so I changed the search box on the left side to read “telegraph” and then clicked the “Go” button.

Immediately I got references to pages that contained the word “telegraph.” I clicked on the first reference, and the page appeared on the screen, as shown nearby.

The material on this page was useful, so I decided to download the book for permanent reference. To do that, all that was required was a click on the red button marked “EBOOK-FREE” in the upper-left corner.

This downloaded the book to “My Library,” which is the second link below the search box on the left side. With that one click of the “EBOOK-FREE” button, you can read the book at your leisure.

There are other useful buttons at the top left of the screen. The first two buttons that look like magnifying glasses will increase or decrease the size of the text.

The next two buttons change the image on your screen from a single-page layout to a double-page presentation.

Next in line is a button that will show you all the pages at once, and the one to the right of that will show all of the pages in full screen.

There are more options when you go to “My Library” and read the books you have downloaded.

The last illustration shows the title page of The Stamp Collectors’ Annual, 1881 that was downloaded from Google Books to “My Library.”

Icons are found in the upper-right corner. Tap on the first icon, and it will show the contents of the book. Click on a chapter you wish to read, and it will quickly take you there.

The second icon is “Aa” and that gives you display options, page layouts, and increasing or decreasing the size of the type. The third icon is a magnifying glass that provides a box in which you can search for a word or phrase.

Hit the “Go” button, and it will take you to every occurrence where your search words appear. The fourth icon is a question mark that will provide a help menu, and the final icon is a bookmark. Use it to mark your place on the page where you left off.

The Stamp Collectors’ Annual turned out to be quite an interesting read. I clicked the contents icon, and a partial list appeared of the chapters in the book. One of the options sounded fascinating: “Cleopatra Stamp Packets.” This was an advertisement from 1881.

The “half-guinea packet” contained 300 varieties of stamps from Puerto Rico, Transvaal, Sandwich Islands, Suez Canal, Virgin Islands, Parma, Van Die­men’s Land, Orange Free State, and many more.

It also included some United States Official stamps for the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Justice, Navy, Post Office, Treasury, and War. It sure sounded like a bargain at 10 shillings 8 pence.

The publication also included articles about worldwide stamps that were issued in 1880 with a great deal of information about them.

A chapter gave reviews of contemporary volumes of philatelic literature. There were articles about pneumatic dispatch post, the cost of mailing books, and the Samoa post office. It was a joy going through this book.

One of the books free on Google Books is The Stamp Collector: A Guide to the World’s Postage Stamps. This was written by Stanley Currie Johnson and was published in 1920.

Johnson knew what he liked and disliked and was not shy stating his preferences. On page 20 of the book he writes, “What does the reader think of an issue which proclaims that its mission is to celebrate the opening of a new post office in Roumania? Such a trumpery occasion is not worth celebrating, at least in well-regulated albums. Our antipathy to South American stamps is due to almost similar reasons.”

Well, criticisms of stamp subjects seem to go back a long way. Some things never change.

Other philatelic books and magazines available for free from Google Books that I found included the American Philatelist from 1890; History of the Postage Stamps of the United States by John K. Tiffany, dated 1887; The Postage and Telegraph Stamps of Great Britain, 1881; and many others.

Stamp-related books also are available for free from Project Gutenberg ( and the Hathi Trust Digital Library (

A few years ago, the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society uploaded to its website the issues of the organization’s journal, The Chronicle of U.S. Classic Postal Issues, from 1948 to 2008 for free access, even if you aren’t a member (more recent issues also are online, available to members).

While you are on this website, see all of the other services you can use. Once you know what the Classics Society has to offer, you may want to consider becoming a member.

The Royal Philatelic Society London has videotaped many of its monthly programs. Watch for free at

The Collectors Club in New York City has filmed a number of programs given by philately’s most knowledgeable collectors. Watch them at on the society's website.

Tired of reading and viewing videos about collecting? You can listen to’s “APS Stamp Talk,” hosted by Nancy Clark. Listen to the archived programs or listen live.

Just remember that the more you learn about your hobby, the more you will enjoy it, and so much of the learning is available for free.