Philatelic Publishing, an Evolution - by Susan McEwen FRPSL

An article from the London Philatelelist, journal of the RPSL

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The Philatelic world isn’t given to revolution.  Evolution is the way of change, this might be because we are interested in history and old stamps and postal history. It might even be because of the average age of philatelists and postal historians.  But I like to think it’s more to do with a careful approach to proving ideas and checking the evidence be it for routes, rates, perforations or publishing.

The Stuart Rossiter Trust has recently published  ‘The Sub-Office Postmarks of Sheffield’  by Frank Walton RDP, FRPSL, RDYP on-line.  It is a free download from  406 pages profusely illustrated and fully searchable.  This is the Trust’s first venture into on-line publishing, and it will be interesting to see how well it is received, what the reviews say and what feedback we, the Trustees,  get.

The SRT has published 44 books on postal history and most of them are still available.  We have published a supplement to  ‘Great Britain: Failed Free Handstamps of the Franking System’  by Robert Galland FRPSL and John Colton, as a 10 page free download on the web-site. The book had been published with 92 pages, softback.  But until ‘Sheffield’ all the Trust’s books have been printed and the main discussion had been : hard-back or softback?  And how many copies?  A decade ago the printers the Trust used were disinclined to quote for less than 300 copies of a book, contributing to some residual stock.

More recently improvements in print technology and economic necessities mean that much shorter print runs are available.  Print on demand can produce short runs of books and reprints as and when required, but these books need to be softback, as short run hard-back binding isn’t available economically, yet.  The economic advantages of short print runs are clear for publishers and authors. Less capital tied up, fewer books to store.

The evolution of philatelic publishing, from hardbound books to on-line has been driven by technology and economics.  Collectors are notoriously disinclined to spend money on books, unless the subject is very close to their interests.  But the information in books can pay for itself !


There is a tactile pleasure in handling a book, which no PC can ever emulate. I feel no affection for the laptop on which this is being typed. Quite the opposite some days.

The Trust published ‘British Printed Papers by Post 1836 to 1876’ by Gavin Fryer RDP FRPSL in 2018. At 770 pages it weighs c3Kg.  It is beautifully produced, hard bound well illustrated with a comprehensive index. The reader needs a table to hold it for use, and the built in silk page markers as locators.  The price of £50 is only achieved thanks to the kind generosity of a sponsor, without which it would have been much more expensive.

Not all the Trust’s books are as large as ‘British Printed Papers’.  Other, smaller books have been produced by the Trust at lower prices.  As an example, published in 2011  ‘Letter Forwarding Agents of Great Britain handling Channel Islands letters 1673 -1855’.  by David Gurney FRPSL, was deliberately printed in A5 format, wire bound so that it will lie flat, and can be carried in a large pocket or small bag, and it folds over. The Author viewed being able to take it as a checklist on trips to stamp fairs and auctions, as a great advantage.


Publication on CD, DVD or memory stick is included in the on-line category here.  For the PC literate finding information in a book or journal on their PC is quick and easy. Probably quicker than finding the book on the shelf, and using the index.   How many pages in a book does the reader use regularly? Probably very few and they can be printed by the user if that is easier.  The Royal’s own Archival edition of the LP is on a memory stick, and I have found it to be very useful. Without a search facility it would be both massive and virtually unusable.

In 2014 the Stuart Rossiter Trust supported a publication ‘The Postmarks and Postal History of Independent Cameroun – 1960 to Date’ written and published by Marty Bratzel,   64 pages printed with an additional 571 pages on a searchable DVD. (ISBN 978-0-9694026-8-8).  This is an alternative approach bridging printed and DVD publication.

Many in the Philatelic world are on the ‘PC-Illiterate to reluctant PC user’ spectrum. It is a wide range and not totally aligned to age.  The wife of an old philatelic friend once said of his technology skills ‘An automatic umbrella is beyond him’  Unkind ? Perhaps, but not far from the truth in his case.  He can now type letters and articles on his PC, and send and receive emails, but scanning is delegated to the grandchildren.

 Is the Future of Philatelic Publishing – On-line or printed books?

Or both?   One might ask ‘Does it really matter?’ The aim is to record the information and to make it available. As long as publications do that they have achieved the objective of recording, preserving and dispersing knowledge.  I think that for future publications the questions will need to be asked ‘what is the most appropriate form of publication for this draft book ? how will it be used? which format will be best for the readers?’

Stuart Rossiter MA, FRGS, FRPSL wanted his Trust to support research and publication into how people communicate.  He was Editor of the London Philatelist from 1975 to 1982, it was all in black + white then.  The technology of publishing has advanced beyond measuring since his death in 1982, but that’s only 36 years.   The evolution of Philatelic publishing is continuing.  Evolution not revolution.

The author is a Trustee of the Stuart Rossiter Trust visit  for more information and the full list of books and downloads available.


Stuart Rossiter Trust - By Susan McEwen

An article from the London Philatelelist, journal of the RPSL

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Royal members may have seen reviews in the London Philatelist of books published by the Stuart Rossiter Trust, and may have attended the annual lectures sponsored by the Trust, but how many Royal members know much about the Stuart Rossiter Trust? Apart, of course, from those who are or have been Trustees, or have been involved with the Trust as helpers or Authors.

Sadly few remain who remember Stuart. He was a keen Philatelist and Postal Historian, Editor of the London Philatelist from 1975 till his early death in 1982. He had been editor of the Blue Guides and was a freelance writer of travel books, of which his Greece was particularly well received and led to his being elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He wanted a Trust to publish books on Postal History, he also wanted the Trustees to be independently minded people.

Stuart Rossiter

To date, the Trust has published 40 books, has sponsored many books published by specialist societies and has provided 18 lectures. To quote the Trust’s website banner “We publish and sell books, we sponsor Authors and Research.”

Stuart Rossiter left guidance to his Trustees that as much research should be devoted to the rapidly changing affairs of the twentieth century, as to those which have passed. He wished his resources to be devoted to the encouragement of research and of publication.

At the 2014 Stuart Rossiter Trust Annual Memorial Lecture, David Beech MBE, FRPSL spoke on “The Future of Postal History”. A subtitle could have been “Where is Postal History going?” He expressed the opinion that Postal Historians should stand with Historians, and that the boundaries between Postal History, History and Social History are fast disappearing. I would say that they have always been translucent and are now porous as well.

In 2011, with help from the SRT, the History Press published “Fleeing from the Führer” by Charmian Brinson and William Kaczynski, a book of Postal and Social history.

Fleeing from the Fuhrer

In 2014 the Trust published “Besieged in Paris An Englishman’s Account of the Franco-German War, 1870–71” by Ashley Lawrence FRPSL, which combines Postal and Social history, with some family history too.

Besieged in Paris

There is room and demand for ‘Pure’ Postal History. “Great Britain: Failed Free Handstamps of the Franking System” by Robert B. Galland FRPSL and John E. Colton, published in 2014, is an example, it is a major revision of that topic.

Failed Free Handstamps

Also there is room for the less easily classified “Postmen at War” by Col. T. E. Vallance and Capt. S. Fenwick, which is the history of the British Army Postal Service from its inception till 1945, published in 2015. Is it Postal History? History of the Post? Military History? or all of them? (Personally, I think it is all of them.)

In this article, only a few of the more recent books have been mentioned. It would take far too long to mention them all, but these give a flavour, the full list is on the SRT website. “Where is Postal History going?” isn’t the answer “Wherever we Historians choose to go”?

The Stuart Rossiter Trust is a registered Charity, no. 292076. The Trustees are: David Alford, Rex Dixon, Susan McEwen, Douglas Muir, David Tett, Richard Wheatley. Additional and key members of the SRT team are John Jackson as Distributor and Nick Hackney as Webmaster.

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