For the last five years, I have been privileged to work with Gustaf Douglas RDP FRPSL on his project to develop his classic Finland 1845-1859 traditional philately collection on ‘The Hand-Printed Oval Design’. One thing I have experienced from the project is the lack of an international handbook on the postal history and development of Finland. To compile the information needed to make a complete treatment of the classic period of Finland has proved to be difficult if you not are able to read primary and secondary sources in the Finnish language. And besides, the sources published in Finnish have to my knowledge proven to be not “complete” and coherent on the topics, I have only found information piece by piece. I have missed a comprehensive and “modern” publication. However, as a miracle for onward projects on Finland, its philately and postal history, I feel relieved about the work which in the near future will be published by Dr. Wolf Hess (b. 1945) from Germany.
Wolf Hess is well-known to the philatelic world, as he signed The Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 2010. So, there should be no further need to introduce Wolf and his qualifications. Wolf and his brother were inspired to collect stamps by their father, who among other areas collected Finland. Almost half a decade later, Wolf himself felt prompted to look into Finland’s postal history. His studies were presented in the exhibit ‘Postal History Grand Duchy Finland up to 1884’ which won the National Grand Prix at Finland 2008, and the year after the International Grand Prix at BULGARIA 2009 in Sofia.
Coinciding almost with Wolf’s 75th birthday, his studies on this area are presented in his new book (304 pages), published and offered by Phil*Creativ. I was recently given the opportunity to have a preview of the book and said loudly and clearly to myself: “YES – THANK YOU - Wolf”. By saying that, I realised that Wolf must have experienced the same as I have on the unavailability of an international book on the postal history of Finland, so he decided to author such a book himself.
What attracts me most to the book is that, as expected, the contents are naturally developed and treated chronologically, but its nature is very straightforward, narrative and clear. Wolf has adapted his skilfulness from exhibiting, not only of postal history, but also of thematic philately where he in 2007 was European Champion, to his authorship. The whole content is very well disposed and structured; it is given narrative development with the necessary cross-references and, most important with applicable images and examples, in a straightforward presentation. The treatment of the scope of this handbook is excellent.
Over the years, Wolf has accumulated very many/the best examples of postal history adaptations, i.e. examples and practices from as early as the 17th century and onward. With comprehensive captions following each example and illustration, the book develops the knowledge of the markings, the routes and the rates in detail. This book will in the future be recognised fully for its value in this regard. In addition, the book presents multiple original rate tables [Image: Page 26] and maps [Image: Page 31] from different periods.
One thing which in impressive is the detail given to the section on the marcophily of Finland, i.e. the introduction and the use of the early handstamps and their adaptations. [Image: Page 56] From the preface of the book, we learn that the marcophily of Finland originally was a speciality of Wolf’s father, and in Wolf’s book this has been taken forward with careful study and presentation.
This book is a must have for every philatelic and postal history scholar of Finland, as it is an invaluable source published fully in the English language – also making it international. The book also deserves recognition as a very good example of a clear structure and development of its scope – the book is easy to use and to find the information one is looking for. Finally, as the book depicts many of the most important 'gems' of Finland from this period, it is an important census and a code breaker to understand the routes and the rates to their destinations.
Congratulations Wolf – and once more thank you!
Jonas Hälström, Feb. 2020