Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Weekend in Italy

As I wrote before, I have been to Rome, not the last weekend but the weekend before. On top of the fact that the French rugby team has won again Italy, I had a very nice time in the Italian capital. The weather was nice but a bit cold, because of an icy wind. As you will see in this post, I had the opportunity to visit one post office and also the philatelic center where I bought some stamps and other philatelic products.

Let me first show you some pictures taken during one of my walk in the streets of Rome. These are pictures of post boxes (The red box seems to be the standard model, I have seen them at various places in Rome. The blue box which seems dedicated to letters to other countries was located just behind the Vatican) and the emblem of “Poste Italiane” located at the front of a post office.

(If you are interested in the other pictures I took in Rome, then click here).

I went to Rom for the rugby game between France and Italy that was a part of the 6 Nations tournamen. Every year this tournament involves England, Scotland, France, Ireland, Wales and Italy. Italy has joined the 6 Nations tournament in 2000 only, which means that this year this was the 10th anniversary of their participation to the competition. At this occasion the Italian post has produced a commemorative postmark that I was able to get just before the rugby game Italy versus France.

For this cancel I chose a stamp issued on the 10th of October 2008 to celebrate the Philatelic Day. The cancel is very nice, with the 0 of the 10 (for the 10th anniversary) having the shape of a rugby ball! I do not know if a similar cancel was available for the two other games that were held in Italy this year (the one against Ireland and the one against Wales). If someone knows, please let me know.

I took opportunity of my visit to the philatelic center to buy some of the recent stamps issued by the Italian post. Here is the one issued on the 12th of February 2009 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

I don’t think I need to detail who Charles Darwin was, the 200th anniversary of his birth is celebrated by several postal administrations already (I’m preparing an article about this, by the way). The stamp pictures a portrait of Darwin, and in the background, the title page of the first edition of his work “On the origin of species” published in 1859. The stamp also pictures a rather famous drawing showing the evolution of the human race.

Among the various philatelic products that the Italian post proposes for a stamp issue, I found a rather original one. I would call this a philatelic card. I have never seen such product from any other postal administrations before. This is a card that has the size of a credit card; it contains one copy of the stamp, protected by a plastic film. Here is a scan of the recto (top) and verso (bottom) of the card. In case you wonder, the stamp can not be removed from the card without destroying it. It seems such product is available for each new stamp issue.

More traditional is the Maximum card, with a very nice first day cancel reusing the same design than the stamp.

In 2009, Rome will be the place of a big international philatelic exhibition that will be held from the 21st of October to the 25th. You can learn everything about it on the associated website. This exhibition is the subject of a presentation pack that I also bought. This pack contains the two following stamps issued on the 10th of October 2008.

Both stamps pictures the Mouth of Truth (La Bocca della Verità), a marble sculpture located in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome. This sculpture is a thought to be the part of a fountain from the 1st century. There is a legend around the sculpture, from which it takes its name. It is said that if one tells a lie with one’s hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it will be bitten off! The sculpture was placed in the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church in the 17th century. If you have seen the movie Roman Holiday you probably remember the sculpture in a with Gregory Peck and Catherine Hepburn.

The presentation pack that I bought also contains the two philatelic cards associated to these stamps.

A first day cover and a maximum card are also included.

Finally here is the cover of the presentation pack, picturing the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin, where is located the Mouth of Truth.

Those stamps are not the only stamps issued by Italy to celebrate the philatelic exhibition. Two other stamps have been issued in 2008, on the 7th of March.

One pictures the Congress palace, where the exhibition will be held, and the other pictures the Coliseum, one of the symbols of Rome.

Still on the same subject, two other stamps have been issued end of last week, on the 27th of March.

The pictures of the last four stamps are coming from the Italian post website.

As you can see, all the four stamps issued so far contains the logo of “Italia 2009” in their design.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Switch off your lights

Today is the day. This is the day of the Earth Hour. In case you don’t know it, the Earth Hour is an international event organized by the and held on the last Saturday of March each year, which asks people to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. This year, Earth Hour takes place on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm, local time.
On the 11th of March 2009, Australian post has issued these three funny stamps to celebrate this event and to invite people to participate.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My first cover from Malta

(I have started preparing this post at the beginning of the week, and I have been so busy after my trip to Rome that I could not finish it and publish it!
Thank you for all the nice comments and emails I got about my article on streets of Paris. I’m thinking already of the next one, but it takes time to gather information and, as you understood, time is what I’m missing these days…)

I’m glad today to share with you my first cover received from Malta!

This is a rather nice cover that I received through one of exchange circuit that I belong to. The two stamps located on the right side belongs to a set of three issued on the 7th of March 2008 to commemorate Beijing Olympic Games. Here is a picture of the third stamp of the set.

Malta has already participated to 13 Olympic Games since 1928 and has never won any medals. The stamps are rather classic, picturing some sport related pictograms.

The last stamp of the cover belongs to a set of five stamps issued on the 29th of December 2007 and commemorating various anniversaries and celebrating various people. The stamp on the cover celebrates the 100th anniversary of the
Society of Christian Doctrine.
Here is a picture of the full set.

The other stamps of the set commemorate the anniversary of the creation of the Youth Football Association (first one from the left). The other stamps celebrate Canon Monsignor Professor Francesco Bonnici, Patri Manwel Magri and Carolina Cauchi.

I must admit that I do not know much about the stamps from Malta, but it seems that subjects related to religion are very common on Maltese stamps.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On my way to Rome

I'm on my way to Rome, to attend to the rugby game Italy/France in the 6th Natiosn tournament. I hope I'll have time to visit a post office to bring back some stamps... I'll be back on my blog on Monday...

The streets of Paris (I)

I love Paris. I was born in Paris and I have lived almost my complete life up to know in Paris. Well, this is true that I currently don’t live in Paris, strictly speaking. I live in Montrouge, a small city located in the south suburb of Paris. But this is only because prices of flats are too high in Paris.
Whenever the weather allows it, I like walking in the streets of Paris. When I do so, I also like checking the names of the streets where I am, trying to figure out all the information I know about the person (or the event or the place) who is behind the name of the street. And very often I realize that I do not know much.
I recently had the idea to check if I could associate the name of the streets with stamps. And naturally came the idea to share this with you on my blog. So this is the first of a series of articles about streets of Paris and related stamps. On purpose I will not necessarily speak about very famous streets or streets located in very touristic areas. And to start I will choose some streets located in the area of Paris where I have spent my youth: the 5th, the 13th and the 14th “arrondissements” (if you don’t know it, Paris is divided into 20 administrative districts called arrondissement. They are numbered from 1 to 20, starting from the very center of Paris and going out in a spiral).

The picture of the stamps used in this article are coming from the excellent website phila echange.

Boulevard François Arago

For the first article I have selected a street, well actually this is a boulevard, that I have crossed every day during several years to go to school when I was a kid. This is boulevard Arago, located in the 13th and 14th arrondissement. It is named after François Arago (1786-1853) who has lived in this boulevard during twenty five years.

Who is François Arago?

François Jean Dominique Arago was a French mathematician, physicist, astronomer and politician. He was born in 1786 at Estragel, a small village located near Perpignan. He was the eldest of a family of four brothers, the other three being Jean, Jacques and Etienne.

François Arago quickly showed deep interest in mathematics and science. At the end of the year 1803 he entered the Ecole Polythechnique (one of the most prestigious French high school, which is also a military school). The year after, he received the appointment of secretary to the Paris Observatory. He received the mission to complete the measurement of the Paris meridian. For this purpose he travelled to Spain. Arago stayed there until 1809 to complete the measurements. His trip back to France was disturbed by various adventures: he was sent to jail because he was mistaken with a spy, he was also captured by a Spanish corsair…
Once back in France, he was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences, which was exceptional for such a young man (he was 23 at this time). He was later named one of the astronomers of the Royal Observatory.
His scientific works cover several different areas such as astronomy, optics, thermodynamic.
In parallel with his scientific career, François Arago also played some political roles. In 1830 he was elected a member of the chamber of deputies. He focused a lot his activity on public education, reward of the inventors and all sort of encouragement of sciences. For instance, he is the one who officially announced the discovery of photography.
After having played some other political roles he retired from the public life in 1852 and died in 1853. His grave is located in the Père Lachaise, one of the cemeteries of Paris.
Several places have been named Arago in tribute to him, the most original ones surely being a crater on the Moon, and a crater on Mars!

The street

One of the plates indicating the name of the street

It is a large boulevard, planted with chestnut trees, which gives a very specific view at the beginning of the fall.

It is the last place in Paris where public executions (using the guillotine) were held, until the middle of the 20th century (I know, I know, not a very attractive characteristic…).
To stay on the not-so-positive side, a jail, called Prison de la Santé, is located in this boulevard (but the entry to the jail is located in a small street, rue de la Santé, which is perpendicular to the boulevard).
Hopefully some more positive places can be seen on Boulevard Arago. For instance there is the flowered city, a set of villas that were originally ateliers for artists. Famous painters have worked there as Gauguin or Modigliani.
Also located on this boulevard is the Paris observatory, where François Arago has lived and worked from more than 25 years. There is no actual entry to he observatory from the boulevard, you can only access to the very nice gardens. The main entry of the observatory is located in another street.
Also on this boulevard has been erected a statue of François Arago. But if you have the opportunity to walk down the boulevard you will have a surprise: the bronze bust has disappeared; only the pedestal remains!

The pedestal of the statue

This is because the bronze bust has been melted in 1942 by the German soldiers to build weapons. It was decided not to replace the statue.
In 1994, a Dutch artist, Jan Dibbets, realized a very original work of art in tribute to François Aragp. This piece of art is a set of 135 bronze medallions. Each medallion is inscribed with the name ARAGO and the indication of the north and south. The 135 medallions are spread all over Paris, following the line of the Paris meridian, the one that was measured by Arago.
You can see one of these medallions in the pedestal of the statue as shown on this picture.

One of the Arago medallions

If you have read The DaVinci Code, written by Dan Brown, you may remember that at the end of the book, the hero, Langdon, find bronze medallions that are 12 centimeters wide and that lead him to the right direction. Well in fact those medallions are the ones of the tribute to Arago and they have not the meaning and the origin that Brown uses in his novel.

The stamp(s)

The stamp that I have used at the beginning of this article has been issued on the 24th of February 1986 in the famous people set. It pictures a portrait of François Arago. The X located on the left border is the symbol of the Ecole Polytechnique where Arago has studied and was a teacher (the Ecole Polytehchnique is commonly called l’X).
On the left bottom corner of the stamp you can see the Cygnus constellation.
François Arago is pictured on two other stamps from France. Here is a stamp issued on the 13th of June 1949 where Arago is pictured together with Ampère.

Arago is also pictured on a stamp issued on the 24th of April 1939 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the invention of photography.

Arago is pictured announcing officially the invention of photography. The stamp also pictured Niepce and Daguerre, the two pioneers of photography.
As I said François Arago had a brother called Etienne, who was a dramatist and politician. He is somewhere linked to philately since he is the one who officialized the usage of postage stamps. He is pictured on a stamp issued on the 6th of March 1948 to commemorate the stamp day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Looney Tunes

During the first weekend of March, as every year, the French postal organisation, La Poste, has held an event called “La Fête du Timbre” (the stamp feast). At this occasion, several philatelic exhibitions or animations are organized all over the country. This is also the occasion for La Poste to issue a new set of stamps. As usual, the subject of this special issue is dedicated to children. After Harry Potter and cartoon characters designed by Tex Avery, this year the subject was Looney Tunes cartoons characters.

Looney Tunes is the name of an animated cartoon series produced by Warner Bros. that ran in movie theatres from 1930 to 1969. It is also related to another series produced by the same company, Merrie Mellodies which was using one-shot characters, whereas Looney Tunes was more an umbrella series for the recurring characters. Originally, Looney Tunes had been created as a musical animated series to promote the music produced by the company. The very first character appearing in a Looney Tunes cartoon was Bosko, quickly replaced by Buddy. But the first major character was Porky Pig, who was introduced in 1935. He was followed by a set of other characters that quickly became famous all over the world, such as the one pictured on the stamps issued by French post.

Three stamps have been issued at the occasion of La Fête du Timbre. The first one pictures Tweety and Sylvester.
Tweety is a young canary (sometimes he is referred as a rare Tweetybird, being the only living specimen of this species). He first appeared in a Looney Tunes cartoon in 1942 in A Tale of Two kitties. On his first appearance he was naked (pink), the yellow feathers were added in later cartoons. His name Tweety comes from “tweet” the typical English onomatopoeia for the sounds of bird.
Sylvester, also named Sylvester J. Pussycat Sr., is a domestic black and white cat who appeared in Looney Tunes cartoons for the first time in 1945 in Life with feathers. His name comes from Felis silvestris, the scientific name for the wild cat species (whereas he is moiré a domestic cat and therefore belongs to the species Felis catus).
Tweety and Sylvester first met in a cartoon in 1947, in Tweety Pie. This was the start of a long list of cartoons where Sylvester spends his time purchasing Tweety, trying to eat him, while Tweety is protected by Granny or Hector the Bulldog.
Tweety has appeared in 48 cartoons, whereas Sylvester has appeared in more than 90 cartoons.

I recently received this cover from Eric, franked with this stamp and cancelled with a very nice special postmark from La Fête Du Timbre. Thank you again Eric.

The second stamp pictures another famous couple issued from Looney Tunes: Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.
Both characters were created in 1948 and they appear in more than 40 cartoons, with always the same scenario: Will E. Coyote using all possible means to catch Road Runner, who spends his time escaping, only reacting with his signature sound : beep, beep.

The last stamp pictures the characters that are probably the most popular ones: Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck
Bugs Bunny was created in 1938 (at this time he was still an unnamed rabbit); He made his official debut as Bug Bunny in 1940 in a cartoon directed by Tex Avery : A wild hare. He is famous worldwide for his catchphrase: What’s up doc, that he usually says while chewing a carrot, in the same way that Groucho Marx was chewing his cigar.
Daffy Duck appeared for the first time in 1937 in Porky’s Duck Hunt, associated with Porky Pig. He has been very often associated with Bugs Bunny, Bugs Bunny being the winner and Daffy Duck the looser…

The three stamps issued by La Poste are sold in various format. They can be purchased in the form of a band of three stamps se-tenant.

Also as a block of nine.
Or as a sheet of sixty stamps !

An auto-adhesive version of the same stamps is also available in the form of a booklet of twelve stamps.

On top of the characters used on the stamps, the cover of the booklet pictures Taz, the Tasmanian devil.
And to be complete I should mention also a souvenir sheet that has been issued with a large high face value stamp picturing some additional characters such as Yosemite Sam (on the far left) and Marvin the Martian (on the right).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Link section updated

I haven't updated my blog since a while because I was awfully busy at work with no time left to think about stamps. But don't worry, I'm preparing some update that I will publish very soon.
I have updated the list of links that you can see on the left side, adding links to few blogs and website. Have a look to them, they really deserve your visit !
Thanks and see you soon at this same place!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A new cover from Singapore

I recently received a nice cover from a fellow blogger, Edmund, from Singapore. He noticed I hadn’t show so many covers from his country so he sent me the one I selected for today. Thank you very much Ed!

The stamp located on the left side belongs to a set of definitive stamps issued in 2001 and picturing tropical marine fishes. The stamp pictures a yellow-faced angelfish (Pomacanthus xanthometopon). The full set is rather colourful, so I don’t resist to the pleasure of showing it.

A souvenir sheet has also been issued.

The stamp in the middle belongs to a very nice set of definitive stamps issued on the 6th of June 2007. You can read about this set on Edmund’s blog.

The stamp located on the right side belongs to a set of four stamps issued on the 12th of November 2008 and dedicated to cash crops of early Singapore, cash crops meaning here crops that are grown for money. The stamp pictures pepper (Piper negrum), a widely known spice. The black pepper is in fact the whole fruit that has been dried, whereas the white pepper is the fruit that has been retted in water and its skin removed.
Here is a picture of the whole set, the other stamps picturing tapioca, rubber and nutmeg.

Edmund was kind enough to join with his cover a letter providing information about those stamps and their date of issue. It made me think about something I always regret about the cover exchange circuits that I belong to. I regret that nobody provides information about the stamps they used on the cover: the purpose of the issue, the date of issue and any interesting background information. I think it could be good to have such mandatory rule in a cover exchange club. Do you know any that applies this rule? Or should we create it altogether?

Monday, March 02, 2009

A new register cover from Lithuania

I could not update my blog at the end of last week due to a technical problem with my internet connection (it seems to be better when you pay the bill of your internet provider ;-)))). Now the problem should be solved, so I will try to publish a new post.
From time to time I show you covers that I get, not through a circuit club as often, but from an Ebay seller who takes the time to put some nice stamps on the envelope he/she uses to send me my purchase. The cover I have selected for today is one of these, a registered cover from Lithuania, franked with an attractive number of stamps.

This cover is also another example of a French registering label stuck on top of the stamps! (I have shown a few already). I must admit that in this specific case there was not so much free space on the cover to put the label, but I still don’t understand why there is a need for two labels: one from the originating country and one from France.
It is a pity because the French label hides a relevant part of the stamps. Even worse, it can not be peeled off without damaging the stamps.

Very different types of stamps can be found on this cover. I have already mentioned the stamp picturing the armor in
a previous post.
The stamp located in the right top corner is a part of a set of three stamps, issued on the 24th of January 2004 and picturing famous people. The stamp pictures a portrait of Kazimieras Buga (1879-1924) who was a Lithuanian linguist and philologist. He was also a professor of linguistics who worked mainly on the Lithuanian language.
The stamp also pictures a map of Lithuania, in the background, and the signature of Kazimieras Buga in the right bottom corner.
The other stamps of the set pictures Jonas Aistis (1904-1973), one of the most important Lithuanian lyric poets and Adolfas Jucys (1904-1974) a mathematician and physician.

On the cover, just below this stamp, there is a stamp hidden by the label. It is a part of a set of two stamps, issued on the 9th of June 2001 and dedicated to bridges. Here is a picture of both stamps.
The 1 Lt stamp, which is on the cover, pictures the Palauja bridge across the river Vilnia in Vilnius. Built in 1882, it is a metal bridge with ornamented railings and stone embankment.
The other stamp of the set pictures the bridge-dam of Pakruojis manor that was built in 1821.

The small stamp located below is a part of a set of definitive stamps issued on the 5th of January 2008 and picturing wooden sacral architecture. The stamp pictures the the wooden church of Antazave, built in 1794. The church is in the baroque style, has a cross plan and two towers. The organ and the central altar are of special interest. The church contains wooden sculptures of St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Nepomuk that are really nice. Here is a full picture of the stamp that is partially occulted on the cover.

Finally the last group of stamps, on the left side of the cover, contains various definitive stamps from the coat of arms series. The stamps of the cover have been issued in 1993 (for the stamp bearing a B as face value, even though the stamp is inscribed 1992), and 1994 for the others. It is interesting to see that Lithuania has issued various versions of the coat of arms series, with different background and various designs in a very short time frame. I wonder why the Lithuanian post did not keep one and single design.

The coat of arms of Lithuania consists of an armor-clad knight on horseback holding a sword and shield. It is also known as Vytis ("the Chaser"). The Article 15 of the Constitution of Lithuania, approved by national referendum in 1992, stipulates, "The Coat of Arms of the State shall be a white Vytis on a red field".

Another interesting cover to be added to my collection!