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Item Id #: 4244

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Storia della Disinfezione Postale in Europa e nell’area mediterranea – History of the mail disinfection in Europe and Mediterranean area by Luciano De Zanche. 200 pages, 8” x 11 1/2”, many illustrations throughout including color. Perfect bound. 2008 Edition based on the 1997 edition

This book is pre-eminently in Italian, but some history background is given in English; and most chapters have a good introduction in English; the technical information is also translated into English.

Contrary to what the title of this book may lead you to believe,
this monograph deals solely with the disinfection of mails within the Italian peninsula.

It is quite possible that the Author may have thought of this as volume one of a series; unfortunately Professore De Zanche died recently leaving the task of completing the research at a European level to the next generation of postal historians. In dealing with the Italian peninsula De Zanche lavished a considerable amount of information and although the main text is in Italian, many key items are also explained in English in concise but clear and useful abstracts.
After examining the approach of medical science on plague, yellow fever and cholera, the Author devotes a chapter to explain why letters and mail in general were subjected to disinfection procedures in times of epidemics. For those who may think that this procedure is a rather empiric and primitive precaution taken in the dark ages, suffice it to say that modern treatment, against smallpox in German and Austrian military hospitals in both World Wars, and the use of autoclaves in leper colonies dates back only a few decades from our days and age. The methods of mail disinfection are examined in great detail and this chapter, like most of the others, is replete with lengthy footnotes. De Zanche answers the frequently asked questions (FAQs) on when and where mail was disinfected, and how the collector or specialist can recognize a “disinfected” letter. On finer points the Author also delves into ways and means of assessing the type of disinfection used to sanitize a certain piece of mail. Multiple disinfection at different points in transit and on arrival are well researched.
The catalogue of cachets, seals and notations includes listings for the Republic of Venice, Genoa, Tuscany, the Kingdom of Sardinia, Nice, Lombardy & Venetia, Modena and Reggio, Parma, the Duchy of Lucca, the Papal States, the Kingdom of Naples and Two Sicilies, and finally, San Marino. Adequate references are given for areas that changed their geo-political status as a result of wars, treaties, and revolutions.
Controversy being the spice of life, this valuable and exceedingly interesting book is not exempt from it. In introducing his chapter on the Republic of Venice the Author uses much of the information he had divulged in his article for the Postal History Journal [No. 105, 1966 – Republic of Venice: The Disinfection of the Sea Mail coming from the Levant]; in doing so De Zanche finds himself on a collision course with noted Swiss postal history expert Paolo Vollmeier who deems some of the Venetian disinfection marks “stupid marks stamped by the faker”. This material has come under suspicion in the past and De Zanche concedes that some of the seals and hand stamps may prove to be bogus; only new and conclusive evidence can establish their status.
In many respects this new book supersedes the pioneer research by Ravasini and Meyer, at least for the Italian area. In comparing De Zanche’s work with the standard reference published by the A.I.S.P. [Bolli e Documenti di Sanita’ dell’area Italiana – Rome 1981] the former has the decidedly apparent advantage of a more scholarly and scientific approach (notwithstanding the leaner listings of notations and hand stamps strictly related to mail disinfection). Furthermore De Zanche has by far surpassed all of his predecessors with time-consuming research on primary sources, unearthing a sizable amount of previously unpublished information. Additionally, the catalogue is cross referenced with Meyer, Ravasini and AISP numbers, which simplifies the task of the specialist; the Author has, however, decided to include a valuation chart to help assess a monetary value for this material. We have mixed feelings about the need for such a chart and we would have rather preferred that the Author had left the task of putting a price to this material to the postal history “merchants” and the auction houses.
The footnotes are placed at the bottom of each page and not confined at the end of each chapter, or worse yet, at the end of the book as an appendix, as is often the case with academic works. A very comprehensive bibliography is the crowning point of this major and scholarly effort in divulging this fascinating aspect of postal communications. Given the limited appeal of this book to a relatively small number of specialists we empathize with the Author/Publisher about production costs. Anyone interested in disinfected mail must secure a copy of this book before it’s out of print as we understand it had a very small print run.
THIS IS A MUST HAVE bibliophile publication.

rather heavy and large book –


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