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Item Id #: 3288

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Ethiopia 1867-1936 – History, stamps and postal history –
by Roberto Sciaky, published 1999 Hardbound 8” x 11 3/4”, color dust jacket, 224 pages, 3 maps, 16 color plates, over 200 black and white illustrations.


Although this impressive volume ends with an extensive bibliography taking up two pages, the available literature on this country is limited and sometimes difficult to obtain. In 1961 Ivan Adler’s “Handbook of the postage stamps of the Empire of Ethiopia and her postal system” was published, and it was divided into two booklets; one focusing on the historical background and philatelic information of the various issues and the other actually being a specialized catalogue. This work has served collectors well and despite a few inaccuracies is still a useful source of information. Ten years later the Ethiopian Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications published a lavish “Ethiopian Stamp Catalogue”, with color illustrations and new information. This catalogue is still highly prized by collectors despite the fact that it has a few understandable inaccuracies.
Then, in 1977 came Henry Tristant’s invaluable “Postal History of Ethiopia during the Reign of Emperor Menelik II”. Unfortunately only 100 copies were printed and given to friends and correspondents of the author. Twenty-four years later I can still recall the frustration I felt about this type of “limited edition” approach. It is indeed really true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions!
This unfortunate situation was remedied in 1995 by Huguette Gagnon, president of the Ethiopian Philatelic Society, who translated the original work and published 100 copies of it in two volumes. Needless to say, the book is now out of print. In the interim however, the Rev. Payne wrote eight booklets in the Cockrill series devoted to Ethiopian philately from 1894 to 1943. These were published in 1981-82 and proved very popular, but the author’s approach was strictly philatelic and only just occasionally were postal history aspects mentioned.
From the 1960s to the early 1990s collectors who embarked on Ethiopian philately and postal history had a rather limited amount of literature to rely on, some of it virtually impossible to obtain, whilst additional and useful information was scattered through articles published in a variety of magazines over a long span of time.
Sciaky’s book comes to fill a gap, and it does so by utilizing a lot of published information and sifting through it carefully to avoid perpetuating old mistakes and inaccuracies. However, the new book goes much further and gives a concise and useful summary of the history of Ethiopia, followed by a detailed study of the stamps and postal history of the period 1867-1936. Each chapter begins with a historical profile, followed by a thorough discussion about the relevant stamp issues, and concluded with postal history aspects as well as postal rates and cancellations. Quite often the Author provides certain elements for the detection of reprints and fakes, and the various stamps are illustrated, including a large number of illustrations devoted to covers and facets of postal history.
Sciaky’s book is most welcome for a number of good reasons. First and foremost, it is written in plain language and although the English is not always flawless, the Author gets his points across, much to the benefit of beginners and those who require answers to their many questions. The Author writes with genuine enthusiasm and draws the reader inexorably into seeking out his albums and double checking his or her material.
Secondly, Sciaky has obviously gone to some length to double check his facts and verify information published in earlier articles and books. In many cases the existing literature gave him conflicting information and only after systematic research did he come up with his conclusions. It is obvious, and we are already seeing the results, that a book of this caliber will generate new collectors, while the old-timers will find a few details to add or amend. The Author himself has already published a couple of articles giving updates, or expanding upon his research.
Sciaky’s monograph is undoubtedly the standard reference for both philatelists and postal historians who specialize in this interesting country. But as thorough as the present book is, further research is critical to the advancement of this specialty and it would be useful to gain a better perspective of postal rates and other involving or controversial philatelic aspects.
It would be remiss of me if I did not mention the handsome production of this volume, with its eye-catching color plates and captivating lay-out. The author is to be applauded for sustaining our interest throughout the over two-hundred pages, but at the same time it is somewhat unfortunate that a philatelic editor versed in the many booby-traps the writing of English poses was not recruited by the publisher for this important project. This is very minor criticism and I warmly recommend this volume.



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