Exploring the north

9 12 2008

Canada, 1957, Scott 370, 34mm x 23mm

Canada’s great geographer, David Thompson, is honored on this issue. He appears in the foreground sighting through what appears to be an octant, with the background dominated by a curly-cornered map of the western section of the dominion. This is one of those striking  juxtapositions of features in contrasting scales which we have seen before.

The figure is not a detailed likeness of the man’s face, choosing to emphasize instead the details of his traditional garb. The map has its own emphasis not on the mountains or forests but rather on the watersheds of the major rivers and lakes of the western provinces, which ties into the search for a passage to the Pacific Northwest that was a major motivation for Thompson’s explorations. The way in which the various headwaters twine around but stay separate almost seems to express a note of frustration that this did not work out as hoped.





Shul on the equator

28 01 2008

Surinam 359
Suriname, Scott 359, 1968, Litho, 21mm x 36mm

The main design shows an antique map commemorating the founding of the first synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, in the settlement of Joden Savanne the Suriname River in the year 1685 of the common era. On the right hand side of the stamp, on the east side of the river, is the inscription “Ioods Dorp en Sinagoge” alongside a cluster of buildings which suggest that this is a rather small scale depiction. This region was hard to match up with an overall map of the country purely by eye, or even with the help of this historical reference:

In 1652, a new group of Jews arrived in Suriname, together with the Englishman Lord Willoughby, and settled on the Savannah, situated near the Cassipora creek.

My catalogue identifies the Hebrew inscription on the bottom as Joshua 24:2:

בְּעֵ֣בֶר הַנָּהָ֗ר יָשְׁב֤וּ

corresponding to a portion of this verse in English:

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods.

in which the “River” is understood to be the Euphrates flowing through Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), not of course the Suriname. The passage goes on to remind the Israelites about the original Covenant established by God and exhorts them to return to faithfulness.

There are Jews living in Suriname to this day, 350 years later, just a few degrees north of zero degrees latitude in South America. What must it have been like for their forebears to come to a country so different from the one they knew back then?





The age of competitive flying

25 01 2008


Monaco, Scott 151, 1964, 37mm x 37mm diamond
This handsome engraved piece marks the 50th anniversary of the first airplane rally, showing the location of the European cities visited, although not the precise route. The design was based upon a postcard which depicted the monoplane flying over the harbor and the European cities picked out in the margin. The diamond format is unusual – Monaco is partial to unconventional stamp designs such as triangles as well.

This was a golden age of airplane racing, and despite the inscription on the stamp, it seems not the first major rally:

After Reims, a series of races were held across Europe—Paris to Rome; and circuits in France-Belgium and in England—pitting, for the most part, Andre Beaumont against Roland Garros. Here, too, Garros seemed to make more out of losing each time than Beaumont did winning. Garros finally won the races held in Monaco in August 1914, a year after the first Schneider Cup event, and then went on to be first to cross the Mediterranean.

Yes, this was the same Roland Garros of tennis French Open fame, remembered for his flying ace exploits in the first World War.