Allen Lee’s Collection of “Maps on Stamps”

Finding Guide
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The World on Van der Grinten’s Projection

Prepared by Thomas Lera, Winton Blount Research Chair and Miklos Pinther, Chief Cartographer, United Nations (retired)

COLLECTION SCOPE & CONTENT

This is a specialized collection of Maps on Stamps. It consists of twenty-six albums organized into categories and mounted under subtopics: (1) The World Minutely Mapped, (2) Elements of a Map, (3) Geographical Areas, (4) Nations, (5) Islands and Archipelagos, (6) Genesis of the United States, (7) Routes, (8) Ancient Maps and Plans, (9) Political and Territorial Disputes, (10) Errors and Varieties, (11) Miscellanea, (12) Souvenir Sheets, (13) Unusual Stamps, (14) Omnibus Issues, (15) Marginal Map Stamps, and (16) Collateral Material.

HISTORY

From childhood, Allan Lee, the donor of this collection, was obsessed with a curiosity and interest in the geography and history of the world. During service overseas in World War II, as an officer in the Corps of Engineers, he chanced upon Walter Klinefelter’s series of articles published under the title, “The World in One’s Vestpocket.” As an engineer, it was only natural that the subject, maps on stamps, should fascinate him. While he was determined to collect every type of stamp showing a map, it was impractical to start such a massive project until the war ended and he returned to the United States.

One of the things he learned during the interrogation of an Italian intelligence agent was that a postal service by relay cycles had been established in the “Italian Socialist Republic.” This unusual method of delivering mail had been occasioned by the great success of Allied bombing, which disrupted railways and highways. Upon returning from his next mission, the agent thoughtfully brought some of the stamps being used behind the German lines which showed a map of northern Italy. Thus the collection started with this stamp.

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The stamp that started Allan Lee’s “Maps on Stamps” collection

By the end of 1976 every type of map stamp cataloged by Scott, Minkus and Stanley Gibbons had been acquired. Related designs also had been added and for greater clarity, only mint issues were included. The format for mounting the collection was inspired by the scheme employed in “The World Minutely Mapped,” which was published by Walter Klinefelter in 1952 and listed in detail in the bibliography. The first four albums consist of pages from Klinefelter’s book reproduced to fit on the album page with Lee’s stamps mounted directly on the page (see illustration below).

NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION

There are twenty-six albums containing stamps, covers, postal cards and souvenir sheets with maps depicted from different countries.