The British Library Philatelic Rarities

by Adrian Steel

The entrance to the British Library, St Pancras

The entrance to the British Library, St Pancras

I was privileged to be shown around the British Library’s exhibition for the 2010 Festival of Stamps by David Beech FRPSL, Head of Philatelic Collections, recently. The exhibition, entitled ‘The British Library Philatelic Rarities’, opened on 1 February and runs until the end of the year.

Fifty of the gems of the British Library’s substantial collections have been selected and displayed in the pull-out frames, situated on the upper ground floor of the British Library’s main St Pancras headquarters. Along with the rest of the permanent philatelic exhibition, they are available to view during normal BL opening hours.

Philatelic Collections Frames at the British Library

Philatelic Collections Frames at the British Library

The exhibition of course includes penny blacks, as well as penny reds from Plate 77 (used and unused), but the rarities are from around the world, including the 1d stamp produced in 1765 for the American colonies, the introduction of which was so hotly disputed that the cry ‘no taxation without representation’ was raised.

During my visit it was particularly pleasing to see the number of different people who as casual visitors paused to look at the philatelic material on display, and the situation of the pull-out frames in the main public areas helps this. The London 2010 Festival of Stamps is all about taking the richness of philatelic heritage and the many rewards of stamp collecting to more people, and new people, and seeing what the BL hold will provide great encouragement.

3 responses to “The British Library Philatelic Rarities

  1. The plate 77 stamps are Penny Reds, not Penny Blacks.


  2. I have never been to a stamp fair before but hoping to go to the London festival this year.

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