An album of postage stamps on optical themes or depicting spectacle wearers.

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Mr Osmond Raphael

Osmond Raphael

In 1955 one member of the British Optical Association, Mr O. P. Raphael, put his personal 'stamp' on the museum collection when he donated his own collection of over 200 optically-related stamps. At some point thereafter these were displayed decoratively on several large mounting sheets. As these mounts were acidic the collection was carefully removed from them in 1999 and placed into an archival quality album, divided by country of origin.

Cecil Flick FBOA
Cecil Flick FBOA

By then the collection had grown, with non-philatelists such as Cecil Flick FBOA taking an interest in the social history behind the pictures represented on these small pieces of paper. His is one of several early articles on the subject listed in our bibliography below.

Motage of historic postage stamps

The stamps now come from all over the world, from Algeria to Zanzibar and include several places no longer valid political entities such as the German Democratic Republic, the Belgian Congo, Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union. They depict people wearing spectacles, pince-nez or monocles. They include portraits of famous scientists eminent in the optical or ophthalmic fields. There are eyesight charity stamps and stamps issued to commemorate ophthalmological congresses.

Many of the stamps were undated. Now for the first time we have begun to catalogue them completely and have found, for example that many of the stamps were relatively new at the time they were donated half a century ago. It makes one wonder how many stamps featuring spectacle wearers there must actually be; probably far more than we could ever collect! Since stamps are small, however, the museum would be delighted to acquire more.

The earliest stamp to feature a person wearing spectacles is thought to be a Colombian issue from 1904 featuring the bespectacled President Marroquin (but we don't have that one!)

Museum Resources for further research

  • Anon, 1960, 'The Optical Stamp Collector', Optician, (12 August) p.113-5
  • Blodi, F. C., 1986, 'The Eye, Vision and Ophthalmology on Postage Stamps', in Hirschberg's History of Ophthalmology Vol 11 (Part Two), Wayenborgh, Bonn
  • Cluxton, H. M., 1960, 'Specs 'n' Stamps', American Journal of Optometry 37 (6) p.320-4
  • Flick, C. S., 1947, Optics in Philately, Optician (19 December) p. 499-503
  • Fryer, C. B., 1991, 'Spectacles on Stamps', Ophthalmic Antiques 35, p. 6-7
  • Martin, M. W., 1974, 'Stamping Out Spectacles', Optician (13 December) p.33-37
  • Watson, J., 1956, 'Spectacles on Stamps', Vision 10 (1) p. 15-17