In the late 1970s a fascinating series of articles written by Mr. K. Kouwenberg about the history of Stamp Collecting, appeared in the Dutch magazine Philatelie. This series has been the source of inspiration for PostBeeld owner Rob Smit to rewrite the history of stamp collecting in instalments. This is Part 7.
As we have already seen in previous instalments of this column, 1862 was a very important year in the development of stamp collecting. Accordingly, we remain focused on the people who played a significant role in the development of the subject. One of those people was Natalis Rondot (born March 23, 1821 in Saint-Quentin, northern France, died in Lyon on August 26, 1900).
After studying at the University of Paris, he found employment at the Chamber of Commerce in Reims. His work entailed taking part in international missions to conclude trade agreements and at an early age (between 1843 and 1847) he travelled to countries such as China, India, Indochina, Malaysia, Africa, Russia and Belgium. He then worked for the Chamber of Commerce in Lyon and in this capacity visited World Fairs. He was also a prolific writer (see here) and had books published on a variety of subjects. A biography entitled “Natalis Rondot, sa vie et ses travaux” written by Leon Galle, was published in 1902. This book can be viewed here. Look at the page where his philatelic items are mentioned
Between April 1862 and November 1866 he published a series of articles in the ‘Magasin Pittoresque’, a French family magazine. The series is titled ‘Les Timbres-Poste de tous les états du globe’. It is extraordinary to see the extent of his knowledge in the articles. Considering the limited information then available through the small amount of catalogues printed at that time, the articles contain so much data that the question is where did Rondot get so much detailed information. Much is known about Rondot, but virtually nothing about his philatelic connections. We have no other knowledge of his publications on stamps than his series of ‘Magasin Pittoresque’articles. What is known is that he had a stamp collection that was sold for 15,000 francs after his death to a certain Victor Robert.
It seems that the series was written as a sideline, probably with the help of a third party. In this context, the name Armand Martin, a senior official of the French Post Office comes to light. In any event it is clear, also from his other publications, that Rondot had a very large network and a thorough approach.
Rondot used a geographical division for the ‘Magasin Pittoresque’articles beginning with Russia, then Finland, Sweden etc. He shows for each country the origin of the stamps, gives a definition, displays images in beautiful woodcuts, describes coinage, land, population, number of sent letters, he mentions trials and even corrects errors which at that time existed in catalogues then in circulation. It seems incomprehensible that Rondot could gather so much information. K. Kouwenberg called him, not without reason, “the greatest philatelist of all time”. Below is a page from the two and a half pages of Rondot’s first article about Russia. Below you can read the article from 1862 in the Magasin Pittoresque.
His articles have for years been of great value to guide the development of (specialised) collections, further studies and catalogues.
His great network was evident from his article, in July 1864, on Greece in which he gives much information and a long list of colour samples of the large Hermes heads provided by Mr. Th. Leonardos, Director General of the Greek Post Office. Also the creator of the printing plates for the large Hermes heads, Chief Engraver of the Paris Mint – Désiré-Albert Barre – was apparently an acquaintance of Rondot, judging by the above colours’experiment and a note addressed to him. In 1867 at the World Exhibition in Paris there was a display of 319 of Rondot’s print engravings used for his articles.
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