HISTORY OF THEMATIC PHILATELY
It was around the 1930's when the first "collections of object" were presented in Germany. Up until then, all collections were structured chronologically and according to country. The "collections of object" were the escorts of Thematic Philately and for a lot of years were being judged in Local, National and International exhibitions. According to the “philosophy” of these collections, one would choose the collection object (theme) of his liking, as we do in Thematic Philately, and would enrich it with stamps and philatelic documents that portrayed exclusively this concrete object. If, for example, somebody was gathering “Boats”, then his collection was considered complete and good if it included all types of boats, using rich material, so much in value, as much as in variety. On the contrary, in Thematic Philately, when we are reporting in “Boats”, apart from the presentation of types of boats based on historical (or other) evolution, we are interested in the growth of many adjacent parameters and events that are related with navigation. We examine the materials by which the boats are made, the ways that they move, the shipyards that manufacture them, the importance of navigation for the economy, the world trade, the tourism, the amusement, discoveries of navigators. We can even reach up to the boat as a symbol (emblem), its relation with the customs (the small Christmas boat, according to Greek tradition), and many other discoveries that will be traced by people who work on a similar topic.
After World War II thematic philately began to develop in a fast pace, mainly thanks to two individuals, pioneers and visionaries of this new philatelic technique, who both were clericals: The German clergyman Lucien Braun and the Belgian abbot Frans De Troyer.
Lucien Braun was born on March 1886 in Huguenot of Alsace (France). His father was a schoolteacher and the young Lucien was following the family in different residences, depending on the permutations of his father. He finished high school in Volksgymnasium (public lyceum) at the Zillisheim city and in 1904 acquired the diploma Abitur (German academic title of study) in Millhouse.
Having an intense aptitude to the clergy, after his 18 years of age he got absorbed by the theological and philosophical studies, up to 1909, when he was ordained priest. Always with philately being the second big "love", Braun continued his studies with undiminished passion. On January 1915 he was named doctor of theology and, soon afterwards, became dean and professor in the famous lyceum of Kleber, in Strasbourg.
When he was 60 years old, he was withdrawn in the abbey of Marienthal, where his philatelic activity became more intense. The available time he had now was much more.
As it was expected, all his collections were of a religious content. But what was the most interesting thing is that he worked them not in a chronological order, but in the basis of the subject of the stamp's picture or the reason of its issue and not according to country, as all collectors of his era did. This new and interesting form of philately was not late to cause the interest of other philatelists with which Braun was dealing.
In 1940, a group of people had the initiative of creating La Guilde Saint Gabriel, a kind of international academy, member of which was also Lucien Braun. This Academy had a close relation with thematic philately and one of the first concerns was the publication of a book that treated the collection of stamps, exclusively dedicated to the Catholic Religion.
Till then however, the collections that had as a basis the
subject of the stamp's picture or the reason of their issue faced difficulties
in their participation to the exhibitions. Rules did not exist for such type of
exhibits, so much for their construction, as for the judgment. That's why they
remained jostled for much more time.
In 1949 the first book of Philatelic Literature for Thematic Philately was presented. Iô was a work of Lucien Braun too. It was written in German and published in Strasbourg. Title: Konstruktive Philatélie, Ein Beitragzurphilatelistischen Volkserziehung (Constructive Philately, a contribution in the popular philatelic education). A second work, also in German, was not late to follow. Its title was more specialised: “The constructive philately in the frames of general philately”. So much in the first, but mainly in this second work, Lucien Braun gives in detail characteristics of this new way of collection and puts the bases of what today we call “Thematic Philately”.
Braun died on 18 December 1962.
The second of the thematic philately's initiates was the Belgian clergyman Frans De Troyer. He was born on June 7, 1914, in the city Ninove of Belgium. He was ordained priest at the age of 25. The philately attracted him much later, round 1947, when his ecclesiastical duties sent him to install himself in Ghent. Thought the pass of time philately became a passion for De Troyer, in such a point that, when he was named religious professor in the public high school of the small state of Aalter, he imported the philately there as regular school course. And, having been initiated into this “new form of philately”, offered in this way priceless services, by introducing his ideas and opinions in his multitudinous students, attracting simultaneously new collectors in the thematic philately.
Frans de Troyer
As a thematic collector and exhibitor, Frans De Troyer was the first to meet with great successes. Thanks to him thematic philately entered the "Palmares" pages with the golden medals. He was the first to appoint thematic philately into a respectable philatelic class. With his first collection with a theme on Madonna he became famous to all philatelic circles of his age. He won a gold medal in the International exhibitions of Buenos Ayres (1961) and Washington(1966), and many more "golds" in great philately exhibit organizations.
His second collection, "The History of Church", may preserve an unbeatable record. In its first appearance made an exquisite impression and won gold medal in International Exhibition ROMA '70.
As a philatelic writer De Troyer left enough thematic articles to philatelic press of his era. This though that was particularly important and appreciated, was his work "Thematic Philatelist", on the pages of which one could find all concentrated knowledge and experience that was conquered until then.
After the success of his collection "The History of Church" and the conquest of the gold medal in Rome, by taking into consideration his unquestionable contribution of De Troyer to thematic philately, the International Thematic Commission of FIP elected him President.
From the day of his election to his death (he died on February 21, 1977 in Gand), he stopped exhibiting under competition, but never did he stop to participate in all great exhibitions by presenting his collections in out of competition class. Making an example to the younger thematic collectors and contributing to the progress of thematic philately until the last days of his life.
Here is the plan of the Abbot de Troyer collection as presented
in ROMA '70, which was prized with a golden medal.
1. – THE FIRST CENTURIES: The Apostles, the Martyrs – Spiritual life and theology – St Augustine, St Benedict etc.
2. – MIDDLE AGE: The church as guide of European society
3. – NEW TIMES (1517-1739).
4. - NEW TIMES (1739-1950): French Revolution, Napoleon, the Papal state during 19th century, Te church from the era of Pope Lion XII till Pio XII.
5. – MODERN CHURCH: John XXIII - Â' Vatican Congress, Paul VI.
Another de Troyer's collection, always with the same religious
theme, was untitled
With this theme de Troyer wants to establish that Maria is a queen, through a series of arguments that correspond to the various chapters of the collection.
1. The Virgin's life ends with her coronation: in the Heaven.
2. The cult of Maria is expressed with many appellations (that are discovered on the stamps), like: "Maria, queen of Peace", "Queen of Martyrs", etc.
3. Maria is honoured as patron saint of many towns and countries, like " Patron saint of Hungary", "Queen of Poland" etc.
4. The places of adoration in all the world prove that the believers consider Madonna as a Queen: Lourdes, Fatima etc.
5. In the biggest part of works of art Madonna has honorable place. Also in the art, she is considered as a Queen.
6. The cathedrals and the ablaze churches dedicated to Her all over the world they really form her crown.
Abbot de Troyer wrote in his book: "Tot capita tot sensus". They
are not, accordingly, the religious ideas that are evaluated, as the logic and
the coherence underlined by the collection.