‘Stamps and postal history of Albania’ Book published in English

By Prof. Dr. Jovan Basho

A couple of years ago, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Albania’s first national stamp, our colleague, philatelist Thimi Nika, published in Albanian, in high-tech typographical standards, the “Historia e filatelisë shqiptare” (The history of Albanian philately) book. During the promotion ceremony, he promised he would try to publish the book even in English to give interested foreign philatelists the opportunity to know the unique history of Albania’s postage stamps. And he kept his word. The book was published a few days ago at the same high quality by the “Mediaprint” publishing house, translated by Jorgji Kote and with partial financial support by the state-run Posta Shqiptare (Albanian Post).

The book was displayed in its Albanian version at the Balkan Philatelic Exhibition held in Vidin, Bulgaria, from April 4 to 7, 2014. The book was highly acclaimed and honored with the Gold Medal, making the author the first Albanian philatelist to receive such a medal.

In its English version, the book was featured at the “Notos 2015″ International Philatelic Exhibition in Athens, Greece, again achieving deserved success. It was honored with the Large Vermeil medal even in this European exhibition.

One of the most renowned philatelists in present day Albania, Thimi Nika, who inherited a rich collection from his father, which along with the passion and desire not only in collecting but also studying philately, managed to complete a decent, thorough and well-illustrated bilingual publication in Albanian and English.

The Albanian philatelic collection undisputedly represents one of the finest and rarest collections, not only among regional countries, but even in Europe because of the historical ordeals since the country’s independence, the historical turmoil during the world wars and the period in between, the lack of adequate equipment for the emission of stamps within the country’s territory, the emission of lots of local emissions, the use of philatelic emissions of the states of foreign occupying armies, lack of seriousness in certain periods of time, and even to present day, which has results in lots of mistakes, often made intentionally, etc. All of these have made the Albanian philatelic emission among the most miscellaneous and sought after having in its entirety, lots of rare philatelic features belonging to almost all periods.

As regards the above, the Albanian philatelic emissions, since their beginning, attracted the attention and interest of many philatelists and stamp traders, mostly Germans, in buying and using stamps of Albanian emission. The philatelic materials compiled by them, presently constitute priceless philatelic and historical values, adorning the collections of Albanian and foreign philatelists and also carrying part of the documented Albanian history with them. On the other hand, the proposals they made to the government of Vlora [1912], but even to successor governments best show the complicated road the Albanian philately went through.

I am a doctor and professor by profession and inherited the collection passion from my father. Bringing something from the health field, I cite renowned bacteriologist Louis Pasteur who wrote “following the destiny of a body substance means depicting the life story.” The same can also stand for a passionate philately researcher, i.e. depicting the historical fate of a stamp or philatelic collection means tracing their history from the emission, use and route with different postage means, with all the itinerary ordeals and seals until their display in the exhibition stands, or their preservation in the collectors’ hermetic archives.

From this point of view, I highly appreciate Nika’s insistent work on this book. He has made use not only of his rich collection, but even collections by other renowned Albanian collectors who generously made available their materials so that the book could achieve its decent illustration.

For every collector, the first thing to do is obtaining the philatelic material. Of course, the most difficult part is the accurate interpretation of the material in case. Thorough knowledge and study but even historical, postage, art and legal culture are needed on this. Philatelic literature and archives must be scanned to shed light on the special characteristics, possible errors, the quantity emitted and the remaining of each stamp emission. With regard to the above, Nika has made use of almost all materials by researchers of Albanian philately, both Albanian and foreign whose finding and interpretation was tough but indispensable work. What adds value to this book is the use of the Albanian State Archive, accurately documenting for the first time the Albanian postage emissions. I think that Nika has introduced and interpreted all of these accurately and professionally in his book.

Taking a superficial look into the book, one is impressed by the decent design and illustrating material. But, when sitting down and examining the written material, you realize how much work and stamina it took the author to compile this book and how much this book honors him. I think this book is undoubtedly the fullest and most decent of all previous publications of the Albanian philatelic emission and the most priceless present to collectors, philately researchers and the Albanian Post, making it a huge contribution to the country’s recorded history.

The book summarizes the study of all periods of Albanian philately, underlining its characteristic national identity as well as the periods of Albania pre-philately, i.e. interesting data on Ottoman, Austrian, Italian, Greek, Serbian stamps and seals used in Albania.

There are also other authors, Albanian and foreign ones, who have written on the history of Albanian philately. Among them, it is worth mentioning John S. Phipps with the book “Stamps and Posts of Albania and Epirus,” 1878-1945, the different philatelic catalogues especially the German one, Michel, “The Scanderbeg” magazine published in the United Kingdom, but even Albanian publications such as the “Përlindja e Shqipëniës,” the official mouthpiece of the Vlora government, the book “Një faqe historie” by Nikollaq Zoi, writings by renowned Albanian philatelists such as Kolë Gjinaj, Robert Ballauri, Shefik Osmani etc. as well as the “Koleksionisti” magazine, the mouthpiece of the Albanian Collectors Association.

There was a saying among Albanian philatelists and collectors “Albanian philately was made by foreigners.” Although true during its first stage of development, the importance of this saying, which I happily evidence and confess, has sharply waned in the past years, thanks to the work and passion by Albanian collectors who have decently represented themselves in different Balkan, European and global philatelic exhibitions, claiming different awards and medals.

I think that Thimi Nika’s book transfers philatelic studies and publications of the Albanian philatelic emissions to their place of origin and this constitutes the most important part of this book.

At the beginning of the book Nika has cited that “Philately is the king of all passions, the passion of kings.” If you take a look at the list of the greatest Albanian philatelists, you can easily understand that they were renowned intellectuals. The book is even a tribute to them, from the initiators who no longer live to the few remaining ones who for the sake of their collection passion, add value and dignity not only to themselves, but first of all to the country, showcasing with their participations in Albania and abroad what entire state structures have been unable to by failing to preserve in their archives and museums what they produced throughout the years. In this respect, these people must be respected, honored and consulted because they have always been and will be open to good work, always offering assistance and cooperation to every interested Albanian institution and especially the Albanian Post, cooperation which I am happy to confirm has recently considerably improved and in this respect the Albanian Collectors Association will always be open and cooperating.

In conclusion, on behalf of the Albanian Collectors Association, I deeply thank Mr. Thimi Nika for this decent publication even in English which honors not only him, but makes us all feel honored and wish him success in other publications in the field of philately.

* The book can be found here.