08.04. 2024   © KVESELY





The aim of this text is to briefly introduce Volume 1 of the new Geographilatelic handbook Africa, which I wrote together with Jiří Laštovka and which was published in March 2024 by the GEOPHILA association. The intention of both authors is to gradually deal with the whole of Africa for ASFE (“a stamp from everywhere”) collectors and to focus in a new and deeper way on the continent, which was the focus of the first Philatelic Atlas by Jiří Marek (1996). As many of you know, our colleague Miroslav Prokop had been working on a new Africa Atlas for several years but unfortunately his health did not allow him to finish the work or hand it over, so we had to start from scratch. When we kicked off our work in the spring of 2023, we originally aimed at publishing a supplement to the original Atlas by Jiří Marek, but we have gradually come to the conclusion that the extent of necessary modifications and additions inevitably leads to a completely new publication, even if this requires splitting it into several volumes. Sensing a certain impatience among collectors, we preferred to release the first volume in early 2024, even if this meant limiting its scope to Morocco, Western Sahara, and adjacent islands (Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands). The Handbook is in Czech.

The first volume of the handbook has 130 pages printed in colour and in many respects follows Jiří Marek’s Atlas in its concept and numbering. So, if you, as an ASFE collector, have organized your collection using the original Atlas, the classification of stamp territories in the new handbook as well as the structure of the chapters should be familiar to you. The goal was to supplement and correct the content, not to replace one system with another.

However, if the structure and classification of the chapters follow on Jiří Marek’s breakdown, the new handbook goes fundamentally further in terms of content. We have corrected a number of inaccuracies in the original Atlas, we have substantially supplemented information on the development of individual stamp issuing entities (not only the development of the name, but also the political development), we have added several new stamp issuing entities and also “postmark” entities. We register a whole range of local issues and boguses. The handbook also supplements a number of postal-historical contexts and, in addition to stamps, provides basic facts about postal stationery. It will be best to provide a few examples.

New postal rates of 1917: a stamp for the French zone in Morocco (left) and for the French post office in Tangier (right)

Information on the postal history of Tangier is significantly expanded in the handbook. The French post office at Tangier was for many years (1852–91) the only French post office in Morocco and it deserves the appropriate comment on the postal activities of that period. It is then very interesting to follow its activities between 1914 (or 1915) and 1924, when it remained again the only French post office outside the French protectorate of Morocco. Special stamps were issued for the French post office in Tangier at that time, not only the well-known TANGER overprints from 1918 on, but already in 1915–17 overprints without the word PROTECTORAT, yet usually classified (e.g. in stamp catalogues) incorrectly among the French zone stamps. It is also little known that, parallel to the French post office, a Sherifien post office operated in Tangier until 1924, using stamps from 1912. Therefore, in our handbook, this post office has earned a separate chapter – not as a “stamp issuing entity” but as a “postmark entity”. See the attached example of a card sent by the Sherifien post office in Tangier of 1916.

A postal card sent by the Sherifien Post Office of Tangier (1916). This post office operated parallel to the French Post Office in Tangier until 1924.
An envelope sent by the Italian Post Office in Tangier (1940)


The Italian post office in Tangier also has a completely new chapter in the handbook, where we mention the unissued overprint of TANGERI of 1926, the actual postal service from the Italian consulate in Tangier to Italy using Italian stamps without overprints cancelled with a special postmark from May 1938 till September 1943, as well as the unauthorized local overprint of the Italian consul of 1939. We consider the use of unoverprinted Italian stamps cancelled with a local postmark to be authorized, therefore we classify the territory not as a stamp issuing entity, but as a postmark entity.

The MARRUECOS overprint of 1914 (stamp for the Spanish zone in Morocco) on the left, the same text of the overprint of 1933 for the Spanish post office in Tangier in the middle and on the right.

A significant part of the handbook is focused on the rich stamp issuing activity of the Spanish territories in Morocco and today’s Western Sahara. Compared to the original Atlas Africa 1996, a large number of local stamp issues have been included (and where possible, also commented on). But even for standard issues, information had to be added. For example, while the MARRUECOS overprints on the 1914 Kingdom of Spain stamps are issues for the Spanish Zone, the same overprint text on the 1933 Spanish Republic stamps is an issue for the Spanish Post Office in Tangier, not the Spanish Zone in Morocco, as might be expected.

The handbook also provides basic information, for example, on RF overprints on American stamps and postal stationery for sailors on French warships – for mail to the US and Canada (1944-45) – including postal items not directly linked to Morocco. We explain the different classification of American collectors (Scott catalogue) and French collectors (Yvert and Maury catalogues). In the handbook, we inform about the questionable nature of stamps with RF overprints that are not on cover and mention the conditions that covers with RF overprints should meet in order to be considered authentic. The goal is to make it possible to go beyond the mechanical collection of different types of this overprint without understanding the context.

The expansion of information compared to the Atlas of Africa 1996 can be nicely illustrated on the Canary Islands, to which less than one page was devoted in the original Atlas, mentioning very briefly the air mail overprints as the main one and further mentioning the local overprint TENERIFE VIVA ESPAÑA 18-7-36 and four additional issues from the Spanish Civil War. The new handbook, on the other hand, devotes 11 pages to the Canary Islands. It starts by explaining the use of Spanish stamps from 1850 and the oldest postmarks from the Canary Islands (including the numbered postmark “42”). This is followed by pages on stamps issued for the Canary Islands, which we classify into eight groups; this classification was proposed for the purposes of the handbook (sources are very inconsistent). In total (including name developments) the handbook lists 36 different issues (standard, local and bogus ones). At the end, Spanish stamps with a link to the Canary Islands are mentioned, and under a separate entry, the British post office of Tenerife.

The handbook also provides basic information about  postal stationery, for example about two private post offices in Morocco issuing postal stationery (Tetouan–El-Ksar and Mazagan–Marrakesh), about the postal stationery of the French post office in Morocco from 1903, which did not contain the overprint of Spanish currency that was common at the time or about the French inter-zone cards (“cartes interzones”) intended for the correspondence between the free zone of France (from December 1940 including the French colonies loyal to the Vichy government) and the occupied zone of France.

A postal stationery card for correspondence to the occupied zone of France with a local overprint from Casablanca for airmail

On these post cards, local overprints were applied by hand in Morocco, due to the air mail surcharge and the prohibition of additional franking with stamps, e.g.  CASABLANCA POSTES AVION / Surtaxe aérienne perçue: 1 franc. From a French postal stationery, the local Moroccan postal stationery was thus created (and they are also recorded as such in postal stationery catalogues).

In the handbook, we also briefly cover selected military post offices (French military post offices in Morocco during its occupation from 1907 to the 1930s, Spanish military post offices in Morocco during the main campaigns in 1859–60, 1907, 1921–26 and 1958 or the American post office at an air base in the Azores).

We have also included information about fakes (boguses) in the handbook. For example, the famous Belgian bogus Haggar (1931) pretending to be linked to Morocco, the 1942 Deutsche Reichspost / in Marokko overprint in French Morocco (which is strangely a British promotional issue) or the CORREO AEREO winged dragon overprint on the Tenerife Monte de la Esperanza stamp (1939). A curiosity are the forgeries of IFNI overprints of 1941-42, which were created earlier than similar stamps issued properly a few years later.

Forgeries: Tenerife Monte de la Esperanza stamp overprint (1939), British promotional issue feigning German origin (1942) and Ifni overprint (1941)

The available philatelic literature was key to the creation of the handbook. Although we did not get everything we wanted, we have obtained a number of philatelic books and specialized catalogues, including recently published ones, in addition to online resources. I would cite as examples Francisco Aracil’s five-volume monograph “Historia postal de las antiguas dependencias españolas en África” ​​(2005-2009), Volume 6 of Julio Allepuz’s catalogue of local issues of the Spanish Civil War covering Africa (2015) or David Stotter’s book “A postcard from Tangier / A Postal & Social History of Tangier 1880–1958” (2015).

If this text has stimulated your interest in the manual, you can order it at the GEOPHILA e-shop . The price is 700 CZK for GEOPHILA association members and 800 CZK for others. Jiří Laštovka and I will be happy if you discover new and interesting information while reading it and get inspiration for your collecting going forward. At the same time, we welcome feedback that we will use in the future, for example when working on its continuation.

Karel Veselý

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