Having just marvelled at Ferrary, you might be thinking ‘where can we go now’? Surely it is all downhill from here on in?
And that is a reasonable assumption. Particularly in light of the way the last page ended, with the scattering of the world’s greatest collection. However, like many stories, there is another chapter and this one contains a Prince in silver armour, and crucially the character who was Ferrary’s hero.
Yes, that’s right, Thomas Keay Tapling (1855 – 1891), Philatelic Legend nombre quatre, was the inspiration for Ferrary and his magical collection, and crucially why Ferrary wished to bequeath his collection to the Berlin museum.
Let me explain. Tapling was 5 years younger than Ferrary, another serious Philatelist on the scene at the same time, and these two undoubtedly galloped through the same philatelic landscape, crossing swords in their pursuit of the golden philatelic holy grail – the world’s greatest stamp collection. Why do I say this?
Because it is well documented that Thomas Tapling, an English businessman and politician, who also played first-class cricket, assembled a collection between 1865 and 1891 which is regarded as, and I quote the philatelic doctrine, “second only to Ferrary“.
This was despite Taplin’s premature death aged just 35. Yes. Just 35! And you are probably aware that after this untimely departure, his collection, better known as “The Tapling Collection”, was donated to the British Museum, and now forms part of a permanent public exhibition at the Philatelic Collections of the British Library. It is fully intact, for all to admire.
And Ferrary did precisely that, admired it, ‘before’ he went on to assemble what we know ‘today’ as one better than Tapling.
Let’s be candid, Thomas Tapling had the world’s greatest collection in 1891 and for a good few years after that. It was a fact visible for all to see there at the British museum. Had our story ended then, the English Prince would have rode into this Philatelic fairy-tale wearing gold armour.
But Ferrary, inspired, and no doubt humbled at what Tapling had achieved in so few years, went on and produced, and ultimately ‘bequeathed’ his collection to a museum. Although, as you know, that tale didn’t have a happy ever after.
So you see, it is no coincidence that our Prince of Philately has a silver medal created in his memory by the Royal Philatelic Society, which was first awarded in 1920, because by then another man had devoted an additional 26 years of his life to take the gold.
This story does have a happy ending though. Tapling was recorded on the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1921 as one of the original “Fathers of Philately”. We might have thought we couldn’t do any better at the start of this, but I think a Prince outranks a Duke, and in many ways Tapling did just that.
Part 5 is about William Image, our “Librarian of Philately”.