We’ve just spent a pleasant moment appreciating the philatelic landscape and the tree at the center of our horizon that represented our last legend Charles Lathrop Pack. Now we must turn our gaze inside the building from where we are standing and look around the philatelic office before us, so we can marvel at the achievements of our next legendary collector Frederick John Melville (1882 to 1940) who was a British philatelist best known for his writing and for being the founder of The Junior Philatelic Society – which is today known as The National Philatelic Society.
If we were to look at the desk in front of us, in this imaginary office, we would see a book lying open at the contents page and it tells us that the writer has two stories. The first story is about Melville’s accomplishments with the pen, which from the many chapters detailed they are prolific, both as an author and philatelic journalist. Melville clearly was an industrious user of the written word to communicate information, to enthuse and educate a philatelic audience through his books and journals. The second part of the book is all about Melville’s formation in 1899 and growth thereafter of a National Philatelic Society. This is the most populated part of the entire book, although seemingly shorter in chapters it does in fact have substantially more pages regarding his work and lasting legacy.
Now you won’t be surprised to learn that a man who started what is today one of only two national philatelic societies in the UK, and who promoted the hobby so abundantly through his writing was a signatory to The Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1921, but you may be a little surprised, given Melville’s apparently British activities, that he was awarded a member of the American Philatelic Society’s Hall of Fame, which goes to show that his reach wasn’t confined to the island he was native.
Any budding writer tasked with presenting Melville is going to be tempted to loiter around the books and articles he produced in such grand scale, but for some reason it’s not this that plucks at the creative heart strings. No, it’s his rejection from The Royal Philatelic Society in 1899, who apparently refused him membership based upon his age, this is what strikes such a high note when reviewing Melville’s life.
You could read into this ‘rejection’ a number of things. First, that he wasn’t the sort of man to be put-off by rejection and thus saw the opportunity to form a philatelic society for those like him who fell between the society stalls. Whether he felt injustice or disappointment we will never know for sure, but he was a truly gifted man in the right place at the right time. His so-called rebuttal to the Royal being to form a successful alternative society is probably unfair, but easy to understand why it is suggested by some commentators, however it’s much clearer he was never meant to become a member of The Royal, even though he would have been a towering contributor to their activities during his lifetime. The trouble is Melville would have been diluted as a ‘member’ of another society, and even if he had risen to the ranks of President, that would still have short-changed many aspects of what was a blossoming stamp community back then.
Melville’s path was altered from that of The Royal precisely because he was a talented and energetic wordsmith for the philatelic cause and could support the growing need for a philatelic society catering for that broader audience, in particular the youth. Melville is uniquely defined in history for using his undoubted God given gift to grow the philatelic family and feed and nourish them through his writing and organisation.
If it was a divine rerooting of his path in 1899 then thank God because the world of philately is a lot better off as a result. Sitting here in this office there is a perfect light cast from the window over Melville that creates a distinct impression. Whoever was responsible for the membership criteria at the Royal back then did philately a favour. In fact, only one man did more than that person for the growth and development of young philatelists. And that was Melville, who as a result found his path in philately and ‘authored’ a generation of philatelists. Fred Melville The Philatelic Author.
Next time we meet one of Great Britain’s greatest exports John Walter Scott. You can catch-up on the previous 18 legendary collectors by clicking the links: Legendary Collectors: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17 and Part 18