Book Review:  The "Officials" of Tibet


A Review by Alan Warren

The "Officials" of Tibet, Armand E. Singer, 8½ x 11 inches, comb bound, 40 pages, illustrated, Geoffrey Flack, Vancouver 1999. Available for US$35 by surface mail anywhere from Geoffrey Flack, Box 65987 Station F, Vancouver, British Columbia V5N 5L4, Canada.

This book is an expanded and revised version of a 2-part article that originally appeared in 1999 issues of the Collectors Club Philatelist, published by the Collectors Club of New York. This version includes many color illustrations, which enhance the original. The so-called officials of Tibet appeared around 1950 and have been the subject of many articles, which have all been carefully reviewed by Singer, one of the world's leading specialists on the stamps and postal history of Tibet. He has also reviewed many covers bearing these stamps, often in combination with other issues, which are in the collections of his own, of other collectors, as well as sold at auction.

In addition to the five officials recognized in the major catalogs, there are two others included in this review-the 1 Trangka with three copies known, and the 5 Shokang with about half a dozen copies reported. The stamps are described in terms of size (the largest measures 2½ inches square!), color, and value. Singles as well as full sheets are illustrated along with many examples of usage on cover. A number of the latter were the inspiration of a Nepalese trader in Tibet during the 1950s-Pratek Man Tuladhar.

In fact most examples of these stamps on cover, whether alone or in combination, have a distinctly philatelic flavor and commercial uses are not readily seen. The rates are frequently overpaid as a result of use of these stamps. At times they were supposedly added to inbound letters arriving at Gyantse, for forwarding to Lhasa. The author reaches his conclusions on these "officials" after a review of the literature and examination of over 200 covers. Collectors of Tibet will no doubt want a few examples for their collections but must understand the non-commercial aura that surrounds these stamps. There are still unanswered questions concerning the issues, and the complete story of why they were issued and the purpose for which they were intended may never be fully explained.

The text and color illustrations are of excellent quality. The book joins many other monographs of Tibet that have been produced by publisher Geoffrey Flack, all of which are important resources for collectors. Recommended for the libraries of those who collect the Himalayan area.


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