Nassau Street – The Best Book About Philately

Image result for nassau street stamp bookHerman Herst Jr.’s book Nassau Street is probably the most readable and enjoyable of all the philatelic canon. It is a series of stories and reminisces about philately in the 1930s and 1940s loaded with good anecdotes about many of the giants of our hobby along with reflections on where the hobby was in the year that the book was published (1960) and where stamp collecting had come from. The book was immensely popular and was on the New York Times’ bestseller list for a time after its publication, indicating appeal outside the hobby. Copies are available from used booksellers on Amazon, so, if you want one, there are a few that are still available. But books like this are hard to find, and collectors who came into the hobby after Mr. Herst’s retirement have little access to the joys of his philatelic vision.
This situation exists because the copyright laws in the United States that were written to serve Disney and writers like Saul Bellow don’t work well for niche publishing like philately. If you have a work with wide commercial appeal, of course it makes sense to protect the intellectual property rights of the creators. But most stamp works are created out of love for the hobby. Herst probably made more money out of stamp writing than any other author, but even so, he  jokingly showed me a handful of change from his pocket when I asked him if philatelic writing paid well. A copyright law that was fair would allow not-for-profit reprinting of esoteric works in all fields after a shorter period of time than the nearly 100 years that normal copyrights run. Then works like Pat Herst’s can be reissued to the hobby. I’ve known several of the philatelic authors whose works, if reprinted, would have a wide and appreciative audience. These writers wrote their stamp works for several different reasons. But none of them wrote for the money, and all of the ones that I knew would have been thrilled to see their work live on for another generation of collectors. And the collectors would benefit too.
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