Death of M. Oscar Berger-Levrault

Another of the old masters of Philately has departed, one whose name should be kept green forever as the first stamp cataloguer. M. Francois George Oscar Berger-Levrault died at Nancy, Sept. 24th.

He was born at Strassburg (Alsace), May 9th, 1826, and, being proprietor of a large printing establishment, he very early took an interest in stamps, they appealed to him on account of the different printing processes employed in their manufacture. In 1861 his collection was already of great importance, but he was steadily improving it.

In Die Post, Vol. II. 1895, is described how M. Berger-Levrault printed a list of all postage stamps known to him, how he sent this list to his customers asking for additional information, etc. And now comes his great deed. After receiving those supplementary notes, he improved his list, and at Strassburg, on Sept. 14th, 1861, the first stamp catalogue was given to the world; twelve editions came out. This book is therefore “the first known philatelic publication ever printed anywhere.” It is, as the D.B.Z. points out, the fundamental basis on which all other catalogues rest; Zschiesche & Koder (Leipzig, 1862), Potiquet, Moens, Mahe, Mount-Brown, Dr. Gray, all follow the leader.

It is rather strange that the obituary in the M.J. for October does not mention anything of this primary book, but begins with Berger-Levrault’s next step, his publication of “A description of postage stamps known up to date of publication” together with useful hints on the arrangements of collections, Strassburg, 1864. More than 2200 different kinds are properly described, for which he used abbreviations, so as to bring much matter in a small compass. The great merit, however, is the author’s remarkably advanced standpoint, for he noticed and listed at that time already the different kinds of paper, the shades, modes of printing (typographed, lithographed, engraved stamps), furthermore if imperforate, rouletted or perforated.

Both the foregoing works were written in German; a French edition published in 1867 is practically a new work more advanced still, because now the different roulettings, perforations, and also watermarks are chronicled, causing considerable stir in the early literature.

After Germany, in 1870, took once more possession of her old property, Alsace and Lorraine, M. Berger-Levrault decided for France and moved with his printing establishment to Nancy. This left him little time for collecting, so he sold out, but several studies from his pen appeared later on in German journals. His memory will not soon be forgotten; it lives in the History of Stamp-Collecting.