Varro Tyler

There are few philatelists of the last few decades that have had more impact on our hobby than Varro Tyler. Tyler, who died in 2001, was tireless researcher and philatelic writer. Accomplished in both his professional field (botanical pharmacology, where he was a professor for many years at Perdue) and in the philately, Tyler’s main contribution to our hobby was what I would call social philately (and by this I don’t mean attending stamp club meetings).


In academic history, much of the work being done now is less focused on who were the rulers and where were the battles and more focused on how people lived and what they thought. This is the ultimate application of psychology to history-not in the unconscious motivations of leaders, but in how previous cultures channeled and satisfied people’s innate drives. Much philatelic writing has been about the what, when and where type of particular stamp issues – without putting the hobby in the context of collectors-that is the people who collect stamps.


Tyler was a different sort of philatelic writer. In his early career, he wrote seminal books on the forgeries of Japan. Then his interests changed and his two great late works were about people-the first “Philatelic Forgers-Their Lives and Their Works”, and the second about the lives of great collectors- Tyler brought stamp writing into the modern century by emphasizing philatelists first.


Tyler himself was a kind and diffident man, always willing to give advice and impart information. His books are for sale on Amazon and are well worth reading.



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