Silent Ambassadors

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On April 20, 1828, Frenchman René Caillié became the first European to enter Timbuktu and live to tell the tale when he walked in from Guinea after spending a year disguised as an Arab and walked out two weeks later.  This stamp enthusiast’s paternal parental unit has a few things to say about that:

René Caillié was the first European to visit the West African town Timbuktu and survive to tell the tale.  Not a small feat in the early 1800’s when British and French explorers were traveling all over the world in search of adventure.  Caillié was in his mid-20’s when he became obsessed with visiting Timbuktu.  He had already sailed along the coast of West Africa and set about learning Arabic and local customs to the point that he could pass as an Egyptian captured and pressed into service by the French.

He arrived in 1824 to the British colony of Sierra Leon where he worked on a plantation and finally started his adventure to Timbuktu by sailing to Boké at the Rio Nuñez in present day Guinea.  There is still a stone monument in Boké marking the start of his travel to Timbuktu.  The Malian and Guinean stamps, above, correctly show his route, but only show him dressed in proper European attire that would have gotten him killed en route.

[In its map of Africa in 1980, National Geographic Magazine showed him leaving from Sierra Leon but quickly corrected that error when this stamp enthusiast’s pater sent them a photo he had taken of the monument.]

From Boké René Caillié travelled eastward and then followed the Niger River north to Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara and a transit point of the caravan routes connecting to Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea.  He joined a caravan going north across the Sahara to Fez, Rabat, and Tangier in Morocco and eventually returned to France where he published his journal and won a major prize for providing first person details of the fabled Timbuktu, which by that time with changes in the trade routes had been reduced to an unimportant backwater village.  It was and still is a significant repository of Islamic literature, most of which was saved in recent fighting between and among Islamic militants, Tuareg rebels, and French and Mali military units.

Thanking you, pater!  Way to keep the NGM honest!

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued in: 1939
From: Conakry, French Guinea
YC #150

Top right:
Issued on: April 15, 1961
From: Bamako, Mali
SW #27

Second row:
Issued in: 1981
From: Bamako, Mali
MC #D24

Third row:
Issued on: September 27, 1979
From: Bamako, Mali
SW #717-718

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: June 28, 1999
From: Paris, France
MC #3399

(Source: africaexpedition.nl)

The primary action between the Jewish internees of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi German troops occupying Poland began on this date in 1943 as the single largest Jewish revolt of WWII.  The Nazis were attempting to transport all the Jews in the ghetto to extermination camps, liquidating the ghetto, but under the direction of the Jewish Combat Organization and the Jewish Military Union (as well as fighters from the Home Army and the People’s Guard), the internees resisted for almost a month before the sheer force of numbers and military might of the Nazi army stamped out the last of the fighters (culminating in the destruction of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw on May 16).  Estimations of the dead after the ghetto was liquidated run to roughly 13,000 killed during the Uprising, with another 56,000 deported to extermination camps.  The Nazis lost 17 men.

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: April 19, 1948
From: Warsaw, Poland
SC #418

Top middle:
Issued on: July 10, 1956
From: Warsaw, Poland
SC #737

Top right:
Issued on: April 19, 1963
From: Warsaw, Poland
SC #1132

Second row:
Issued on: April 19, 1983
From: Warsaw, Poland
SC #2572

Third row left:
Issued on: April 18, 1993
From: Warsaw, Poland
SC #3151

Third row right:
Issued on: April 19, 2013
From: Warsaw, Poland
MC #4605

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: April 2, 2013
From: Tel Aviv, Israel
WNS #016.13

(Source: colnect.com)

The International Court of Justice held its inaugural meeting in the Hague on this date in 1946.  The primary judicial branch of the United Nations, the ICJ is comprised of fifteen judges elected by the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council.  You’ll be surprised to hear that the United States of America (a permanent member of the UN Security Council, as you’ll recall) took umbrage with the ICJ’s ruling that our dirty little war in Nicaragua violated international law, which led to the United States of America’s withdrawal from compulsory jurisdiction in 1986, instead only accepting the Court’s jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis.  Le sigh.  At any rate, the ICJ is located in the Peace Palace of the Hague in Amsterdam.  Stop by and say peace/salaam/shalom/vrede/paix/friede/pax/paz/fred next time you’re in the area!

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued in: 1961
From: United Nations Office, New York
SC #89

Top right:
Issued in: 1979
From: United Nations Office, New York
SC #315

Middle left:
Issued in: 1977
From: Amsterdam, Netherlands
MC #D42

Middle right:
Issued in: 1989
From: Amsterdam, Netherlands
MC #D44

Stamps on bottom:
Issued on: September 9, 2013
From: Amsterdam, Netherlands
MC #3145-3154

(Source: library.law.yale.edu)

Geoffrey Chaucer is said to have recited his Tales of Caunterbury in the court of Richard II on this date in 1397.  And that Aprille day of which he wrote, whose shoures soote hath pierced Marche’s droghte to the roote, has also, incidentally, been set by scholars as April 17 of 1387!  But here, let the Father of English Literature say it is his own words:

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages:
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: October 29, 1976
From: London, England
SG #1014

Top right:
Issued on: December 31, 2000
From: Roseau, Dominica
SC #2252k

Stamps on bottom:
Issued in: 1990
From: Kingstown, St. Vincent
SC #1384

(Source: philatelia.net)

Sir John Franklin, explorer and governor of Tasmania (and also, it should be noted, nephew of explorer Matthew Flinders), was born on this date in 1786.  There is a lovely ballad about his death, “Lord Franklin” (also known as “Lady Franklin’s Lament”), while searching for the Northwest Passage—listen to Sinéad O’Connor sing it (hauntingly, of course).

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: March 22, 1989
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #1234

Top right:
Issued in: 2001
From: St. George’s, Grenada
SG #3397

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: May 25, 2009
From: Victoria, Seychelles
WAD #006.09

(Source: paleophilatelie.eu)

Dr. Johnson’s dictionary was first published on this date in 1755.  While it was not the first English dictionary, nor by any means complete (it’s no OED), he completed it in nine years, almost entirely on his own, a feat, according to Johnson biographer Walter Jackson Bate, that “easily ranks as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever performed by one individual who laboured under anything like the disadvantages in a comparable length of time.”  Johnson was immortalized by James Boswell in his Life of Samuel Johnson, one of the most celebrated works of biographical art in the history of English literature.  This stamp enthusiast particularly likes Johnson’s definition of a lexicographer: “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.”
Stamp details:Issued on: October 8, 2009From: London, EnglandMC #2813

Dr. Johnson’s dictionary was first published on this date in 1755.  While it was not the first English dictionary, nor by any means complete (it’s no OED), he completed it in nine years, almost entirely on his own, a feat, according to Johnson biographer Walter Jackson Bate, that “easily ranks as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever performed by one individual who laboured under anything like the disadvantages in a comparable length of time.”  Johnson was immortalized by James Boswell in his Life of Samuel Johnson, one of the most celebrated works of biographical art in the history of English literature.  This stamp enthusiast particularly likes Johnson’s definition of a lexicographer: “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.”

Stamp details:
Issued on: October 8, 2009
From: London, England
MC #2813

(Source: colnect.com)

The final sequencing mapping of the human genome was published on this date in 2003 by the collaborative Human Genome Project after an initial rough draft was published in June 2000 and a working draft was made available in February 2001.  The Human Genome Project remains the world’s largest collaborative biological project, with geneticists from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Japan, and many others joining together in an international consortium of science and good will.  Yay, collaboration!

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: July 9, 2003
From: Canberra, Australia
SG #2310

Top right:
Issued on: April1 6, 2001
From: Accra, Ghana
SC #2215

Middle stamps:
Issued on: February 25, 2003
From: London, England
SG #2086-2090

Stamp on bottom:
Issued on: March 8, 2010
From: Helsinki, Finland
MC #2019

(Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

The first Abyssinian War (or, more precisely, the First Italo-Ethiopian War) ended on this date in 1896 with a decisive Ethiopian victory at the Battle of Adwa under the newly self-proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia, Menelik II.  [If you’re wondering about the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, it occurred in the 1930s and involved the creation of Italian East Africa—a situation unappealing to most Ethiopians.]

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued in: 1894
From: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
MC #1

Middle stamp:
Issued on: February 25, 1936
From: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
MC #193

Stamps on bottom:
Issued on: 1944
From: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
SC #263-267

(Source: battleofadwa.org)

Canadian Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on this date in 1980 with the intention of running across Canada to raise awareness of and money for cancer research.  Fox was diagnosed in March 1977 with osteosarcoma and his left leg was amputated shortly afterward.  He kept playing basketball (in a wheelchair) and running (with a prosthetic leg) and began making his plans—while in hospital receiving chemo (for 16 months) he was appalled at how little money was being allocated to cancer research.  He was inspired by the story of Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York Marathon, and decided he would complete a marathon (which he did, in Prince George, BC, finishing last) and then continue running, this time the length of Canada.  He ran for 143 days and 3,339 miles before collapsing in Thunder Bay, ON, where doctors discovered his cancer had returned—this time to his lungs.  He died nine months later at the age of 22.  His Marathon of Hope/the Terry Fox Foundation has since raised over C$500 million for cancer research.  We all have difficulties in our lives; let’s remember Terry and the manner in which he redirected his difficulties toward helping others while we battle our own demons today.
Stamp details:Stamp on left:Issued on: April 13, 1982From: Ottawa, CanadaSC #915
Stamp on right:Issued on: January 17, 2000From: Ottawa, CanadaSC #1824c

Canadian Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on this date in 1980 with the intention of running across Canada to raise awareness of and money for cancer research.  Fox was diagnosed in March 1977 with osteosarcoma and his left leg was amputated shortly afterward.  He kept playing basketball (in a wheelchair) and running (with a prosthetic leg) and began making his plans—while in hospital receiving chemo (for 16 months) he was appalled at how little money was being allocated to cancer research.  He was inspired by the story of Dick Traum, the first amputee to complete the New York Marathon, and decided he would complete a marathon (which he did, in Prince George, BC, finishing last) and then continue running, this time the length of Canada.  He ran for 143 days and 3,339 miles before collapsing in Thunder Bay, ON, where doctors discovered his cancer had returned—this time to his lungs.  He died nine months later at the age of 22.  His Marathon of Hope/the Terry Fox Foundation has since raised over C$500 million for cancer research.  We all have difficulties in our lives; let’s remember Terry and the manner in which he redirected his difficulties toward helping others while we battle our own demons today.

Stamp details:
Stamp on left:
Issued on: April 13, 1982
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #915

Stamp on right:
Issued on: January 17, 2000
From: Ottawa, Canada
SC #1824c

(Source: linns.com)

Irish playwright (and philatelist!) George Bernard Shaw’s comic play Pygmalion premiered in London on this date in 1914.  The story of Pygmalion goes back to Ancient Cyprus—the First Century Roman poet Ovid tells his story in Metamorphoses, wherein Pygmalion, a sculptor, falls in love with a statue he has carved [called Galatea by later poets], much as Shaw’s Henry Higgins ostensibly creates a shiny new Liza Doolittle and compromises his own emotions in doing so.  Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe adapted Pygmalion to the musical stage in the 1950s (after Shaw’s death), creating what has been called “the perfect musical.”

Stamp details:
Stamp on top:
Issued on: October 18, 1994
From: Dublin, Ireland
MC #874

Second row:
Issued on: May 7, 1980
From: Dublin, Ireland
MC #417

Third row left:
Issued on: October 1, 2004
From: Dublin, Ireland
MC #1612

Third row right:
Issued on: October 1, 2004
From: Stockholm, Sweden
MC #2423

Fourth row left:
Issued on: November 20, 1984
From: Moscow, USSR
MC #5455

Fourth row right:
Issued in: 1995
From: Gibraltar, Gibraltar
MC #744

Bottom left:
Issued on: 1997
From: Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda
SG #2392

Bottom right:
Issued on: July 14, 1993
From: New York, NY
SC #2770

(Source: literarystamps.blogspot.com)