Guidelines for Judging Philatelic Literature


These guidelines are intended as a checklist which is detailed enough to be of service for specialized literature exhibitions as well as for general philatelic exhibitions in which literature is only one of several classes.

General Principles

While the majority of the principles in exhibiting philatelic literature is identical to those which apply to other philatelic classes as well, there are certain distinct differences.

In the first place, the significance and importance of a piece of literature cannot be seen from the outside. Literature must be judged by its content, and obviously the judges have to be familiar with that content before the start of the exhibition. While the three to five days available for judging will allow time for review and some reading, it in no way suffices for each judge to read each entry thoroughly.

Second, literature exhibits cannot be taken apart and improved from one show to the next. In many cases, the exhibit represents a lifetime of research and effort which will serve philately for years to come. For this reason, the exhibiting of philatelic literature must be looked at primarily as a means of encouraging and promoting such literary efforts, and only secondarily as a competition for various levels of awards.

Third, it follows that the public must be able to examine the literature. A glance at a row of books in a locked case gives little information, and is a disservice to the viewer and the exhibitor. It is the content that is of interest, not the covers.

The F.I.P. has developed a comprehensive set of regulations for evaluating philatelic exhibits, incorporating those F.I.P. principles common to all competitive classes. For philatelic literature, these principles are expressed in the Special Regulations for the Evaluation of Philatelic Literature Exhibits at F.I.P. Exhibitions. They are supplemented by provisions which recognize aspects of philatelic literature which are unique to this class, the Supplementary Rules for the Philatelic Literature Class in F.I.P. Exhibitions.
The two documents, taken as a whole, constitute the requirements for exhibiting and judging philatelic literature at F.I.P. exhibitions.

Use of the Evaluation System

The use of a point system, together with appropriate "scoring sheets", can be helpful in reaching balanced and rational evaluations. However, it must be emphasized that such a system cannot be applied mechanically; the final point totals also must be looked at in terms of the overall quality of the exhibits.

It may be helpful at this point to give some concrete examples of the use of the scoring system. These examples are not taken from actual jury results; they are, however, representative of the evaluations reached during jury deliberations.

1. The Postal History of the Forwarding Agents, by Ken Rowe, published 1984 by L. Hartmann:

Treatment of contents (maximum 40)38

Very clear presentation of a difficult, worldwide subject; the book is easy to use, and reliable

Originality, significance and depth of research (maximum 40)37

Particularly high marks for originality; Rowe was the first to systematically treat this aspect of postal history (in 1966 and again in 1974), inspiring other scholars to do similar research. The subject matter is also of considerable significance. Quite thorough, considering the worldwide scope but Dromberg's recent work on Finnish forwarders lists many important agents not covered by Rowe.

Technical matters (maximum 15)13

A few problems with crossindexing, and with placing of notes.

Presentation (maximum 5)4
92 (= Gold)

2. Eesti Filatelist / The Estonian Philatelist / Der Estnische Philatelist, No. 30 (1984).
Annual publication of the Society of Estonian Philatelists in Sweden and the Estonian Philatelic Society in New York. Edited by Elmar Ojaste. 288 pages.

Treatment of contents (maximum 40)34

Generally well written and edited, with good use of illustrations and tables. Most articles are in several languages, or at least have multilingual summaries. Not all articles are at the same level of clarity and technical soundness.

Originality, significance and depth of research (maximum 40)32

This journal is a critical source for Estonian philately, and contains much original material. This particular issue has several articles reprinted from other sources; also not all of the material is philatelic (some numismatics, some errinophil items).
A single journal issue of course does not have the depth of the recent Handbook of Estonian Philately, although it must be remembered that much of the material in the handbook was originally developed within the pages of the journal.

Technical matters (maximum 15)14
Presentation (maximum 5)4

Occasional weakness in offset reproduction, affecting the legibility of illustrated covers and documents.

84 (= Vermeil)

Please note that the comments above are meant to suggest the mental process used in reaching a "numerical" evaluation. Two aspects of that thought process are worth stressing.
First, judges should look first for the positive aspects of the exhibits, rather than merely looking to see "how many points can I take off".
Second, all evaluations have to be made on a comparative basis with respect to what else has been published on that subject, how well similar matters are handled in other publications, even such questions as how significant a given publication may be for one country or language group as compared with others. These comparative factors can all change from one year or one exhibition to another, and it's conceivable that such changes may affect the evaluation of an exhibit.