Cover Image: American Stamp

American Stamp

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Member Reviews

I am grateful to NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The American Stamp is a book that explores the role of stamps in the United States as both functional objects and symbols of politics, culture, citizenship and consumer tastes. The authors suggest that stamps reveal something about the American experience. The book examines the thousands of stamps issued by the US government over the last century and a half, looking at how they have changed over time and the various interests and agendas that have shaped their design. The book also examines the role of stamps as collectables and the impact of lobbying groups on the stamp-collecting process. 

I was expecting a book dominated by graphics;  stamps, their designs, themes and changes over the years. A book for someone mildly interested in these areas, perhaps a coffee-table book to browse at ones leisure. The American Stamp is not such a book. It is a far more ambitious book. Likely aimed at an academic audience and therefore of more interest to serious scholars and collectors of stamps.

As a book is focussed on the historical and cultural significance of stamps, it is dominated by somewhat academic text with minimal illustrations, pictures and other graphics. It may be less engaging to readers looking for a more visually engaging experience. Nevertheless, there may be many parts of the book a less-serious reader or amateur collector may enjoy reading, as I did.
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This book was certainly interesting to read. Not only do you get the story about the history of the stamps but a short history of the subjects and a history of the American postal service. I did find aspects of the book over simplified. Which surprised me for a university publisher. There was some repetition of points, but that could just be the review edition I had. I did like the pictures that were included it really helped break up the text. I really would of love to see them it colour, though. I certainly learnt a lot from reading this book. I recommend this book for those new to stamps or those who find the postal service interesting. 

Many thanks to the author and publishers for bringing us this interesting read.
The above review has already been placed on goodreads, waterstones, Google books, Barnes&noble, kobo, amazon UK (on pub date) where found and my blog today under ladyreading365
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The American Stamp is a well written, mostly layman accessible monograph on the history and context of stamps/postage in American culture. Released 3rd Jan 2023 by the Columbia University Press, it's 368 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

Dr. Laura Goldblatt  has taken what could've been the tweediest, driest, most academic treatise and made it both accessible and interesting. The subject matter is admittedly academic, there's enough annotation and chapter notation and bibliography to satisfy the staunchest pedant but at the same time, there's a clear and compelling historical and sociological narrative. The book's not lavishly illustrated, the included photos and facsimiles are in black and white, but nevertheless, there's a distinct and followable thread throughout showing correlations between the rise of the mail service and postage stamps to the growth and shaping of the United States.

There were quite a lot of surprising revelations for me in this book about stamps, the actual logistics of mail delivery, infrastructure and how it relates to democracy, lifestyle, philately, and more. Throughout the book, the author & contributor have included numerous photographs and illustrations (in black & white/grayscale) which I enjoyed very much.

Well written, meticulously annotated and researched, with a clear and engaging narrative. Four and a half stars. Definitely a niche selection, but the best and most comprehensive example of parallel comparative study of social change as reflected in stamp subjects and imagery that I've seen (it's not a huge field, I think).

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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The American Stamp, by Laura Goldblatt and Richard Handler, is an interesting history of the stamp as well as a look at what it represents and has represented.

This is a well-structured and convincing argument, though once the facts are presented it seems like the role of postage stamps as illustrating what was/is considered American. In doing so it has obviously become a commodity. These arguments are made so clearly that only the weakest of readers would think they had to "stretch" to make their points. But then again those people probably can't follow a rational argument and will claim it is poorly organized, when it is their reading comprehension skills that are most lacking.

While I found the discussion of how the iconography changed, particularly after the civil rights movement, very interesting I was especially interested in possible explanations for why much of the diversity is limited to short run special series rather than anything that will likely stay in circulation longer and be purchased by people other than collectors.

Since I am neither a stamp collector nor well-versed in postal history, this was as much a history book as an argument about how to look at that history. I was unaware of much of what has surrounded the history mail delivery and stamps.

Recommended for both stamp collectors and those interested in history. Also those for whom studying iconography as it relates to national identity will find a lot here to enjoy.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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As someone who knows almost nothing about stamps but was fascinated by them on a sociological level, I found this read interesting. I enjoyed learning more about how stamps came to be and their implications within our systems today. The book definitely tried to do a lot and I feel like a dedicated stamp enthusiast may have gotten more out of this. 3/5 stars
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The authors have made a very large stretch to explore stamps as both a commodity and a government tax for service and that the images used are somehow tied to our definition of democracy. Long winded and directionless this is a book only for the most dedicated philatelist (stamp collector) and not for anyone who enjoys the concept of a small thing having broad value and utility beyond its pre-defined purpose.
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This book is incredibly interesting to read but could have benefited from better and colored pictures.  Overall, I enjoyed it.
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