The town of Spa in Belgium is best known for its mineral waters, so much so that “spa” without a capital “s”, has come into English as meaning a “medicinal or mineral spring or well” (OED). Perhaps rather less well known (at least, in the UK) is that craftsmen began making practical things, such as walking sticks, for visitors from when Spa first became a resort. They soon diversified so that the town gained a reputation for its “Bois de Spa” (Spa wood) objects. As with so many craft skills, production declined in the 20th century but we are left with a rich legacy of collectables. The very many pages of excellent, full-colour, illustrations of Spa stamp boxes are accompanied by fascinating historic photographs, illustrations of documents, construction methods and labels to be found on Spa ware.
“Boîtes à Timbres en Bois de Spa” by Martin Schepers is a joy and a delight. InFrench; published 2021 privately by the author; 88 A4 pages, all in full-colour. Available from the author for €20 plus postage; contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not a great deal has been published about stamp boxes. One of the best known publications is a book by Brian Beet which is a bilingual catalogue of the stamp boxes in the Musée de la Poste, Paris.
Published in 1994, at the time of writing (October 2015), three used copies were being offered on Amazon. Searching “Brian Beet” in “Books” found them.
Stamp Box Society Journals
For just five and a half years – from the Autumn of 1985 until the Spring of 1991 – collectors of stamp boxes had their own, dedicated society. Based in the UK, it had a global reach, with members in mainland Europe and America.
In that time, it produced 13 journals. For more information and to access a downloadable archive of the journals, please go to this page: Stamp Box Society Journals
In the absence of books, auction catalogues can provide a good source of information. Stamp boxes pop up at auctions all over the place but an auction devoted entirely to stamp boxes is a rarity these days.
One of the most famous was the auction of the “Primrose” collection by David Feldman at the millennium Stamp Show at Earls Court, London on 27 May 2000. This catalogue is a hard cover book full of illustrations of stamp boxes from the fairly ordinary to the quite spectacular.
The auctioneer does sell some back catalogues on their website but this one does not appear to be available. However, at the time of writing (October 2015), two used copies were being offered on Amazon. Searching “Primrose auction” in “Books” found them.
The most recent major auction was the “Blue Eyes” collection offered by Spink of London in 2009. The title “Blue Eyes” comes from the star box in the sale, made by Faberge and once owned by Frank Sinatra.
The auctioneer has kindly made a pdf copy of the catalogue available to this website. It may be downloaded from here.
Other books not specifically about stamp boxes may throw some light on particular types of box. Two worth mentioning are Art Nouveau Domestic Metalwork: From Wurttembergische Metallwaren Fabrik, 1906, a reproduction, with extensive additional notes, of the 1906 English catalogue of the famous WMF company. This illustrates some (but not all) of the known WMF stamp boxes (ISBN 978-1851495108); and Swiss Carvings: The Art of the ‘Black Forest’ by Jay Arenski , and
Another interesting book is Tunbridge Ware (3rd. Ed. 2001) (ISDN 9780572025458) by Brian Austen. The bulk of this book deals with Tunbridge Ware chronologically and comprehensively. Given the vast range of Tunbridge Ware, stamp boxes are only a small proportion of the examples given – but they feature with illustrations. There are small sections on Killarney, Spa and Sorrento wares (stamp boxes certainly being known of the last type ) and there are some notes on Mauchline Ware (another ware of which many stamp boxes can be found).
A book on Victorian Brass Needlecases may seem out of place here; but thereby hangs a tale. The book by Estelle Horowitz and Ruth Mann (1990; ISBN 978-0962585326) “does what it says on the tin” and deals with needle cases. However, quite a few of them may also serve as stamp boxes; some even being explicitly designed for dual or multiple uses. On page 25 the authors show a Patent titled: “Case to hold Postage Stamps, Needles, &c.”. There is much for the stamp box collector here; and much that could be argued over.