Victoria’s Gerald Wellburn, 88, has been collecting B.C. stamps and letters since his arrival on Vancouver Island in 1911.

Painstakingly annotated by hand, mostly by lamplight, Wellburn's The Stamps and Postal History of Vancouver Island and British Columbia (F.E. Eaton and Sons Ltd. $195), is a 164 page, full-colour limited edition book (1,000 copies printed by Vancouver's Agency Press) that represents the invaluable postal history of B.C.

As a unique reflection of the development of the isolated Pacific North'West Crown colonies from 1849 to 1871, the Wellburn collection contains 611 stamps, 234 'covers', nine maps, eight tables, 51 photos and 71 of his own illustrations. Highlights include letters by explorers such as Simon Fraser, a telegram to Doctor John Helmcken relaying the news of B.C.'s admission to confederation and an 1862 letter from Yale-to- Victoria-to San-Francisco-to- Panama-to-N ewYork-to-Paris-to-Milan-to-Bergoma in Italy.

As a pioneer B.C. philatelist Wellburn has won five international awards for his collecting. A family friend of the department store Eaton family, Wellburn has also helped to found the forestry museum in Duncan. F.E. Eaton & Sons operates the largest stamp auction house in the country and were able to initiate The Stamps and Postal History of Vancouver Island and B.C. as a break-even family project.

"Here we are off in the sticks," says Frederick Eaton Jr., "at the edge of the world, and we have international collectors buying copies of the book at $195 a pop. That tells you something about the quality of Wellburn's collection."

Gerald Wellburn continues to upgrade his collection, which is kept in an undisclosed location.

[BCBW Summer 1988]