Did you know that James Murray… was a keen philatelist?
2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life and achievements.
He began to collect stamps in his youth, at a time when philately was still an unusual hobby (the word itself was only coined, in French, in 1864); in fact it was so unusual that the local police became suspicious that his purpose in collecting stamps was to remove the postmarks and re-use them. Opportunities for him to acquire stamps from all over the world increased enormously following his appointment as editor of the OED, a position which involved him in a huge quantity of international correspondence.
After moving to Oxford he was much involved in the Oxford Philatelic Society; during its early years (it was founded in 1890) the Society regularly met at Murray’s own house, and he was for some time its President. He gave several talks to the Society, including one in 1899 on Dutch postcards; the fact that he owned a particularly fine collection of these was due in no small part to his friendship with a Dutchman, A. Caland, who as well as being a much-valued contributor to the Dictionary—he had begun to send in quotations some years earlier, and he read Murray’s proofs for over a decade—shared his enthusiasm for philately, and would often make a point of using specimens of a new issue of Dutch stamps when posting his contributions to Murray.