Now is an opportune moment to introduce our next legendary collector, because he helped several of the philatelists we have already featured to establish their collections as some of the world’s greatest ever stamp collections.  Sir Edward Denny Bacon (1860 to 1938) was a British professional philatelist and is probably best known for being the Curator of the Royal Philatelic Collection between 1913 and 1938.

And indeed it was our King of Philately, King George V, who appointed Bacon to the role, and later also honoured him for his services in 1917 with a knighthood.

Bacon took over from John Tilleard (1850 to 1913) a notable British philatelist who in recognition of his services The Royal Philatelic Society London created The Tilleard Medal awarded for best display of philately and is one of the original ‘Fathers’ of Philately on The Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. Tilleard was credited as being the tactician behind King George V’s extensive collection of Commonwealth and GB stamps. However, at the time of Tilleards death in 1913 the mounting of this vast collection still needed to be undertaken and our next legendary collector had caught the eye of the King as the man who could take his collection forward.

You see Edward Denny Bacon was a fulltime philatelist from 1895 and the Royal Collection wasn’t the only elite philatelic collection that he enlarged and ‘mounted’, and King George V wasn’t the only eminent philatelist he served.

It’s remarkable to study Bacon’s rise to Sir Edward, and his influence upon other legendary collectors such as Tapling and Duveen. In truth, it is sufficient in philatelic terms just to report upon his trusted position alongside the King, who’s collection he helped expand and write up for such a lengthy period. But there are other remarkable attributes to Sir Edward’s contribution to the hobby which we shall also report upon, for he was an individual who occupied a unique space when he established himself as a professional Philatelic Valet, so to speak, to the rich collectors of his era.    

Edward Denny Bacon joined the Royal Philatelic Society in 1890, and began to assist Thomas Tapling, who we featured in legendary collector #4 as the person who assembled the world’s greatest stamp collection prior to his untimely death aged just 35, in 1891. At Tapling’s passing and his collection being bequeathed to the British Museum, it was Denny Bacon who organised, mounted and described the collection in order to present it for an exhibition in February 1897. Following that mammoth task, he was engaged by Henry J. Duveen, our Philatelic Uncle and legendary collector #13, to manage his collection. Denny Bacon was also responsible for the production, in 1911, of the highly regarded “Catalogue of the Philatelic Library of the Earl of Crawford”, which earned *Crawford a Gold Medal at the 1911 Vienna Philatelic Exhibition. With all these activities it is a puzzle how he found the time to form his own collection, but he did and assembled an important study of Japan, which was later sold to Ferrary, and a significant collection of Postal Stationery, which Tapling acquired.  

Sir Edward’s contributions didn’t stop at collections, he was a writer of articles and literature, such as “Reprints of Postal Adhesive Stamps” and “The Line Engraved Postage Stamps of Great Britain”, which he was awarded the Crawford Medal in 1921. In the same year he signed the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists, and I almost forgot, he was also awarded the Lindenburg Medal in its very first year of award in 1906.

He was president of The Royal Philatelic Society London between 1917 and 1923, and instrumental in the setting up of the Expert Committee in 1893.

As Curator of the Royal Collection, Bacon’s duties were to attend to the King’s stamp collection and ensure the very best order and display. This meant Denny Bacon would procure stamps, receive and arrange material that arrived from UK post offices, and those from British colonies. He would quite literally dress the red albums associated with King George V’s part of the Royal Collection, and make adjustments to the outward appearance to any aspect of his Master’s pages which were out of place or not shown in the best possible light. When the King exhibited or displayed, which he did occasionally, it was Denny Bacon and latter Sir Edward who would ensure there were no philatelic or Royal blushes.

And as well as performing his duties to the King’s standard, it is well known that King George V thought of Sir Edward as a friend, rather than a servant. In many ways ‘a valet’ isn’t adequate to describe Sir Edward Denny Bacon’s contribution given the philatelic holy trinity of collectors he served, but it is a very apt way to describe the pronounced image he has left on the world of philately.

Perhaps because of his close connection with the wealthy and the sovereign collectors of this fascinating period in philatelic history a better analogy, which is often used for the elite valet, is “A Gentleman’s Gentleman”. In Sir Edward’s case he was most definitely that, but no doubt better remembered as “The King’s Gentleman”. However, here and looking at the broader picture, Sir Edward Denny Bacon is the original ‘Philatelic Valet.’

Next time we meet Charles Lathrop Pack. You can catch-up on the previous 16 legendary collectors by clicking the links: Legendary Collectors: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15 and Part 16


Note: *James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford and will be our legendary collector #21 coming soon.