The rest of the world has not been idle, also turning out issues of interest, while the United States has been dominating the scene as it cranked out a multitude of higher rate stamps to meet the postal increases imposed several months ago.
France has put out a set of horizontal, multicolored issues bearing the portraits and autographs of six of its greatest authors, in most instances marking the 100th anniversary of their births or deaths. All are semipostals, with a surcharge added to the denomination to go to charitable causes.
The only one of the six not of the 20th century is Victor Hugo, who died 100 years ago at the age of 83. Poet, dramatist and novelist, he was called by Swinburne "the greatest man born since the death of Shakespeare." He is best known for "Les Mise'rables" and "Notre Dame de Paris," and such immortal characters as the hunchbacked Quasimodo and Jean Valjean and Javert.
Jules Romains, Franc,ois Mauriac and Roland Dorgele s were all born a century ago and all died in the 1970s. Romains was a poet and novelist, including a novel of early 20th century French life in 27 volumes. Mauriac's novels and essays dealt principally with Catholic themes. Dorgele s chronicled first the life of artistic Paris and then the horrors of the two world wars.
Roman Rolland, 1866-1944, a Nobel Prize-winning novelist, is best known for his 10-volume "Jean Christophe." Jean-Paul Sartre, 1905-1980, is best known as the "inventor" of existentialism. He refused the Nobel Prize in 1964.
Romania has also issued a set of six stamps commemorating writers and historians. Like the French set, four of the figures were born or died in 1885.
Two stamps from Finland mark the 150th anniversary of the Kalevala, a collection of the nation's traditional poetry that holds a significant place among the great epics of world literature. Those who rendered the poems and incantations were called rune singers, and two of the most famous appear on the commemoratives. One shows Pedri Semeikka, one of the greatest 19th-century rune singers, with a cornucopia of incantations. The other pictures Larin Paraske, noted for her memory of thousands of poems and as the foremost legend-teller of Finland.
Still in the realm of language and literature, there is Rhaetoroman, and Switzerland gets the prize for what will be, hands down, the most esoteric issue of the year. It is a commemorative for the 2,000th anniversary of Rhaetoromania, and, incidentally, a great contribution to Trivial Pursuit.
The name is a combination of "Rhaetia" and "Roman." The Romans conquered Rhaetia, in the east of the country, in 15 B.C. and the native tongue got mixed with Latin and lived on. It is Switzerland's fourth official language, along with German, French and Italian, spoken only in the canton of Grisons. To save the language from extinction, the Swiss use it on documents and stamps.
"Masterpieces of the Hermitage," an ongoing series from the Soviet Union, has added two more groupings of stamps, one reproducing six of its French paintings and the other six of the Spanish paintings in the museum. Its collection of French paintings is proclaimed the greatest outside France. The set pictures works by Boucher, Poussin, Voille, Renoir, Fragonard and Degas, the latter respectively with their famous "A Stolen Kiss" and "Woman at Her Toilet." The Spanish paintings on stamps are by Murillo, De Zurbara'n, Pereda, Puga, Goya and Vela'zquez.
To mark the reopening of the Jewish Museum in Budapest, Hungary has depicted Jewish art in the country on a set of seven, all 24-forint values. The stamps show various religious items of the 19th century from Warsaw, Moscow, Vienna and Budapest, such as adornments on Torah rolls, chalices, a candlestick and a funeral-collecting box.
Treasured structures of Jerusalem are depicted on a souvenir sheet put out by Israel for the World Stamp Exhibition, "Israphil 85," taking place now in Tel Aviv. The sheet emphasizes the common roots of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It shows the Western Wall, the relic of the great temple Solomon built and the holiest place of Jewish pilgrimage. It shows the mosque of the Dome of the Rock, built on the world's cornerstone, according to Islamic tradition. It shows the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional tomb of Jesus.
A souvenir card for the exhibition from the United States, printed in Hebrew, stresses the commitment of both countries to welcoming immigrants. The card reproduces the 1922 stamp depicting the Statue of Liberty and the 1950 Israeli stamp symbolizing the struggle to immigrate.
The card is sold at philatelic centers in uncanceled form and by mail order in both canceled and uncanceled form. A 22-cent Flag stamp is affixed on canceled cards. Uncanceled cards are $2, canceled cards are $2.22. Mail orders, which are subject to a $5 minimum and a 50-cent handling charge, should be addressed to Israphil 85 Souvenir Card, Philatelic Sales Division, Washington, D.C. 20265-9997.