Owner Biography

Sybil Fitzgerald

According to information received from the British Library, The FitzGerald Collection was formed by Mrs Sybil FitzGerald, and is an outstanding collection of world air mails to the 1930s. A particular strength of the FitzGerald Collection are the envelopes and items of mail that were carried on pioneer air flights, many of which were flown from fields or sports grounds, as formal airports had not yet been developed. There is also a strong element of ephemeral material that reflects the excitement and cultural impact of these ventures at the time.

Mrs. Sybil Fitzgerald was married to the artist Augustine FitzGerald. Together they co-authored “Naples, Painted by Augustine FitzGerald, Described by Sybil FitzGerald” (1904), and “In the Tracks of the Moors – Sketches in Spain and Northern Africa” (1905).

Mrs FitzGerald originally offered the Collection to the British Museum in a letter dated 5th February 1942:

"I am venturing to write and ask you whether the British Museum would care for the donation of a very valuable Air-Mail Collection. It is a 'pioneer’ collection, composed of the earliest curiosities, stamps, letters, etc., and has, as far as possible, avoided the inclusion of the popular items generally found in the collections exhibited and sold. This Collection has never been exhibited, and publicity has not been sought for it, but it is not unknown among aerophilatelists. In these uncertain times one is anxious to preserve collections of value in what safety may be possible and I realize that were mine to be in my possession at the time of my death, it would be liable to dispersion, or sale, or loss, and its value as a whole would be completely lost. If this offer is of any interest to the-Philatelic Department of the British Museum, I should be very glad to hear from you. If of no interest, I must apologise for troubling you in the matter."

Due to wartime conditions, with existing collections being stored securely, the collection could not be delivered until 1947.

Of a retiring disposition, she did not appear in the philatelic limelight, and although she generously financially supported the organization of the London International Exhibition of 1960, and also contributed to the British Museum's purchases of rare books, we have not yet found a photograph or image of her. The collection was donated in 1947, and announced in The Times on 11 August 1951 ‘Gift To British Museum; Fitzgerald Collection Of Airmail Stamps’. In 1973 the Philatelic Collections (including the Fitzgerald Collection), were transferred from the British Museum to the newly created British Library.

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