Major Evans was elected a member of the Royal
Philatelic Society in 1875. He served as a member of the Council
from 1891 until 1900, and was one of the three original members of the
Expert Committee, which was appointed in 1894.
He assisted in preparing some of the Society's works, especially in
that of Africa Part II. Evans was Chairman of the Permanent Committee
of the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain. He served as one of the
judges at the London Philatelic Exhibitions of 1890, 1897 and 1906.
He was among the first twenty on the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists.
About this pioneer philatelist, E. D. Bacon wrote:
"The works and papers of Major Evans are distinguished by great lucidity
and accuracy, two of the most important qualifications that a writer
on a scientific subject can possess. He had a keen sense of humor, which
constantly peeps out in his writings, and he could seldom resist the
temptation of making a pun when he saw an opportunity of doing so."
Evans was born at Norwich,
England, on November 3rd, 1846, and commenced collecting stamps as a
student at Uppingham
Grammar School in 1861. So enthusiastic was he about his hobby that
when he left the institution in December 1862, he was the proud possessor
of the best collection within its precincts.
Throughout his life, he contributed his expert knowledge to philately.
His first article was "On Stamp Collecting," and it appeared in the
"North of England Stamp Review and Advertizer" of November, 1864, under
the pseudonym "Cheth." For this his reward was a prize of stamps, the
'greatest treasure' of which was a set of forged Liberia. He kept these
in his album for some time before he became aware that they were forgeries.
After he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Artillery, in 1867,
he was sent to Malta,
and there met Lieutenant Speranza, who had formerly been the Secretary
to the London Philatelic Society. It appears that it was this acquaintance
that spurred him on to cultivate stamp collecting even further. While
stationed in Malta, for nearly six years, he studied Italian. This knowledge
enabled him, many years later, to translate Dr. E. Diena's great work
on the Stamps of Sicily. When Evans returned to England, with his battery,
in 1873 and he was stationed at Plymouth. While there he became acquainted
with E. Stanley Gibbons. It was about this time, that Evans, in his
own words, "began to understand how stamps should be collected."
In 1876 he took another
bold step. He volunteered to serve with a battery that was posted to
Mauritius. He took this step, no doubt, with the hope of being able
to do something for philately in that island. While in Mauritius he
wrote a learned paper on the stamps of the Colony. In 1878, he sent
the paper to the "Congres International des Timbrophiles" at Paris.
The paper earned for him the award of the Societe
Francaise de Timbrologie, of which he had been a member since
Referring to this work, the President of the Society-Dr. Legrand-said,
"Amateurs cannot but be under an obligation to the French Society for
having rewarded the efforts made by Evans to solve their difficulties.
He has shown philatelists how the materials wherewith to prosecute their
science ought to be collected."
By now a captain, Evans was sent to Natal in 1879 to take part in the
Zulu war after the disaster at Isandlawana. While in South Africa he
bought at face value a couple of entire sheets of the Transvaal 1879
provisionals 1d on 6d slate, with the red surcharge.
At the beginning of 1880 he returned to England and took up an appointment
as Adjutant of Artillery Militia at Wicklow, Ireland. His military duties
at the time were light and this was a blessing. In the five years he
spent in Wicklow he produced some important works. His contributions
- His papers on, the Stamps
of Mauritius were published in The Philatelic Record in 1880 and 1881.
- In 1882 he compiled "A Catalogue for Collectors of Postage Stamps,
Stamped Envelopes, Wrappers and Postcards" which was priced by the publishers-Pemberton
Wilson & Co.
- In 1885 Stanley
Gibbons & Co. published "The Philatelic Handbook" written by
- In 1887 C. H. Mekeel (St. Louis) published a "Catalogue of the Postage
Stamps of Peru" by Evans and in 1890 the same firm issued "The Philatelic
Catalogue of Postage Stamps, Envelopes, Wrappers and Cards, Up to January
- An arrangement was made in 1894 that he should write a "description
of the Mulready envelopes and of the imitations and caricatures of its
design, etc." and this work was published by Stanley Gibbons, Ltd.,
which ran through three editions.
- His great collection of "Mulreadies and its Caricatures" was, later
on, purchased by H. M. King George V.
In 1891 Evans started editing Stanley
Gibbons Monthly Journal which had been founded in July, 1890. He
continued this work until the outbreak of the Great War in August, 1914,
when the publication of the Monthly Journal was suspended. For twenty-three
years Evans edited this publication. Evans also edited the last five
volumes of Gibbons Stamp Weekly. His friend E. D. Bacon wrote as follows
in the London Philatelist for April, 1922:
"He made the lists of new issues of stamps one of the conspicuous features
of the journal, and no praise can be too high for the assiduous care
he lavished, on this work. No lists, certainly in any other English
journal covering the same period, approach those he compiled for completeness
and accuracy, and they will always remain a mine of wealth to all writers
who are seeking for information on stamps issued during the years the
magazine was published."
During his editorship of the Monthly Journal, Evans contributed a
large number of highly important articles. Among them were a series
that ran for several years on the stamps of the Native States of India.
Much of the information contained in the articles was based on his own
very large collection. Even today these articles are the standard on
these complex groups of native stamps.
While Evans was in Mauritius
he formed a large collection of the Mauritius stamps. These included
a very fine specimen of the One Penny "POST OFFICE" lightly postmarked
on an entire envelope and several unused Two Pence "Post Paid" in indigo
and dark blue.
In 1885 when this collection was broken up, these (and many others)
were bought by T. K. Tapling. They are now in the British
After giving up his general collection, Major Evans specialized in
the stamps of the Confederate States, and wrote a long series of articles
in the Monthly Journal. About 1914 this collection was sold to John
Major Evans died on March 21, 1922, at his residence at Cantley, Norfolk.