Tag Archives: British stamps

Classic Locomotives of Wales Miniature Sheet released

Today marks the release of the last in the series of four Miniature Sheets that began in England in 2011: Classic Locomotives of Wales Miniature Sheet. The Scotland Miniature was released in 2012 and Northern Ireland in 2013. The Classic Locomotives series pays tribute to the stream locomotives, assets to the railways before diesel and electric technology completely took over in the 1960s.

Classic Locomotives of Wales - First Day Cover.

Classic Locomotives of Wales – First Day Cover.

The earliest railways in Wales were built for commercial and industrial purposes and served collieries and smelting works. Classic Locomotives of Wales features steam locomotives used on the public railway network and  industrial settings.

LMS No.7720, 1st Class.

LMS No.7720, 1st Class.

W&LLR No. 822 The Earl, 88p.

W&LLR No. 822 The Earl, 88p.

BR 5600 No.5652, £1.28.

BR 5600 No.5652, £1.28.

Hunslet No.589 Blanche, 78p.

Hunslet No.589 Blanche, 78p.

All four Miniature Sheets and associated products, with the exception of the First Day Covers, are still available.

The Classic Children’s TV stamps can be ordered through royalmail.com/classiclocomotives and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Animals and Stamps

Animals have featured on British stamps at least once a year since 1960; either as the main focus of the issue or to symbolise cultural traditions. The recurrence of animals on stamps reveals their varied importance; as pets, as the focus of preservation campaigns, as sporting and working companions, in art and literature, in folklore, and as symbols of national values.

Depictions of animals on stamps from 1911 until the 1960s were often symbolic promotions of the strength of the Empire. In 1924 a lion represented the British Empire’s power; in 1929 a horse alluded to medieval chivalry; in 1946 a dove represented peace; and in 1948 a cart horse signified a perceived return to a pastoral ideal in liberated Jersey.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

The 1960s saw a continuation of animal symbolisation, for example a squirrel happily embodied the message of a 1961 Post Office Savings Bank stamp. This decade also saw the first instance of animals as a stamp issue’s central theme with National Nature Week in 1963.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

In the late 1970s a yearly animal routine was established, with British Wildlife 1977, Horses 1978 and Dogs 1979 issued successively, and this pattern has only increased in subsequent years, accompanied by the development of a number of themes.

Animal companionship is emphasised in issues such as the endearing Cats and Dogs 2001, Cats 1995, Dogs 1981 and Dogs 1979.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Conservation is advocated in issues such as Action for Species 2007 – 2010, World Wildlife Fund 2011, and the 1998 Endangered Species issue. The diversity of British species was explored in Sea Life 2007, Insects 2008 and Woodland Creatures 2004. The importance of animal welfare was championed in RSPCA 1990 and Battersea Dogs and Cats 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

Working Animals were the focus of issues such as All the Queen’s Horses 1997, Farm Animals 2005, and feature on the forthcoming Working Horses issue.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Birds of Prey 2003 featured astounding images of a barn owl and kestrel mid-flight, demonstrating wildlife photography techniques.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Animals’ connection with folklore was explored in Folklore 1981, which depicted love birds for Valentine’s Day and animal heads atop Medieval Mummers. Animals’ connection with superstition was explored in Good Luck 1991, which featured a magpie (spotting one, according to superstition, signifies impending sorrow, while seeing two means joy), a kingfisher (said to be able to forecast the weather) and a black cat (signifying good or bad luck, depending on who you ask). Cats and dogs rain from the sky in the 2001 issue Weather, in a nod to the traditional adage.

Weather, 2001.

Weather, 2001.

Images of birds symbolised migration in the 1999 Settlers’ Tale issue, and hope in the 1992 Protection of the Environment issue.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

The prevalence of animals in British art, literature and theatre is demonstrated in issues such as Animal Tales 2006, Just So Stories 2002, Edward Lear 1988, Shakespeare Festival 1964 and British Paintings 1967.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

This frequent return to animals in stamp design demonstrates the variety of ways in which we interact with animals and their varied role in cultural traditions.

 There are many, many more depictions of animals on stamps. Which is your favourite?

-Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

2013 Christmas stamp design competition : Winners announced

The winners of the 2013 Christmas stamp design competition have been announced today.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Santa’, designed by Molly Robson aged 7 from West Sussex is to be featured on the first class Christmas stamps from 5th November 2013.

‘Santa’, designed by Molly Robson aged 7, from West Sussex, will be the 1st Class Christmas Stamp, and ‘Singing Angels’, by Rosie Hargreaves aged 10, from Devon, is to feature on the 2nd Class Christmas stamp. The winners will attend a prize-giving at Clarence House with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Royal Mail Chief Executive Officer, Moya Greene. The winning designs were chosen from over 240,000 entries received from children aged between four and eleven across the UK in response to the question ‘What does the Christmas season mean to you?’

This is only the third time in Royal Mail’s near 500-year history that children have designed the Christmas Stamps. The Prince of Wales led the judging panel that chose the winning designs. A new website has been launched for children, parents and teachers to view the entries submitted to the competition: www.royalmailstampcompetition.com.

Christmas stamp 2013

‘Singing Angels’, by Rosie Hargreaves aged 10 from Devon, is to feature on the second class Christmas stamp from 5th November 2013.

You can also find out more about the first ever Christmas stamps (which were also designed by children) at our website.

Dinosaurs

Today Royal Mail has issued 10 new stamps featuring Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs have not appeared on stamps since 1991 but as they are a perennially popular subject, especially with children, an examination of how they may have looked was considered to be a good topic for stamps. The stamp designs in this issue are printed such that the creatures ‘break out’ of the self-adhesive stamp frame, so there is not a clean straight edge to the stamp.

Over the past 200 years the fossilised remains of the skeletons of the dinosaurs featured in this issue have been found in the UK, mostly in southern Britain. The following dinosaurs feature on the stamps:

Polacanthus, 1st class.

Polacanthus, 1st class.

Ichthyosaurus, 1st class.

Ichthyosaurus, 1st class.

Iguanodon, 1st class.

Iguanodon, 1st class.

Ornithocheirus, 1st class.

Ornithocheirus, 1st class.

Baryonyx, 1st class.

Baryonyx, 1st class.

Dimorphodon, 1st class.

Dimorphodon, 1st class.

Hypsilophodon, 1st class.

Hypsilophodon, 1st class.

Cetiosaurus, 1st class.

Cetiosaurus, 1st class.

Megalosaurus, 1st class.

Megalosaurus, 1st class.

Plesiosaurus, 1st class.

Plesiosaurus, 1st class.

John Sibbick was the artist selected to produce the artwork for the Dinosaurs issue. He is one of the foremost illustrators of dinosaurs and has decades of experience. It was felt that Sibbick’s painterly approach gave a more detailed realisation of the animals than tests with computer generated imagery at stamp size.

Dr Angela Milner of the Natural History Museum, London, was the consultant for this issue, and advised on the species and the accuracy of the final images to be reproduced on stamps.

The Dinosaurs stamps can be ordered online at www.royalmail.com/dinosaurs and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Kings and Queens: Constructing a Legacy

The Kings and Queens series of stamps chronicles a 600 year history of British monarchy, from Henry VI in 1339 to Elizabeth II, and depicts portraits of each ruler in the houses of Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stewart, Stuart, Hanover, Saxe-Coburg and Windsor; an epic issue which was released over four years. This blog examines the legacy of two monarchs: Richard III and Lady Jane Grey. Evidence in the stamp issue reveals the construction of a history which legitimised the successive victor’s rule and propaganda which consolidated their power. This reconstructed past is still popularly bought into, highlighting the success of the original spin doctors.

The Houses of Lancaster and York stamps, issued 28 February 2008.

The Houses of Lancaster and York stamps, issued 28 February 2008.

Richard III: villain or victim? Opinion is split where this monarch is concerned due, in part, to successful Tudor propaganda. I ought to make clear that I do not wish to determine who was responsible for the infamous deaths of ‘the Princes in the Tower’ nor establish which monarch was most ‘wicked’ but to identify activities following Richard’s death which constructed an evil identity, actions which may have been orchestrated by the Tudors in order to legitimise their rule.

The animalisation of Richard in Shakespeare’s Richard III describes him as “spider”, “toad” and “hedgehog” in order to brutalise and dehumanise him; Richard’s “deformed” and “unfinished” physicality purportedly representing the monster within. Richard III was published during the reign of Elizabeth I, granddaughter of Richard’s conqueror. The play reinforced the Tudor lore that Henry VII swept away evil and brought justice to the land. Interestingly, a powerful patron of Shakespeare’s was Ferdinando Stanley; heir to the throne, following his mother, if Elizabeth died without issue. Ferdinando Stanley was a descendent of the brothers Thomas and William Stanley who had a reputation of playing for both sides in the Wars of the Roses and waited until the decisive victor of the Battle of Bosworth was clear until joining the Tudor forces. One might consider the plausibility of Stanley’s involvement in Shakespeare’s creation of monster-Richard in order to immortalize the role his family played in ensuring Tudor victory and retell their past Yorkist involvement in a more sympathetic light.

Richard III (1483-1485) stamp, issued 28 February 2008.

Richard III (1483-1485) stamp, issued 28 February 2008.

The portrait of Richard III used in the stamp issue was painted in around 1520, there is no surviving contemporary portrait of Richard, and has been the inspiration for most subsequent likenesses. X-ray analysis of the portrait reveals that the unevenness of the shoulders was a later addition. The painting was completed around four years after the birth of Henry VIII’s only child to that point: a daughter, Mary. This was a challenging time for the Tudors as stability was dependent on a line of male heirs. The negative portrayal of Richard III in this context is important as it reaffirmed the greatness of Tudor rule. One may imagine that the portrait was sent back to be made more hideous in order to further bolster the juxtaposition between the monstrous old rulers and virtuous Tudors.

Adding weight to the argument of Tudor propaganda is the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton; confirmed to be that of the monarch in 2013. The skeleton showed evidence of scoliosis and infers that Richard would have been quite stooped. This characteristic was exploited and enlarged in the Tudor period and Richard’s body transformed into a symbol of malignity, perhaps because successful lies are built on shreds of truth. Unfortunately the skeleton cannot prove or disprove John Rous’s assertion, made shortly after Richard’s death, that Richard was born with fully grown teeth and hair, but I am confident that this can be apportioned to Tudor monster making.

House of Tudor stamps, issued 21 April 2009.

House of Tudor stamps, issued 21 April 2009.

The Royal Mail press release for The House of Tudor issue describes the era as “marking the end of the Middle Ages [and]… the introduction of the Renaissance into England.” This simplistic statement is dependent on value judgements which reduce vast periods into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Popular history buys into these sweeping judgements by maintaining the use of monarch’s nicknames such as Richard the Lionheart which denotes bravery and superiority. William I’s competing nicknames demonstrate the importance of victory to the construction of positive legacy as the nickname ‘William the Bastard’ vied with, and ultimately lost to, ‘William the Conqueror.’

Lady Jane Grey (1553) stamp, issued 21 April 2009.

Lady Jane Grey (1553) stamp, issued 21 April 2009.

Jane Grey, great granddaughter of Henry VII, was Queen for nine days in July 1553. On the stamp issue, and every website I found in a rudimental internet search, she is referred to as Lady Jane Grey; never Queen Jane. Regardless of how she became Queen, Queen she was. Regardless of the length of her reign, reign she did. That she is not remembered as Queen Jane reinforces the legacy of illegitimate rule. The ‘Lady’ title happily suits both historical identities constructed around Jane: either she was never the legitimate Queen hence she was only ever a Lady, or, the queenship was foisted upon the unsuspecting Jane hence she only ever wanted to be a Lady. Jane Grey is the only monarch in the series without the appropriate title. The maintenance of the ‘Lady’ title in the stamp issue compounds the identities most commonly attached to her: a pretender, seizing the position unjustly or a puppet, forced into power. The way that we refer to Jane Grey reveals perceptions regarding her personality which subsequently become accepted as fact.

Public memory of monarchs’ personalities is often constructed by their vanquishers through title, nickname, plays and portraits. This version of history belies complex events and their subsequent reconstruction. The Kings and Queens series is most interesting in the presentation of historical constructs which are accepted as fact but were carefully constructed historical fiction.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

British Auto Legends

A new set of stamps issued today celebrates some of the most stylish and ‘cool’ British motor vehicles revered throughout the world. 2013 sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Royce, motoring and aviation pioneer who founded Rolls-Royce with Charles Stewart Rolls. It is also the centenary of the founding of Aston Martin.

The stamp issue British Auto Legends explores two kinds of legendary cars – the thoroughbreds from the 1960s and 70s, many of which feature in experts’ lists of the greatest cars of all time, and four British workhorses – all classic and iconic vehicles.

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds

British Auto Legends - The Workhorses - 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail; Austin FX4, London Taxi; Ford Anglia, Police; Land Rover, Coastguard.

British Auto Legends – The Workhorses – 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail; Austin FX4, London Taxi; Ford Anglia, Police; Land Rover, Coastguard.

Superb examples of the six thoroughbreds were located in virtually factory fresh conditions, and all were photographed by the expert car photographer James Mann, involving specialist lighting and set up to capture the classic lines of the vehicles.

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Jaguar E-Type, 1961

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Jaguar E-Type, 1961

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1965

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1965

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Aston Martin DB5, 1963

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Aston Martin DB5, 1963

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28: MG MGB, 1962

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28: MG MGB, 1962

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28: Morgan Plus 8, 1968

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28: Morgan Plus 8, 1968

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28 Lotus Esprit, 1976

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28 Lotus Esprit, 1976

One of the workhorses, the Morris Minor van in Royal Mail livery, is the contribution to the PostEurop theme of 2013 (the Post Van).

British Auto Legends - The Workhorses - 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail

British Auto Legends – The Workhorses – 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail

For a country of such small geographical stature, Great Britain’s role in shaping the history of the automobile cannot be underestimated. From the kernel of the ‘horseless carriage’, grew an industry that once accounted for a quarter of the world’s car production and almost half of all vehicle exports. Today, car manufacturing remains a significant part of the British economy with several marques currently enjoying record sales. However, the road to prominence was littered with potholes.

An astonishing 221 firms entered the industry between 1901 and 1905. From this jumping off point, the British motor industry began to flourish, with the likes of Herbert Austin and William Morris applying mass production techniques as they bid to bring motoring to the masses. However, it was only after the end of Second World War that the UK truly became a car manufacturing powerhouse.

Initially afflicted by shortages of raw materials, the British motor industry soon found its feet as governmental controls channelled the supply of steel to firms that exported 50 per centlater 75 per cent – of production. The term ‘Export or Die’ was seared into the collective consciousness.

By contrast, France, Italy and Germany’s motor industries had suffered grievously and took considerably longer to recover from the conflict. British firms were all too happy to exploit this situation and export sales surged with demand in Europe, as well as North America, resulting in record production figures. Add in commonwealth countries where there was a ready-made market and it is little wonder that the British motor industry was in the driving seat.

Unfortunately, this situation could not last. A mixture of political intrigue, shotgun weddings between former rivals and union unrest served to bring the industry to its knees. Sell-offs and plant closures would become watchwords in decades to come, culminating in the collapse of MG Rover in 2005. Yet for all the pain and pratfalls, the British motor industry continued to build landmark classics while also creating and exploiting niche markets – this is the nation that invented the sports car after all.

Today, there are just seven volume producers and they are all foreign owned. Nevertheless, these and other, smaller manufacturers continue to build cars that appeal on the global stage; brands that marry style with ingenuity and quality with refinement.

The British Auto Legends stamps can be ordered online at www.royalmail.com/autolegends and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win stamps

Royal Mail is celebrating Andy Murray’s historic win in the Gentlemen’s Singles final at Wimbledon by issuing Special Stamps.

Andy Murray miniature sheet.

Andy Murray miniature sheet.

The stamps, on sale from tomorrow, mark Murray’s fantastic achievement in becoming the first Briton to win the Gentlemen’s Championship in 77 years. He beat number one seed Novak Djokovic in three straight sets. Fred Perry was the last Briton to win the Gentlemen’s Singles title, in 1936.

The issue features different images of Murray on four stamps, all printed within a miniature sheet. Two stamps show him with the trophy and two are action shots from the final (one at 1st Class rate and one at the £1.28 overseas letter rate.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, 1st class value.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, 1st class value.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, £1.28 value.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, £1.28 value.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, 1st class value.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, 1st class value.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, £1.28 value.

Andy Murray Wimbledon Champion, £1.28 value.

Andrew Hammond, Managing Director, Stamps and Collectibles at Royal Mail, said:

We are thrilled for Andy and are delighted to mark his wonderful achievement by issuing a set of Special Stamps.  His historic win at Wimbledon has made the nation proud, and we can now celebrate his success with this new stamp issue.

Andy’s stamp joins just a handful of special stamps we have issued to mark unique moments in British sporting history, including the next day Gold Medal stamps for London 2012, England’s Ashes and football and rugby World Cup wins.

This is the second time Murray’s achievements have been marked by a Royal Mail stamp. Royal Mail issued a Gold Medal stamp to mark his win in the Tennis Men’s Singles at the London 2012 Olympic Games last summer.

Andy Murray Gold Medal Winner stamp, 2012.

Andy Murray Gold Medal Winner stamp, 2012.

The Andy Murray stamps can be ordered online at www.royalmail.com/tennis and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in over 10,000 Post Office Branches across the UK.

We have added a new set of images to Flickr showing Tennis on Stamps.

Celebrations of Literature

Novels are regularly depicted on commemorative stamps as part of Royal Mail’s aim to reflect British contribution to the arts. Appealing to the dual market of philatelists and bibliophiles, these issues are extremely popular. From a design perspective, the issues have enjoyed varied levels of success. This blog examines two magnificent celebrations of British literature, Sherlock Holmes 1993 and Peter Pan 2002, and evaluates two issues which were arguably less successful, Jane Austen 2013 and Harry Potter 2007. Commemorative stamps depicting novels must conform to the functional requirements of all British postage: to clearly show the monarch’s head and the value of the stamp. Artists are tasked with transmitting the spirit of a novel onto a canvas sometimes as small as 20mm by 24mm.

The Peter Pan issue, illustrated by Colin Shearing, was released on 20 August 2002 to mark the 150th Anniversary of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. The issue commemorates the institution’s relationship with the author which was cemented when Barrie bequeathed the story’s rights to the hospital in 1929. The power of imagination fills in the gaps intentionally left in three of the designs.

Captain Hook stamp, issued 20 August 2002.

Captain Hook stamp, issued 20 August 2002.

On the 47p stamp, Captain Hook’s large figure and feathered hat is shown in silhouette with his infamous hook protruding from the image. The artist has reduced the size of the already small stamp to a slither through which one eye and a menacing smile glower at the viewer.

Peter Pan stamp, issued 20 August 2002.

Peter Pan stamp, issued 20 August 2002.

The practice of only showing part of a character is taken a step further in the depiction of Peter Pan. Peter’s pixie boots and legs clad in green tights are shown at the moment of taking flight against a vivid red background. There is no face in the design yet there is no question that this is Peter.

Wendy, John and Michael Darling in front of Big Ben. Stamp issued 20 August 2002.

Wendy, John and Michael Darling in front of Big Ben. Stamp issued 20 August 2002.

The first class stamp, my personal favourite, depicts the silhouettes of Wendy, George and Michael with the characters only identifiable by a nightgown, a top hat and umbrella, and a teddy bear respectively. The images are effective representations of Peter Pan because they do not attempt to portray the characters in complete detail. The images hint at the characters’ exploits and leave the viewers’ imagination to complete the picture. When Captain Hook bursts through the sail, one knows exactly how his figure will loom before us. As Peter Pan takes flight, one can hear his woops and yells. As the three children make their way to Neverland, we know what wondrous adventures await them. The stamps are a testament to the novel and emphasise the magic and excitement of the story. The illustrations cleverly manipulate the confines of the small scale and turn this limitation into a design advantage by demanding the participation of the viewers’ imagination.

In contrast to the strength of the Peter Pan issue is the Harry Potter issue, with seven stamps reproducing the seven novel jackets, which was released in 2007 to mark the completion of J. K. Rowling’s saga. One might argue that the decision to use the book jackets is a tribute to the positive influence of the novels on children’s literacy as opposed to a quick design fix however a successful book jacket does not automatically translate into a successful stamp. Due to the scaling down of the image size, much of the font is extremely small and the illustrations are no longer striking. Whilst the images are recognisbale due to the prevalence of the book jacket they, unlike the Peter Pan issue, do not speak to the imagination in a new or interesting way.

Harry Potter book cover stamps, issued 17 July 2007.

Harry Potter book cover stamps, issued 17 July 2007.

The Jane Austen issue, released in 2013 to mark the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, is arguably unsuccessful despite featuring newly commissioned artwork. The illustrations are certainly very pretty but they do not capture the urgency or emotion of the moments they portray. The 77p Mansfield Park stamp depicts a Fanny Price who does not appear to be reaching for the door handle in “desperation” while fighting panic and anxiety over what waits for her beyond the threshold. On the first class Sense and Sensibility stamp, Marianne certainly looks quite poorly but not “almost choked by grief”. The illustration does not parallel Austen’s distressing description of a young girl almost screaming in “agony”.

Jane Austen stamps, issued 21 February 2013.

Jane Austen stamps, issued 21 February 2013.

The issue depicts fabulous regency costumes and interiors which lovers of the period will admire however there is no juxtaposition of the human experience, which Austen describes unflinchingly with all of its embarrassments; humour; conceits and pain, against this background of polite society.

Released in 1993 to mark the centenary of The Final Problem, the Sherlock Holmes issue features a restrained colour palette, ominous images and expressive characters. Utilising forest green, grey and black across the illustrations ties the issue together nicely. The creature is suitably menacing in The Hound of the Baskervilles, characters look chillingly out into the darkness in The Greek Interpreter and the falling hat and crumbling rock in The Final Problem emphasise the characters’ peril. The inclusion of the deerstalker in the 24p stamp may understandably rile Sherlock Holmes puritans! For the aspiring sleuth, the issue contains a mystery: hidden within the issue is a five letter anagram which I invite you to puzzle over. The Sherlock Holmes illustrations communicate the novel’s themes and demonstrate how stamps can engage and intrigue. The ordinary postage stamp which drops through our letter box, lands on our desk and is handled by countless people every day is in a unique position to act as an instrument of inspiration and a celebration of literature.

Sherlock Holmes. Centenary of the Publication off "The Final Problem" stamps, issued 12 October 1993.

Sherlock Holmes. Centenary of the Publication off “The Final Problem” stamps, issued 12 October 1993.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

Which issue do you think celebrates literature most successfully?

Do you have a favourite literature issue which was not discussed here?

Is there a novel which you think should be immortalised on a postage stamp?

Pre-decimal QEII stamp artwork added to our online catalogue

Recently we made a substantial update to our online catalogue. Some 2,450 QEII pre-decimal stamp artwork items, complete with images, have been added to the database, along with 248 pre-decimal GB commemorative stamp registration sheets. Our online offer now provides full catalogue descriptions and digitised images for all registration sheets from the Penny Black to these most recent additions.

QEII Coronation: Submitted design by Edmund Dulac, 21 August 1952. (QEII/1/020)

QEII Coronation: Submitted design by Edmund Dulac, 21 August 1952. (QEII/1/020)

This phase of the BPMA’s stamp artwork cataloguing and scanning project is the fruition of twelve months work, and follows previous uploads of King George V and King George VI artwork. It allows access to first designs, modified designs, essays, final issued stamps, presentation packs and first day cover designs, showing the design and production process for all QEII stamp issues from beginning to end. Each catalogued artwork item is accompanied by a digital thumbnail image enabling online users to see the artwork itself.

QEII 1966 World Cup: Submitted design by William Kempster, 21 February 1966. (QEII/47/001)

QEII 1966 World Cup: Submitted design by William Kempster, 21 February 1966. (QEII/47/001)

Designs by eminent stamp designers and artists, including Jeffery Matthews, Michael Goaman, Reynolds Stone, Faith Jaques and Andrew Restall are well documented throughout the stamp issues for 1953 to 1970. Among the most prolific are the designs by David Gentleman including the 1965 Churchill Commemoration, 1966 anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, and the 1969 Prince of Wales Investiture.

QEII 1966 Anniversary of Battle of Hastings: Submitted design by David Gentleman, May 1966. (QEII/53/013)

QEII 1966 Anniversary of Battle of Hastings: Submitted design by David Gentleman, May 1966. (QEII/53/013)

The registration sheets which depict the first examples of stamps in full sheet form to be printed off the press, are without perforations and include unique identifiable inscriptions and markings; including cylinder numbers, paper type(s) and information regarding the phosphors used in the production of each stamp. This information, plus more, is included in the comprehensive catalogue entry of each registration sheet, along with a scanned corner section of each sheet.

QEII 1969 Concorde: Submitted design by David Gentleman (Harrison and Sons Ltd), 9 October 1967. (QEII/65/006)

QEII 1969 Concorde: Submitted design by David Gentleman (Harrison and Sons Ltd), 9 October 1967. (QEII/65/006)

The next upload will include pre-decimal Machins, Castle High Values and pre-decimal postage due label registration sheets, meaning that all pre-decimal QEII essays and registration sheets will then be online.

Access the newly available QEII material via the British Stamps section of the BPMA website.

Butterflies

Butterflies are a topic popular with stamp collectors and the public alike. A Butterflies issue from Royal Mail, available from today, celebrates the British love of butterflies on 10 beautiful stamps.

Butterflies presentation pack.

Butterflies presentation pack.

The last time Royal Mail issued a set of stamps devoted to butterflies was 1981; hence it was high time that subject was returned to.

Butterflies stamps issued 13 May 1981. 14p – Aglais urticae, 18p – Maculinea arion, 22p – Inachis io, 25p – Carterocephalus palaemon.

Butterflies stamps issued 13 May 1981. 14p – Aglais urticae, 18p – Maculinea arion, 22p – Inachis io, 25p – Carterocephalus palaemon.

To create a brand new special issue, Royal Mail turned to renowned artist Richard Lewington. The 10 UK species of butterflies chosen are a mix of endangered and the more common and familiar, and the delicate illustrations depict these beautiful creatures to stunning effect.

1st Class - Comma (Polygonia c-album)

1st Class – Comma (Polygonia c-album)

1st Class - Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

1st Class – Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

1st Class - Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

1st Class – Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

1st Class - Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)

1st Class – Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)

1st Class - Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

1st Class – Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

1st Class - Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

1st Class – Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

1st Class - Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia)

1st Class – Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia)

1st Class - Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

1st Class – Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

1st Class - Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

1st Class – Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

1st Class - Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

1st Class – Marbled White (Melanargia galathea)

Royal Mail features at least one set of stamps on wildlife each year, and in recent years has chosen to highlight the plight of threatened species by promoting them on the post. Many butterflies are in decline in the UK. Three quarters of UK species have decreased in either distribution or numbers over the last 10 years. However, intensive conservation efforts have increased a number of threatened species, such as the Marsh Fritillary, featured in the set. The yearly nationwide survey, the Big Butterfly Count, takes place from 20 July–1 August, 2013.

The full range of Butterflies stamps and products are available from Post Offices across the UK, online at www.royalmail.com/butterflies, and by phone on 08457 641 641.