Tag Archives: stamps

Delivery by Design: Stamps in Antarctica at The Polar Museum, Cambridge

With a population of just 250, The British Antarctic Territory, which covers 660,000 square miles of Antarctica from offshore islands to the South Pole itself, doesn’t necessarily seem like somewhere that the postal service would need to operate. But, despite the low number of permanent residents, the Territory issues both its own postage stamps and coins and even has an Antarctic Postman, based in Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands, who visits the outlying research bases by ship.

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With such a fascinating story to tell, it’s no surprise that there is now an exhibition devoted to the postage stamps of this remote territory. Last Thursday The Polar Museum in Cambridge launched the captivating Delivery by Design: Stamps in Antarctica exhibition. With the assistance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Scott Polar Research Institute the exhibition uses stamps, printing proofs and original artworks to shed light on this little known corner of the globe, from native wildlife including Emperor Penguins and Huskies to ships ploughing through ice and planes flying over the frozen sea, commemorating British expeditions to the Antarctic throughout history.

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The exhibition at The Polar Museum is a wonderful example of how stamps are much more than just a means of sending a letter from A to B. They are a window into history giving a snapshot of the social, cultural and design influences of any given period across every region of our planet. With every stamp from the Penny Black to the present day and all stamp artwork, both adopted and unadopted (including from such famous artists as Paul Nash, Terence Cuneo and David Gentleman) in our collections, we know that there are hundreds if not thousands of interesting stories just waiting to be told. It’s great to see exhibitions such as that at The Polar Museum bringing these stories into the public domain and I hope you will take the opportunity to pay it a visit.

Adrian Steel – Director

The exhibition will be running at The Polar Museum, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge until 6 September 2014. Entry is free and the museum is open 10-4 Tuesday to Saturday. www.spri.cam.ac.uk/museum

Auditing the Stamp Artwork Collection

The Philatelic team is busy auditing the BPMA’s post 1985 stamp artwork collection, in preparation for its move to a new storage facility. 

We are half way through checking the location and housing conditions of approximately 12,000 pieces of adopted and unadopted artwork. Every piece of artwork must be packed safely to prevent damage during transit and location control must be maintained so that nothing is lost.

An unadopted design by Ralph Steadman for Appearance of Halley’s Comet, 1986.

An unadopted design by Ralph Steadman for Appearance of Halley’s Comet, 1986.

The collection, which includes pieces by David Gentleman, Quentin Blake and David Hockney, comprises artwork across a range of forms and sizes including photographs, paintings, drawings, transparencies, digital images and plaster casts.

The stamp artwork collection is diverse in its subject matter and style, and it is intriguing to see how different artists have tackled the same subject. The proposed designs for the Appearance of Halley’s Comet issue, for example,  include scientific illustrations; images of the comet passing over earth in 684, 1066, 1301 and 1910; and bold, cartoon style artwork by Ralph Steadman – four designs of which were chosen for the 1986 issue. One can imagine the debates behind the final selection.

Boxes of stamp artwork in storage at Christie’s.

Boxes of stamp artwork in storage at Christie’s.

Our new home at Calthorpe House will allow us to showcase this fascinating design history resource, which, as yet, has been largely unseen by the public.

- Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

Great British Film stamps released

A new stamp issue celebrates six key British movies produced since the Second World War, with the accompanying Miniature Sheet focusing on the work of the General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit, which produced ground-breaking documentaries for the General Post Office in the 1930s.

Secrets and Lies, £1.28

Secrets and Lies, £1.28

Lawrence of Arabia, £1.28

Lawrence of Arabia, 1st class

Bend it like Beckham, £1.28

Bend it like Beckham, £1.28

Chariots of Fire, £1.28

Chariots of Fire, £1.28

A Matter of Life and Death, £1.28

A Matter of Life and Death, 1st class

2001: A Space Odyssey, £1.28

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1st

In the 1930s the GPO Film Unit produced several films, regarded as documentaries. The unit was established initially to explain postal and telephone services, and heighten the reputation of the Post Office, in an era when it was leading the world in technological innovation. This Miniature Sheet celebrates four of the most well-known films.

A Colour Box, 1st class

A Colour Box, 1st class

Night Mail, 1st Class

Night Mail, 1st Class

Spare Time, 1st class

Spare Time, 1st class

Love on the Wing, 1st class

Love on the Wing, 1st class

The immortal Night Mail film is marked with a stamp for the first time, and a stamp for Love on the Wing, a film by director Norman McLaren also marks his centenary in 2014. Night Mail is about a London, Midland and Scottish Railway mail train from London to Scotland. A poem by W. H. Auden was written for it, used in the closing few minutes, as was music by Benjamin Britten. Our archive holds the original poster artwork for Night Mail as well as many others.

Original artwork by Pat Keely (POST 109/377)

Original artwork by Pat Keely (POST 109/377)

The Great British Film stamps are available from 13 May online at www.royalmail.com/personal/stamps-collectibles-gifts, by phone on 08457 641 641 and and in 10,000 Post Offices throughout the UK.

New on the online catalogue

Last week we did one of our periodic uploads of new material onto the online catalogue. More than 2,000 records went on this time.

New to the catalogue is the ‘REPS deposit’. This was a large collection of records on the Royal Engineers Postal Section (REPS) and the Army Postal Service. The material dated from the 1900s to the 1980s, but it was particularly rich in information on the Army Postal Service at home and overseas during and after the Second World War.

The REPS deposit was indexed in the early 1980s by Major J G Long (retired), then archivist of the REPCS Officers’ Association. Long was commissioned c.1980 to write a history of the REPS. The project was later abandoned, and Long resigned the archivist post in 1982. He deposited his research notes and the archives at the Home Postal and Courier Communications Depot, Inglis Barracks, Mill Hill, and that’s where the trail ends. If anyone reading this knows any more about Major Long and his work, we would love to hear from you!

Social Reformers Issue 1976 – David Gentleman (QEII/119/33)

Social Reformers Issue 1976 – David Gentleman (QEII/119/33)

The REPS deposit was catalogued in January and February 2014 by Matt Tantony, our former Project Archivist. The deposit was split between three main areas of the catalogue. Public records on the Army Postal Service have been catalogued in POST 47. Records on the GPO’s actions in wartime are in POST 56. The remainder of the deposit is mostly non-public records, including Major Long’s own research notes, military publications, and reunion dinner plans. These archives are not strictly postal in relevance but will be of interest to anyone studying the history of the REPS as a military unit. They’ve been catalogued as a separate ‘REPS collection’.

Our cataloguing archivist Anna Flood was responsible among other work for plenty more POST 72 (Post Office Headquarters files) going on, completing the catalogue for this large class.

Some small quantities of POST 22 (Counters), 63 (Staff Training) and 68 (Rules and Instructions) also went on. Additionally several sub-series from POST 153 (Mails Division) and 157 (Postal Operations Department) were added.

Stamp artwork for eight issues from 1976 Social Reformers to 1977 Silver Jubilee (POST 150) is now on the catalogue.

Racket Sports Issue 1977 – Andrew Restall (QEII/124/06)

Racket Sports Issue 1977 – Andrew Restall (QEII/124/06)

More than 50 museum objects went online. These included a set of self-designed Christmas cards by Martin Norgate from the 1970s to the present day and a World War One card on a piece of khaki, recently acquired by the BPMA.

'B.E.A. XMAS GREETINGS' Khaki Christmas Card (2013-0091)

‘B.E.A. XMAS GREETINGS’ Khaki Christmas Card (2013-0091)

This Christmas card is written on a piece of khaki, possibly from a uniform. Drawn in ink on the front cover is a cross with the words ‘B.E.A. 1915/ XMAS GREETINGS’ inside. Above the cross a thistle is drawn, whilst below the cross is a banner reading ’25 R.F.’.

Front of the card

Front of the card (2013-0091)

Finally a number of amended War Memorials records are now available.

Eagle-eyed users will notice one or two changes to the way data is represented on the online catalogue since this upload. We have switched our date format from YYYY-Mon-DD to the more conventional DD-Mon-YYYY.

Another change is in the way we arrange the archive hierarchically, we have now changed the hierarchical ‘RefNo’ field so that the whole archive now properly nests under the Collection level description for the whole of the Archive . This change has been prompted in main by our exciting plans to revamp our online catalogue. Updates and progress of this are coming soon!

-Gavin McGuffie, Archive Catalogue & Project Manager

Buckingham stamps released

A new stamp issue was released today celebrates 300 years of Buckingham Palace.

Six individual stamps explore the different appearance of this iconic
building over the centuries while a Miniature Sheet celebrates the opulence of its interior.

Miniature Sheet, 1st class.

Miniature Sheet, 1st class.

The Throne Room, 1st class.

The Throne Room, 1st class.

The Green Drawing Room, 1st class.

The Green Drawing Room, 1st class.

The Grand Staircase, 1st class.

The Grand Staircase, 1st class.

The Blue Drawing Room, 1st class.

The Blue Drawing Room, 1st class.

The history of Buckingham Palace can be traced back to the early 17th century, when a mulberry garden was established on the site to breed silk worms. George III purchased the building and site from the Duke of Buckingham and George IV converted it into a palace, his chief residence.

Buckingham Palace 1862.

Buckingham Palace 1862.

Buckingham Palace 2014.

Buckingham Palace 2014.

Buckingham Palace 1846.

Buckingham Palace 1846.

Buckingham Palace 1819.

Buckingham Palace 1819.

Buckingham Palace 1714.

Buckingham Palace 1714.

Buckingham Palace 1700.

Buckingham Palace 1700.

Buckingham Palace has appeared before on stamps and is one of the most iconic buildings in the UK. Below is photograph that was taken for use on the Coronation issue for Edward VII, but it was never used.

KEVIII projected Coronation issue: Photograph of a view of Buckingham Palace  Photograph taken by GPO film unit for pictorial essays (not used). (POST 150/KEVIII/4/004)

KEVIII projected Coronation issue: Photograph of a view of Buckingham Palace Photograph taken by GPO film unit for pictorial essays. (POST 150/KEVIII/4/004)

The Buckingham Palace stamps are available from 15 April online at royalmail.com/buckinghampalaceby phone on 08457 641 641 and and in 10,000 Post Offices throughout the UK.

Remarkable Lives issued today

A new set of stamps issued today another selection of remarkable individuals from the realms of sport, design, economics, heroism and the arts. The set commemorates individuals born 100 years ago this year. Notable figures include a footballer, actors and molecular biologists, to boast a few.

Remarkable Lives First Day Cover

Remarkable Lives First Day Cover

Dr David Lawrence, writer, researcher, architectural historian and lecturer at Kingston University and designed by Purpose, the Filler Card provides a brief look at the ten remarkable individuals featured on the stamps.

Kenneth More, 1st class.

Kenneth More, 1st class.

Joe Mercer, 1st class.

Joe Mercer, 1st class.

Joan Littlewood,1st class.

Joan Littlewood,1st class.

Dylan Thomas, 1st class.

Dylan Thomas, 1st class.

Barbara Ward, 1st class.

Barbara Ward, 1st class.

Alec Guinness, 1st class.

Alec Guinness, 1st class.

Abram Games, 1st class.

Abram Games, 1st class.

Roy Plomley, 1st class.

Roy Plomley, 1st class.

Noorunissa Inayat Khan, 1st class.

Noorunissa Inayat Khan, 1st class.

Max Perutz, 1st class.

Max Perutz, 1st class.

The Special Stamps are available from 25 March online at www.royalmail.com/remarkablelives, by phone on 08457 641 641 and in 10,000 Post Offices throughout the UK.

The remarkable (postal) life of Tony Benn

The BPMA is saddened to learn today of the passing of Tony Benn. Benn served as Postmaster General under Harold Wilson 1964-66 and was instrumental in establishing our predecessor the National Postal Museum, which closed in 1998. There are many things he will be remembered for including the building of the Post Office Tower, introduction of the Post Bus, creation of the Girobank and overseeing the introduction of postcodes. Possibly the most famous and controversial action, however, was his attempt to remove the Queen’s head from stamps.

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Tony Benn as Postmaster General

This revolutionary idea came about as part of a now infamous partnership with the artist and designer David Gentleman. In 1964 Benn launched an appeal for ideas to widen the scope of commemorative stamps to, in his own words, “celebrate events of national or international importance, to commemorate appropriate anniversaries and occasions, [and] to reflect Britain’s unique contribution to the arts and world affairs”.

In responding to this appeal Gentleman raised with Benn the issue of removing the Queen’s head, as he felt that its inclusion often caused problems for designers in terms of space for their work. This appealed to Benn’s socialist leanings and he encouraged Gentleman to submit his designs without the monarch.

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Example of a stamp with the Queen’s head

Both Benn and Gentleman fought hard for this radical change to stamp design suggesting that the Queen’s head be replaced with the words “Great Britain” or “U.K. Postage” as can be seen on examples such as Churchill design below. However by the end of 1965 the Queen, having initially entertained the idea, decided in no uncertain terms that she wanted her head to remain on stamps.

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The Churchill stamp design without the Queen’s head

A compromise was put forward to address Gentleman’s initial issue of space that resulted in a new small cameo silhouette, created from Mary Gillick’s sculpture for pre-decimal coinage, being included on pictorial stamps instead of the full Queen’s head image. This gave designers much greater leeway and changed the form, appearance and subject matter of stamps for over 20 years, allowing for a wider variety of images to appear including the first British Christmas stamps designed by children.

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With new small Queen’s head image

Gentleman had won his battle, but for Tony Benn his socialist idea of removing the Queen’s head off of stamps was never realised. He had however challenged the system, and as a result implemented the first major change to stamps in many years.

From Vault to View: Object Selection

Earlier this year we announced  our 3D scanning project with UCL to capture objects from our philatelic collection. Over the past month, the Philatelic team has been selected just a few objects from its vast collection to scan. Joanna Espin, our Philatelic Assistant, introduces the objects in this post.

We have a large collection of three dimensional objects to do with the production of postage stamps; ranging from metal dies and transfer rollers, to printing plates. There are also three dimensional objects to do with the design of stamps and other aspects of postal operations. We have chosen a range of objects, of various sizes and materials, which are important to understanding postal history.

The objects selected are some of the most treasured in the Philatelic collection, and concern the history of the Penny Black, Machin Head and letterpress printing.

Wyon Medal, 1838

The Wyon Medal was the inspiration behind the engraving of Queen Victoria featured on the Penny Black.

Wyon Medal front

Wyon Medal front.

Wyon medal reverse

Wyon medal reverse.

‘Old Original’ Penny Black Die, 1840

The ‘Old Original’ Penny Black die, from which all Penny Black plates and most Penny Red plates were made.

‘Old Original’ Penny Black Die, 1840.

‘Old Original’ Penny Black Die, 1840.

Elizabeth II Machin head plaster cast, 1966

Arnold Machin intended his portrait of Queen Elizabeth to allude to the Penny Black: both were designed from a relief portrait and both monarchs are wearing the George IV State Diadem.

Elizabeth II Machin head plaster cast, 1966

Elizabeth II Machin head plaster cast, 1966

Machin Stamp roller, 1968

This object’s shiny surface has prohibited successful digital rendering. 3D scans would, in connection with the Machin curved plate, explain recess printing.

Machin Stamp roller, 1968

Machin Stamp roller, 1968

Machin curved plate, 1968

The 1968 high value Machin £1 stamp recess printing plate.

Machin curved plate, 1968

Machin curved plate, 1968

Edward VII Die, 2d Tyrian Plum, 1910

Almost 200,000 sheets of this iconic stamp were printed yet only one was ever used, as King Edward VII died before the stamp was issued. We plan to scan the die and box.

George V Die for striking leads. 1½d postage British Empire Exhibition, 1925

This object incorporates interesting shape, detail and colour. It connects with the 1924 Wembley slogan die and letterpress printing.

George V Die for striking leads. 1½d postage British Empire Exhibition, 1925

George V Die for striking leads. 1½d postage British Empire Exhibition, 1925

Downey Head ½d Skin, 1911

The first definitive stamps of King George V’s reign were based on a photograph taken in 1910 by W. & D. Downey. The Downey Head skin we plan to scan is an important part of the history of letterpress printing.

Downey Head ½d Skin, 1911

Downey Head ½d Skin, 1911

Edward VII embossing punch, 1902

Successfully capturing the detail and embossing on the punch would enable effective demonstrations of embossing technique.

Flintlock Pistol, 1816 – 1841

This object demonstrates the diversity of the BPMA Philatelic collection. A 3D rendering of the pistol will highlight the engravings on the end of the barrel, which state that the gun was for official GPO mail coach use.

Flintlock Pistol, 1816 - 1841

Flintlock Pistol, 1816 – 1841

Aerial Handstamp, 1911

The world’s first scheduled airmail service began in 1911 as part of the celebrations for the coronation of King George V. This handstamp, commemorating the event, has wide historical appeal. The object’s shape and material make it ideal for 3D scanning, as reflective surfaces are notoriously difficult to capture.

Aerial Handstamp, 1911

Aerial Handstamp, 1911

Slogan Die, Wembley, 1925

Issued as part of the celebrations marking the British Empire Exhibition, this slogan die has wide historical appeal and, due to its shape and material, is another interesting object on which to experiment 3D scanning techniques.

We will initially test various techniques, a process expected to take several hours for each object, and compare the results to existing two dimensional photographs. The processes to be employed are highly experimental and will shape recommendations for a standardised approach to 3D imaging. The results will enable ground-breaking access to treasured objects in the Philatelic collection and, ultimately, audiences will virtually handle important postal history objects.

Stay tuned next week to find out about the different techniques we will be using!

-  Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

Centenary of the introduction of Postage Dues

2014 marks the centenary of postage due stamps first being introduced by the Post Office. Uncollected revenue has always been a concern of the Post Office. If an item was posted without sufficient prepayment it was surcharged and the excess collected by the postman on delivery. However the system in place originally was complicated and open to abuse. In March 1912 a conference looked at possible reforms.

1911 Sketch design for the coupon for the Post Office Savings Bank with a Downey Head example

The conference proposed the introduction of “Postage Due” labels – to be affixed to all mail that had not been fully paid for. Postage Due labels would be accounted for in the same way as postage stamps and therefore a direct check could be maintained on each item of mail.

George W. Eve, the bookplate designer, was invited to create a design along the lines of existing postage due labels of other countries, without the monarch’s head.

1911 Sketch design for the coupon for the Post Office Savings Bank with a Downey Head example (above). Both designed by George Eve.

1911 Sketch design for the coupon for the Post Office Savings Bank with a Downey Head example (above). Both designed by George Eve.

Denominations

There were to be four denominations of Postage Due labels (½d, 1d, 2d, and 5d) initially, all in the same design and in landscape format. Eve was offered, and accepted, a fee of 30 guineas (£31 10s) to undertake this work. He produced a design in the style of a bookplate, using leaves and national symbols, and the words POSTAGE DUE.

Further denominations were added later, with higher values being used to collect customs dues. For these the wording was therefore changed to TO PAY.

14 April 1914 Post Office notice for the introduction of Postage Due labels

14 April 1914 Post Office notice for the introduction of Postage Due labels

Different watermarked paper and different colours were used over the years. Despite changes in the colours and increases in the denominations, it is significant that George Eve’s design of Postage Due labels remained the same for over 50 years, until 1970.

2014 marks the centenary of the introduction of Postage Due labels.  Their use ceased in 2000.

The BPMA will be introducing a new commemorative stamp issue to its Post & Go machine at Freeling House on Wednesday 19 February 2014 to mark the centenary of the introduction of Postage Due labels. These will be available until Saturday 5 April 2014.

1902 Design for the Lord Mayor’s invitation

Earlier examples of illustrations by George Eve. 1902 Design for the Lord Mayor’s invitation.

Both the existing Machin and the Union Flag designs will bear the underprint “The B.P.M.A./ Postage Due 1914”.  A limited number of BPMA specific first day covers will be available for purchase both at Freeling House and through the online shop.

The new commemorative stamp issue will also be marked through a small two panel display in the BPMA’s Search Room Foyer, from Wednesday 19 February until Saturday 5 April.

Spring Stampex 2014

On Wednesday, 19 February, the busy British National Stamp Exhibition, or Stampex, will open its doors once more. Stampex is free of charge and open to the philatelic community and anyone interested in stamps and postal history.

The show is located at the Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 0QH. Stampex will be open as follows:

  • Wed 19 February: 11.30am – 7pm
  • Thu 20 February: 10am – 6pm
  •  Fri 21 February: 10am – 6pm
  • Sat 22 February: 10am – 5pm

The BPMA will be Stampex Spring 2014 – Tech Plan (5) situated at Stand no. 80, with the BPMA Friends at the adjacent Stand no. 79 (floor plan attached), sharing the stand with the Stuart Rossiter Trust. We are situated on the left hand side of the mezzanine floor, close to Royal Mail stand.

Lieutenant-General Sir Pratap Singh and the Rajah of Ratlam, at Sir Douglas Haig’s Chateau in Montreuil, 17th June 1916 © IWM (Q 692))

Lieutenant-General Sir Pratap Singh and the Rajah of Ratlam, at Sir Douglas Haig’s Chateau in Montreuil, 17th June 1916 © IWM (Q 692))

Come along to our stand and collect your FREE goodie bag (limited numbers available). We will be sharing news about the BPMA’s current events and activities, and showing footage and still images on selected days of Mail Rail. Our staff will be available throughout the four days of Stampex to answer questions and provide information on our forthcoming plans to open The Postal Museum.

Stampex 2013

Stampex 2013

There will be a great selection of BPMA shop products to purchase, including BPMA-specific first day covers, selected publications with 50% off and many other items.

There will also be images and panels demonstrating the breadth of the BPMA collection, available for visitors to view. We will also have on display a small number of panels from our First World War exhibition: Last Post, to mark the centenary of the First World War in 2014.

Secret coding signifying sailing times. The location of each area of conflict was coded by letter to maintain secrecy: A for ‘in France’, and B for ‘East Africa’, for example.

Secret coding signifying sailing times. The location of each area of conflict was coded by letter to maintain secrecy: A for ‘in France’, and B for ‘East Africa’, for example.

Last Post is shortly going on tour to a wide variety of museums, galleries and libraries across the UK. The flagship Last Post exhibition will be on display at Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron from Friday 11 April.

Also available at the BPMA stand will be tickets to purchase for the BPMA evening talk on Thursday 20 February at the Phoenix Centre (next door to the BPMA and a 20 minute walk from the Business Design Centre) on the histories of The Times’ War Correspondents.

Postage Due 1914 at the BPMA

Coinciding with the first day of Stampex, on Wednesday 19 February, the BPMA are introducing a new commemorative stamp issue to its Post & Go machine at Freeling House, to mark the centenary of the introduction of Postage Due labels. These will be available until 5 April. Both the existing Machin and the Union Flag designs will bear the underprint “The B.P.M.A./ Postage Due 1914”.

A limited number of BPMA specific first day covers will be available for purchase both at Freeling House from Wednesday 19 February and at the BPMA Stand at Stampex from 1pm on Wednesday 19 February.

The Centenary will also be marked through a small two-panel display in the BPMA’s Search Room Foyer at Freeling House, until 5 April.

-Dominique Gardner, Exhibitions Officer