Tag Archives: Douglas Muir

Stamp printing plates, dies and rollers: from vault to view

Over the next year, our Philatelic and Digital teams will be working with UCL’s Mona Hess, Research Associate and PhD candidate at UCL, to digitise objects from our collections, including printing dies, rollers and plates. These objects are difficult to photograph and not available for consultation by the public. This project, funded by Share Academy, will provide access to these important objects through a combination of a number of technologies. The final output will be set of 3D digital objects for use by philatelic enthusiasts, researchers and the general public. This blog will regularly update you on what is happening along the way.

Mona discusses various imaging techniques and engagement outputs for the 3D objects. A stamp plate sits at the centre of the table.

Mona discusses various imaging techniques and engagement outputs for the 3D objects. A stamp plate sits at the centre of the table.

Last Friday (24 January), we held a kick-off meeting for our Philatelic 3D digitisation project, a Share Academy project partnership with UCL. Because of the highly-reflective surfaces of these objects, a combination of technologies will be trialled to see which works best.  Some of the objects can be captured at the BPMA’s premises using techniques such as photogrammetry. Others, however, may need to be transported to UCL to be digitised with their large-format 3D scanning device.

Original Heath die of Penny Black with various other dies. (POST 118/1733)

Original Heath die of Penny Black (centre) with various other dies. (POST 118/1733). The reflective and finely-engraved surface makes them difficult to photograph.

Another highlight of the meeting was the demonstration of a possible output for the 3D objects: a mobile/tablet application. The Petrie Museum engages visitors using an application that explores the history of the Nile Valley with 3D digitised objects that can be manipulated by users.

Over the next month, our Philatelic team will be selecting various objects to be captured in the trials (due to take place from March), as well as planning any transportation of objects, where necessary, to UCL.

Are there any particular objects in the Philatelic collection that you want to see as 3D objects? 

-Rachel Kasbohm, Digital Media Manager

The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors’ Guide

From 25th July to 9th September 2012, the British Library is running the exhibition Olympex 2012: Collecting the Olympic Games, telling the story of the past and present of the Olympic Games through the medium of postage stamps and related memorabilia. As well as contributing to the exhibition the BPMA has also been involved in the accompanying book The London 1948 Games – A Collectors Guide.

This new publication by Bob Wilcock, of the Society of Olympic Collectors, gives us a detailed postal background of the 1948 Olympic Games.

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

London 1948 Olympic Games stamps, issued 29 July 1948

It also includes an essay by the BPMA’s Curator of Philately, Douglas Muir, introducing the fascinating story of the 1948 stamp issue, demonstrating how – just like Royal Mail’s ‘gold medal’ issue today – stamps were used to celebrate and commemorate the Games. He writes:

As the stamp issuing policy at the time was very conservative, not all serious proposals resulted in commemorative stamps – but one event could not be ignored, and that was the holding of the Games of the 14th Olympiad in London and the south of England.

14 designers submitted designs, and from these the Council chose work by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons, S. D. Scott of Waterlows, Edmund Dulac, Percy Metcalfe and Abram Games. Before these were shown to the King, the Postmaster General felt another option should be offered, and recommended a design by John Armstrong. The book contains images of all submitted designs as well as the issued stamps.

John Armstrong's design with mounted horse

John Armstrong’s design with mounted horse

With hundreds of colour illustrations, the books also features first day covers, postmarks, postal stationery, cigarette cards and other ephemera – a must-read for Olympic collectors.

The London 1948 Olympic Games - A Collector's Guide

The London 1948 Olympic Games – A Collectors’ Guide by Bob Wilcock is now available from the BPMA online shop.

Bertram Mackennal

As part of our continuing series of events on themes related to George V, the BPMA’s Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will give a free talk next month on the work of Bertram Mackennal. Mackennal was a noted sculptor who designed coins, stamps and medals during the reign of George V. Douglas Muir’s talk will include images from the Royal Philatelic Collection and the Royal Mint as well as the BPMA, together with examples of Mackennal’s work in sculpture.

The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.

The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1863, Edgar Bertram Mackennal received his early training in sculpture from his Scottish immigrant father John Simpson Mackennal and at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School. At age 19 Mackennal left for Europe, where he undertook further study in London and Paris and began to be commissioned to produce reliefs, figures and busts.

Having completed a number of significant works in England, Australia and India, including statues of monarchs and other notable persons, Mackennal was commissioned to design the medals for the 1908 London Olympic Games. Two years later, when George V ascended the throne, Mackennal was commissioned to prepare an effigy of the King for coins and medals. The Post Office was also keen to employ Mackennal to work on the new definitive stamps, and although initially reluctant, Mackennal agreed.

The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.

The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.

Mackennal was involved in the design of all definitive stamp issues during the reign of George V, including the much-loved Seahorses design. Originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913 this design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.

Douglas Muir’s talk on Bertram Mackennal will take place on Thursday 7 October at the BPMA. Information on how to book can be found on our website. Tickets are free.

Douglas Muir’s book George V and the GPO: Stamps, Conflict & Creativity is available from the BPMA online shop.

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO

by Jennifer Flippance, 2010 Exhibitions & Project Manager

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO, hosted by Guildhall Art Gallery, in the heart of the City of London, is the BPMA’s flagship exhibition for the London 2010: Festival of Stamps, produced in conjunction with the Royal Philatelic Collection.

King George V riding his horse, Anzac

King George V riding his horse, Anzac, a gift from the Australian government. This photograph was later used as the basis for the Australian Silver Jubilee stamps, issued in 1935.

The exhibition explores the reign of King George V (1910 – 1936), an era of conflict, change and innovation. Investigate the passions of the ‘philatelist king’, alongside the extraordinary period of design and creativity in the General Post Office during the period.

Displays include some of the rarest and most valuable stamps in the world alongside vehicles, pillar boxes, posters and pioneering works from the GPO Film Unit. Empire Mail: George V and The GPO will explore themes from the King’s reign such as innovations in mail transportation, the first Atlantic air crossing, the rise of graphic design in the 1920s and 1930s, and the impact of conflict.

The items on display are sourced from the unique and complementary collections of the BPMA and the Royal Philatelic Collection. These include a sheet of unused Edward VII Tyrian Plum stamps plus the only one known to have been used – sent on an envelope to George V on 5 May 1910 when he was Prince of Wales and arriving the day he became King following the death of his father.

'Post Office' Mauritius: The most famous stamps in the world?

'Post Office' Mauritius: The most famous stamps in the world?

There are many gems from King George V’s own collection, including two examples of the famous Post Office Mauritius stamp, among them an unused 2d, bought by the King when Prince of Wales in 1904 for the then record sum of £1,450.

Other highlights include: items and original film footage from the 1911 Coronation Aerial Post; original stamp artwork for the first ever UK commemorative stamp produced for the 1924/5 Wembley Empire Exhibition; the only Victoria Cross won by the Post Office Rifles during the First World War; mail carried on pioneering (successful and unsuccessful) transatlantic air crossings; and objects and images from the Post Office Underground Railway.

The BPMA’s fully restored blue airmail pillar box will be seen in public for the first time, alongside other pillar boxes of the period and vehicles, including a 1945 Morris “Red Van” in George V livery and a 1933 BSA motorcycle.

As an added attraction, between 8–15 May, there will be regular demonstrations by staff from the security printers Enschedé, who will be printing reproductions of the 1929 PUC £1 on an intaglio press.

A series of free lunchtime talks will also take during the exhibition’s run.

For further information on Empire Mail: George V and the GPO please see the BPMA website. An online taster of the exhibition has also been produced.

The King’s Stamps

On Tuesday 11th May, right in the middle of the main London 2010: Festival of Stamps activities, we will welcome Paul Eimers of stamp printers Joh Enschedé to the BPMA. Joh Enschedé have printed many British stamps over the years, but their latest work for Royal Mail is The King’s Stamps miniature sheet, to be released on 8th May to mark the start of the International Stamp Exhibition.

The King’s Stamps miniature sheet features two reproductions of the 1924 British Empire Exhibition stamps designed by Harold Nelson set within a contemporary border with the present value (1st) and the Queen’s head profile. In addition two reproductions of the “Seahorses” design by Bertram Mackennal are also featured; both high value definitives, first issued in 1913, are set within a contemporary border with the value (£1) and Queen’s head. The top of the Miniature Sheet’s plain border contains the text: London 2010 Festival of Stamps with a crown.

The King's Stamps miniature sheet, released 8th May 2010

The King's Stamps miniature sheet, to be released 8th May 2010

This sheet is printed in both intaglio and lithography. The red, brown, grey and blue ‘stamps’ are printed intaglio, to be as faithful as possible to the original stamps, while the Queen’s head, stamp values and Sheet surround is printed in litho. The technical and design challenges of producing this miniature sheet will be one focus of Paul Eimers’ talk.

First day of issue postmarks to accompany the King’s Stamps have been produced. The London postmark replicates the lion on the British Empire Exhibition stamps, while the Tallents House postmark features part of the “Seahorses” design.

The King's Stamps first day of issue postmarks

The King's Stamps first day of issue postmarks

The King’s Stamps miniature sheet and related products, including a Prestige Stamp Book written by our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir, will be released on 8th May and can be purchased from Royal Mail.

Tickets to Paul Eimer’s talk on The King’s Stamps are free. For booking details and further information please see the BPMA website.

New London 2010 postcard available 8th January

The fourth in a series of philatelic postcards promoting London 2010: Festival of Stamps has now been issued. Postcard #4 features the original metal master die for Bertram Mackennal’s ‘Seahorse’ design with three colour trials, one of the treasures of the British Postal Museum & Archive’s philatelic collection. The postcard comes free with the February 2010 issue of Stamp & Coin Mart magazine sold in WH Smith from 8 January 2010. 

The postcard shows the original metal master die for the Seahorse design with colour trials (September 1912)

Original metal master die for Seahorse design with colour trials (September 1912). As the Union Flag on the shield was heraldically inaccurate, the flag was removed from the transfer roller and re-engraved on each master die for the different values.

Postcard #4 is exclusive to Stamp & Coin Mart, but postcards #2 and #3 can be obtained free of charge by visiting our Archive Search Room. Postcard #1 is no longer available, but limited edition complete sets of London 2010 postcards will be available for purchase later in the year.

The ‘Seahorse’ high value definitives were some of the most iconic stamps produced during the reign of George V.  A noted philatelist, George V, took great interest in the production of the ‘Seahorse’ definitives and suggested they be recess (intaglio) printed. The ‘Seahorse’ stamps are just one of the postal treasures and innovations from the reign of King George V that will feature in the exhibition Empire Mail: George V and the GPO, at Guildhall Art Gallery from 7 May – 25 July 2010.

For more on London 2010: Festival of Stamps visit http://www.london2010.org.uk/.

BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will be speaking on the stamp, medal and coinage designs of Bertram Mackennal at the BPMA on 7 October 2010. See our website for details.

BPMA Events Programme 2010

Our 2010 Events Guide has just arrived in the office and is now available online.

As usual the BPMA are hosting an exciting programme of Exhibitions, Walks, Discover Sessions, Talks and Tours. Many of our exhibitions and events next year will also be part of London 2010: Festival of Stamps and relate to the theme of George V, the philatelist King. Highlights include:

Treasures of the Archive
An exhibition of unique treasures from the BPMA, including a sheet of penny black stamps and the original die, among many other items of unparalleled significance in UK postal history.

Empire Mail: George V and the GPO
A major exhibition looking at the passions of King George V, the ‘philatelist king’ and the extraordinary period of design and innovation in the General Post Office during his reign.

Talks
Speakers include Vice President of the National Philatelic Society Dane Garrod, designer and illustrator Ronald Maddox and Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection Michael Sefi. BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will speak on stamp designer Bertram Mackennal, and designers and authors Brian Webb and Peyton Skipworth will speak on artists who worked for the GPO, including Barnett Freedman, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravillious.

Walking Tours
This year we are introducing a shorter highlights tour, taking you through the heart of GPO London in just 90 minutes.

We hope to add new events throughout the year, so keep checking the What’s On page for more information.

If you receive our Newsletter by post you will be sent a copy of the Events Guide in the New Year. Contact us on info@postalheritage.org.uk if you’d like one sent to you, or download the pdf version from our What’s On page.