Tag Archives: Downey head

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

King George V definitive stamps

Artwork and other material related to King George V definitive stamps has now been made available on our website. During George V’s 26 year reign (1910-1936) only three definitive designs were issued – the Downey Head, the Mackennal (or Profile) Head and the Seahorse High Values. Our webpages include material related to these three issues, with separate webpages devoted to the First Designs (1910) and the Photogravure designs (1933-36).

Barnett Freedman's design for a proposed photogravure 7d or 8d value, November 1935. (GV-13-24)

Barnett Freedman’s design for a proposed photogravure 7d or 8d value, November 1935. (GV-13-24)

For those with a special interest in stamps from the George V era there are links from these webpages to further material on our online catalogue.

Visit www.postalheritage.org.uk/kgv-definitives to see the new webpages.

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.

King George V Registration Sheets

by Stuart Aitken, Collections Assistant

The entire collection of King George V registration sheets is now fully accessible on our online catalogue. Registration sheets, often imperforate, exist as the very first prints taken from the printing plate for each stamp in sheet form. The collection consists of 1,027 sheets in total.

The reign of King George V (6th May 1910 – 20th January 1936) marked one of the most fascinating eras of British postage stamps; a period of change, progression and vast improvements with stamp production. The King himself was a proud philatelist so it is no great surprise that such diversity and experimentation occurred during this time.

2½d Downey Head 1911

2½d Downey Head 1911

The first King George V stamps, the ½d and 1d Downey Head, released on the 22nd June 1911 to coincide with the King’s coronation, immediately faced a storm of criticism as it was the first time a three-quarter profile of the monarch had been used (up to this stage all Great Britain issues had previously used a side-on profile). It was also argued that the use of a typographed image from a photograph had not been hugely successful. Consequently the Downey Head was replaced in August 1912 by the designs of Bertram Mackennal, which saw a return to the profile head. Since the Downey issues, all Great Britain stamps have used a profile head design.

½d Photogravure 1935

½d Photogravure 1935

In 1934 a new design for definitive issues was introduced which was printed using the Photogravure process. Utilising high-speed production and at a lower cost, these stamps underwent subtle resizing and modifications over the years to allow improvements. Information such as this can be found in the description field of each catalogue entry, along with a scanned section of each sheet.

1d British Empire Exhibition 1924

1d British Empire Exhibition 1924

The first British commemorative stamps were also issued during the reign of King George V to mark the 1924/25 Empire Exhibition at Wembley, featuring a Lion in a striking stance. Following this issue other commemorative issues were subsequently produced to mark the 1929 London Postal Union Congress and the 1935 Silver Jubilee of the King.

Also included in the collection are registration sheets of the high value Seahorse issues, the first ever postage due stamps, colour trials, black proof sheets and official governmental overprints relating to their official use in various British territories outside the UK.

Each catalogue entry in the collection is detailed, comprehensible and provides a great research tool and insight into this unique collection of British registration sheets.

London 2010: International Stamp Exhibition

Last Saturday the London 2010: International Stamp Exhibition opened at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London.

Eagerly awaited by enthusiasts, and taking place just once every ten years, this 8-day stamp spectacular is one of the highlights of the London 2010 Festival of Stamps.

Royal Mail's stand at the London 2010: International Stamp Exhibition

Royal Mail's stand at the London 2010: International Stamp Exhibition

There is much to see (and buy!) at the show, with over 200 stand holders, including many foreign postal administrations, plus numerous societies represented.

The centre piece is the impressive Royal Mail stand, surmounted by two arches of giant stamps. Around the exterior of the stand is a display put together by the British Postal Museum & Archive with unique items from both our collections and the security printers Enschedé.

Half the display deals with the low value stamps of King George V’s reign, including the Downey head stamps – the first stamps of George V’s reign – and declared a ‘disaster’! The display includes dies, rollers and printing plates, including some for unissued stamps.

The intaglio printing plate used to print The King's Stamps, alongside some examples

The intaglio printing plate used to print The King's Stamps, alongside some examples

The other half of the display brings the story up to date with describing how the printers Enschedé produced the new 2010 stamps, based on the 1913 Seahorse and 1924 Wembley stamps.  This includes the actual intaglio printing plate.

Other things to look out for include the competitive displays. Over the 8 day show there will be 2400 frames of competitive exhibits on show. Each frame holds 16 stamp album sheets, so that’s a lot of stamps in total! There are many different entries on every conceivable subject, from the British Occupation stamp issues of Iraq (1917-1923) to ‘A Glimpse into the World of Beer’! The full list of entries can be seen here.

The world’s largest envelope

The world’s largest envelope

Hanging from the ceiling you might notice a large grey envelope. In fact it is officially the world’s largest envelope – sent by Stanley Gibbons to Brian Trotter, organiser of the show.

One of the rarest and most valuable stamps in the world is also on display; the only known example of a Swedish 3 skilling stamp inadvertently printed in yellow instead of green. It will be put up for auction after the exhibition.

The show lasts until Saturday 15 May.

The Accession of King George V

Today is National Stamp Day, marking the anniversary of the world’s first postage stamp, the penny black, first issued 170 years ago; today also marks the 100th anniversary of the accession of King George V – the philatelist king. In celebration, and to mark London 2010 Festival of Stamps, Royal Mail has issued a new miniature sheet.

The Accession of King George V miniature sheet

The Accession of King George V miniature sheet

The Accession of King George V miniature sheet features a 1st Class stamp and a £1 stamp.

The 1st Class stamp features the familiar Machin profile of Queen Elizabeth II, superimposed over the profile of George V, designed by the Australian sculptor Bertram Mackennal and used on stamps from 1912-1936 (known as the “profile head”).

The £1 stamp shows the Mackennal profile on the right, while the left hand side shows the three quarter profile of George V engraved by JAC Harrison from a photograph by W & D Downey, the court photographers. Known as the “Downey head”, this profile was used on the first definitive stamps of George V’s reign, until the Mackennal head supplanted it in 1912. These are contained within wreaths with a crown centre top and a couchant lion on the lower edge.

The border of the miniature sheet features a detail inspired by the engraving of St George and the Dragon by Bradbury Wilkinson & Co from the 1929 ninth Universal Postal Union Congress stamps.

Two pictorial First Day of Issue postmarks are available; one features the George V crown, the other George V’s cipher.

The Accession of King George V first day of issue postmarks

The Accession of King George V first day of issue postmarks

The Accession of King George V miniature sheet is available from Royal Mail.

More information on the Downey and profile heads, and the commemorative stamps issued during the reign of George V can be found on our website.