Tag Archives: Philatelic

London Architecture

London is full of superb classical architecture, predominantly produced after the Great Fire of London that ravaged the city in 1666. Only a few Tudor buildings survived from before this period, including the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

InternationalStampExhibition09048050p

International Stamp Exhibition, Miniature Sheet, 50p, 1980

The above miniature sheet celebrates the achievements of innovative architects and an ever-changing London skyline; here are a few more examples of the Capital’s iconic landmarks.

Westminster Abbey

1966900thAnniversaryWestminsterAbbey28021966A

900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey, 3d,  1966

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900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey, 2s 6d, 1966

King Edward the Confessor’s original abbey was knocked down by Henry III in 1245 to make way for the structure we see today. It has the highest Gothic vault in England, decorated with a delicate fan design as seen in the 2/6 stamp above. The abbey has seen the coronations, marriages and burials of many of our British monarchs.

The Houses of Parliament 

19th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference 8p Stamp (1973) Palace of Westminster seen from Whitehall

19th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, 8p, 1973 Palace of Westminster

Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner,_The_Burning_of_the_Houses_of_Lords_and_Commons,_October_16,_1834

‘The Burning of the Houses of Parliament’ by J.W. Turner, 1834

12p, Palace of Westminster from 62nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference (1975)

62nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference, Palace of Westminster, 12p, 1975

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as The Houses of Parliament, was destroyed by fire in 1834. J.W.Turner’s painting of the scene depicts the view from across the river as the building burns. Charles Barry (1795-1860) won the competition to build the new Houses of Parliament, creating a Gothic revival structure

St Paul’s Cathedral

Cathedrals - (2008) St. Pauls Cathedral

Cathedrals, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Miniature Sheet, 2008

1969BritishArchitectureCathedrals28031969B

St Paul’s Cathedral, British Architecture, Cathedrals, 9d, 1969

After the Great Fire, Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) was commissioned to rebuild the churches of London including St Paul’s. Dedicated to the Apostle, its 111-metre-high dome is influenced by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and constructed of three domes within each other. It took 35 years to complete and is the resting place of Wren himself.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, Stamp Set 2014

Buckingham Palace, Stamp Set 2014

We all know Buckingham Palace to be the home of the Royal family, though it was originally built by the Duke of Buckingham. It did not become the official Royal Palace until the reign of Queen Victoria. The building has undergone many changes, including Sir Aston Webb’s (1849-1930) classical facade with its famous Royal balcony.

Hampton Court

architecture01037813p

British Architecture, Historic Buildings, Hampton Court Palace, 13p, 1978

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London Landmarks, Hampton Court, 15p 1980

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hampton Court was a private Tudor home Cardinal Wolsey turned into a Palace. After his fall from grace, Wolsey’s palace passed into the hands of Henry VIII, who modernised the building. When William and Mary came to the throne in 1689 they moved to completely rebuild Hampton Court. However, these plans were never completed, resulting in a building consisting of two distinct architectural styles: Tudor and Baroque.

Modern Architecture, Presentation Pack, 2006

Modern Architecture, Presentation Pack, 2006

In an age where architecture is dominated by glass and steel we can overlook some of our classically designed buildings. British stamps have served as a reminder of these great structures and the architects who created them. Next time you’re walking around London, take a moment to look and admire the genius of British architecture.

-Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant

The Christmas Nativity

This year’s Christmas stamps from Royal Mail depict scenes from the Nativity of Jesus, which appears in both the Gospel of Luke and Matthew. The theme of Christmas stamps alternate each year between secular and religious subject matter, though it is not the first time The Nativity has featured.

Christmas Stamps revised artwork

Royal Mail Christmas Stamps The Nativity 2015

The stamps show the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and the key characters present at the birth of Christ. In the gospel of Luke, Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem for the census and it is there in a barn that Jesus is born. Both stamps below depict the journey with Mary upon a donkey.

Christmas 13p Stamp (1979) Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem

Christmas 13p Stamp (1979) Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem

22p, Joseph and Mary arriving at Bethlehem from Christmas. Through The Eyes of a Child (1981)

22p, Joseph and Mary arriving at Bethlehem from Christmas. Through The Eyes of a Child (1981)

The Nativity image is recognisable to most with the family congregated around the baby Jesus in a manger. Though not mentioned in the New Testament, many animals are present in Nativity Scenes, some of which you may have played in a school Nativity yourself.

Luke 2:7 ‘And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn’.

Christmas £1.00 Stamp (2015) The animals of the Nativity

The Shepherds in the Nativity story are visited by an Angel who informs them of the birth of Christ. You can see in the 4d stamp below the angel speak the words ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo,’ which translates to ‘Glory to God in the Highest.’

Luke 2:15 ‘And it came to pass, when the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”

5d, The Three Shepherds from Christmas (1969)

5d, The Three Shepherds from Christmas (1969)

Christmas 4d Stamp (1970) Sheperds and Apparition of the Angel

Christmas 4d Stamp (1970) Shepherds and Apparition of the Angel

In the Gospel of Matthew the Star of Bethlehem appears to the Three Magi, or Wise Men and leads them to the birth place of Christ. It is here that they give Jesus the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. In both below stamps you can make out the urns that transported these gifts.

Mathew 2:11 ‘And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts: gold and frankincense and myrrh.’

£1.65, Wise men and star from Christmas (2011)

£1.65, Wise men and star from Christmas (2011)

26p, 'We Three Kings' from Christmas Carols (1982)

26p, ‘We Three Kings’ from Christmas Carols (1982)

Linking with the Nativity theme, the Madonna and Child have adorned stamps both in 2005 and 2013. Here you can see the painting of the ‘Virgin and Child with Saint John The Baptist’ c.1460-1480 attributed to Antoniazzo Romano.  This was a hugely popular compositional image in the Renaissance period and an extremely expensive commission with both gold leaf and Lapis Lazuli paint being used.

Christmas 2nd Large Stamp (2013) Madonna and Child

Christmas 2nd Large Stamp (2013) Madonna and Child

Angels have also appeared on numerous Christmas stamp issues, celebrating the intercessors between mankind and the heavens. Angels are often seen playing musical instruments such as the harp, trumpet and lyre, as you can see in the miniature sheet below.

Hark! The Herald Angel Sing, Christmas Miniature Sheet 2007

Hark! The Herald Angel Sing, Christmas Miniature Sheet 2007

Many of us will have taken part in a school Nativity play as an angel with a halo or a shepherd wearing your mum’s tea towel on your head. It’s a seasonal reminder to bring people together and the below stamps show the innocence of children in their leading roles.

Christmas Nativity Play First Day Cover 1994

Christmas Nativity Play First Day Cover 1994

Christmas Stamps are different each year but their use encourages communication in a season when we give thanks for those we have. I hope you enjoy this year’s collection and send them to those you love.

From all of us at The British Postal Museum and Archive we would like to wish you a Very Merry Christmas !

-Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant

Stamps @ The Movies

Everyone has a favourite film, whether it’s a mushy Rom-Com or an Action Thriller, they bring stories into our lives and create characters you remember forever. Many different aspects of the film industry have been portrayed on stamps; here are just a few examples.

30p, Old Cinema Ticket from 100 Years of going to the pictures - A Cinema Celebration (1996)

30p, Old Cinema Ticket from 100 Years of going to the pictures – A Cinema Celebration (1996)

Iconic film legends have appeared on stamps over the years including English born actress Vivien Leigh, best known for her academy awarding winning role as Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939).  Leigh has actually appeared twice; once in 1985 for ‘Great British Film’ and again in ‘Great Britons’ from 2013.

1st, Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) from Great Britons (2013)

1st, Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) from Great Britons (2013)

31p, Vivien Leigh (from photo by Angus McBean) from British Film Year (1985)

31p, Vivien Leigh (from photo by Angus McBean) from British Film Year (1985)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Niven has also featured in his role as Peter Carter in ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ 1946, where after falling from a Lancaster bomber without a parachute, he argues his case in court to remain on earth. Niven also played British spy James Bond in the independent 1967 spoof of Casino Royale.

1st, A Matter of Life and Death (1946) from Great British Film (2014)

1st, A Matter of Life and Death (1946) from Great British Film (2014)

Many films are adapted or based on books or plays and stamps throughout the years have commemorated both films and their inspirations. The Rocky Horror Show was initially a book created by Richard O’Brien transferred to the stage and finally made into a film in 1975 featuring Tim Curry.

97p, Rocky Horror Show from Stage Musicals (2011)

97p, Rocky Horror Show from Stage Musicals (2011)

1st, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone from Harry Potter (2007)

1st, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone from Harry Potter (2007)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harry Potter Novels have been hugely popular in recent years documenting the childhood of one boy wizard and his friends. Now made into eight films it is a huge franchise with its own theme park in Orlando. The above stamp from 2007 features the first book cover, ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’.

Carry on Hammer 50p Stamp (2008) Carry on Cleo

Carry on Hammer 50p Stamp (2008) Carry on Cleo

Stamps also celebrate the films themselves, appealing to all ages. The above stamp ‘Carry On Cleo’ from 2008 references the huge Carry On franchise synonymous with British humour. C.S.Lewis’ fantastical Chronicles of Narnia novels have been made into 3 movies, with key characters featuring in 2011’s Magical Realms issue.

97p, Aslan from Magical Realms (2011)

97p, Aslan from Magical Realms (2011)

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Yoda

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Yoda

 

Contemporary cinema also appears in stamp design. October saw the release of Royal Mails commemorative stamps to celebrate the new Star Wars movie. New and old characters are depicted alongside iconic spacecraft like the Millennium Falcon.

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Millennium Falcon

Star Wars 1st Stamp (2015) Millennium Falcon

34p, Alfred Hitchcock (from photo by Howard Coster) from British Film Year (1985)

34p, Alfred Hitchcock (from photo by Howard Coster) from British Film Year (1985)

 

Many films are created by talented producers and writers. Alfred Hitchcock is probably recognized as the greatest British filmmaker, directing ‘To Catch a Thief’, ‘North by Northwest’ and his infamous ‘Psycho’. He was nicknamed ‘The Master of Suspense’ and made many cameo appearances in his movies.

 

 

Writers like Arthur Conan Doyle have had their literary creations celebrated on stamps. Doyle’s most iconic character Sherlock Holmes had his own stamp issue in 1993. Holmes has been portrayed in many films by the likes of; Christopher Lee, Basil Rathbone and most recently Robert Downey Jr.

1st, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930 from Eminent Britons (2009)

1st, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1859-1930 from Eminent Britons (2009)

Sherlock Holmes 24p Stamp (1993) The Reigate Squire

Sherlock Holmes 24p Stamp (1993) The Reigate Squire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The influence of film making is wide reaching and will inevitably continue to be a key theme in stamp design.  The characters and actors are easily recognisable, creating a fun and interesting way of celebrating our favourite films. I wonder what movie will appear next…..

-Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant

By Air, Land and Sea, The Battles of Britain

October 2015 marks 600 years since the Battle of Agincourt, a major English victory in the Hundred Years War. It saw the superiority of English archers defeat the French knights, leading to a unification of the two countries.

Stamps are an expressive way to remember and commemorate historic battles and I have chosen just a few to document the terrains of war faced by the British throughout history. First we will focus on land.

The Houses of Lancaster and York 1st Stamp (2008) Henry V (1413-22)

The Houses of Lancaster and York 1st Stamp (2008)

Henry V’s men were greatly outnumbered at Agincourt, however the narrow battleground prevented large scale manoeuvres benefiting the English. Their innovative use of the longbow also kept the progressing French at bay. The defeated French Knights can be seen in the below stamp taken from the illuminated manuscript ‘The Vigil of Charles VII’ c.1484. 

The Houses of Lancaster and York 1st Stamp (2008) Battle of Agincourt, 1415 Henry V's Triumph

The Houses of Lancaster and York 1st Stamp (2008) Battle of Agincourt, 1415 Henry V’s Triumph

After the battle Henry married the French King’s daughter Catherine of Valois and their children were acknowledged as heirs to the throne. It was their son Henry VI who would become King of both England and France.

The Houses of Lancaster and York 54p Stamp (2008) Henry VI (1422-61 & 1470-71)

The Houses of Lancaster and York 54p Stamp (2008)

As an island nation we have always been under threat from invasion by sea. The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 saw 27 British ships defeat 33 of the combined forces of France and Spain. It was here that Admiral Lord Nelson’s unorthodox tactics confirmed British Naval supremacy.

Bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar (1st issue) 68p Stamp (2005)

Bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar (1st issue) 68p Stamp (2005)

Nelson decided that instead of attacking the enemy ships parallel, which awarded a greater target area, he would attack straight on. By moving two smaller groups forward perpendicular to the enemy he was able to split their line. This formation can be seen in the above stamp from 2005.

Bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar (1st issue) 1st Stamp (2005)

Bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar (1st issue) 1st Stamp (2005)

Though a tremendous victory, it saw the death of Nelson who was mortally wounded aboard his ship the HMS Victory. This event was immortalized in numerous paintings like the one depicted in the stamp above. Nelson’s body was brought back to England in a cask of brandy, where he was honoured with a state funeral.

Maritime Hertiage 24p Stamp (1982) Lord Nelson and HMS Victory

Maritime Heritage 24p Stamp (1982)

With the advancements in technology the new danger to the nation came from the sky. 2015 also celebrates the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain, the first campaign to be fought predominately in the air. Below you can see an image of ‘The Few’, the name given to the boys who defended their country.

The Battle of Britain £1.33 Stamp (2015)

The Battle of Britain £1.33 Stamp (2015)

In the stamps below you can see the Supermarine Spitfire designed by Reginald Mitchell. The aircraft was light, quick and a match for the Lufwaffe’s Messerschmitt Bf 109. Although Hawker Hurricanes were used predominately by the RAF, it was the Spitfire that became the iconic symbol of British defence.

Architects of the Air 20p Stamp (1997) Reginald Mitchell and Supermarine Spitfire MkIIA

Architects of the Air 20p Stamp (1997)

1st, Supermarine Spitfire by R.J.Mitchell from Design Classics (2009)

1st, Supermarine Spitfire by R.J.Mitchell from Design Classics (2009)

The Hawker Hurricane can be seen in the below stamp accompanied by Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding. Dowding played a huge role in the success of the Battle of Britain as the Head of RAF Fighter Command. It was here that all information was collected and decisions made, ultimately winning the battle.

Royal Air Force 17p Stamp (1986) Lord Dowding and Hawker Hurricane Mk. I

Royal Air Force 17p Stamp (1986)

Throughout history Britain has been at war. The stamps displayed here celebrate the dedication of those who took part and the lives of the men and women lost in the conflicts. Through the medium of stamps we can circulate a message of national remembrance.

-Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant

QEII Longest Reigning Monarch

Wednesday 9 September marked the day our Queen, Elizabeth II, became the longest ruling monarch in British history, taking the title from Queen Victoria. To commemorate this occasion Royal Mail released a new stamp issue ‘Long to Reign Over Us’.

Long to Reign Over Us

Long to Reign Over Us, Miniature Sheet 2015

Above you can see the Miniature Sheet, issued with images of both the Wyon Medal, on which the original Penny Black was based, and the three-quarter portrait of the Queen by Dorothy Wilding. The Amethyst Machin definitive in the centre includes the words ‘Long to Reign Over Us’ in the background of the stamp.

Long to Reign Over Us 1st Stamp (2015) Machin Definitive

Long to Reign Over Us 1st Stamp (2015) Machin Definitive

To mark this momentous occasion I thought we should take a moment to look at some stamps that document milestones of the Queen and her predecessors. Queen Elizabeth is the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror and will become the longest ruling by surpassing the 63 years and 216 days amounted by Queen Victoria.  

Kings & Queens, House of Hannover £1.10 Stamp (2011)

Kings & Queens, House of Hannover £1.10 Stamp (2011)

Kings & Queens, House of Hannover £1.00 Stamp (2011) Queen Victoria 1897 Diamond Jubilee

Kings & Queens, House of Hannover £1.00 Stamp (2011)

In 1952 Elizabeth inherited the throne from her father, King George VI, who became King in 1936 as the result of his brother’s abdication to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson. We can see the family  line of succession in the stamp issue of 2012 depicting the House of Windsor and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. 

The House of Windsor - (2012) Presentation Pack

The House of Windsor – (2012) Presentation Pack

During the Second World War Elizabeth trained as a driver in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (WATS) to serve her country. It was here she learnt to change tyres, rebuild engines and drive heavy vehicles. We can see an image of her during this period in the centre of the below stamp.

60th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II 17p Stamp (1986) Queen Elizabeth II in 1928, 1942 and 1952

60th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II 17p Stamp (1986)

Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten in 1947 and had two of her four children before her coronation; Charles in 1948 and Anne in 1950. It was on a trip to Kenya in 1952 that she became Queen, though she was not officially crowned until a year later. It was the first time the ceremony was broadcasted to the nation, allowing everyone to celebrate the event.

50th Anniversary of Coronation 1st Stamp (2003) Queen Elizabeth II in Coronation Robes

50th Anniversary of Coronation 1st Stamp (2003)

During her reign the Queen has had two children, eight grandchildren and now five great grandchildren. As monarch, much of her life, and that of her children, has been spent in the public eye and over the years we have seen stamps document the marriages of all the Queen’s children, most recently her grandson Prince William.

Royal Wedding of His Royal Highness Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton £1.10 Stamp (2011)

Royal Wedding of His Royal Highness Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton £1.10 Stamp (2011)

The Queen has ruled through difficult times; with social unrest, conflict and the possibility of a split nation. During this time she has also made numerous changes to the monarchy; from opening up her residences to the public to supporting the end of male primogeniture. She has presided over 12 Prime Ministers including Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair and has visited countries across the world.

Prime Ministers 1st Stamp (2014) Margaret Thatcher

Prime Ministers 1st Stamp (2014) Margaret Thatcher

Prime Ministers 1st Stamp (2014) Winston Churchill

Prime Ministers 1st Stamp (2014) Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her Royal Highness has devoted her life to her country, performing over 60 years of service. It is through the commemorative stamps of her reign that we can see the development of her life and that of her decedents. In a time when the popularity of the monarchy is suffering, one must acknowledge her dedication and continued love of her country and through ‘Long to Reign Over Us’ we celebrate this.

-Georgina Tomlinson, Philatelic Assistant

Stamps: Why the Portrait?

As an Art Historian (now Philatelic Assistant) I have always been fascinated by the portrait and a stamp in itself is a miniature piece of art. To understand why the Queen’s head appears as it does on GB stamps we need to first understand the significance of the portrait historically.

Some of the earliest profile portraits were produced by the Romans for their coins and medals.  Images of the Emperors illustrated their power and importance and thus the profile became synonymous with these characteristics. It was also a way of distributing the face of their leader, who many would never have seen.

Roman Coin

Roman Coin

We can see the influence of these artefacts in the work of Renaissance artists who tried to recreate this sense of power in their portraits of the wealthy. This is evident in the portrait of the Duke of Urbino and his wife by Piero della Francesca who are both depicted in profile facing one another. Yet this composition had to be used as the Duke had previously lost his right eye in a tournament. You can also see the significance of the medal in Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo De Medici’ c.1474-75.

Piero della Francesca 'Duke of Urbibo' c1467-1470

Piero della Francesca ‘Duke of Urbino’ c.1467-1470

Sandro Botticelli 'Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder' c1474-75

Sandro Botticelli ‘Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder’ c.1474-75

However the initial portrait of Queen Elizabeth II used for postage was not in fact a profile. Instead it was a three quarter view of Her Majesty photographed by Dorothy Wilding in 1952. Though adequate as a Definitive stamp –  the Wilding design was found to be overly challenging for many stamp designers as it took up to one third of the stamp’s area and subsequently compromised the design of the stamp.

Wilding High Value Definitives 1955

Wilding High Value Definitives 1955

As a solution to this problem Tony Benn (Post Master General 1964-66) along with designer David Gentleman introduced the idea of removing the Queen’s head altogether. Initial ideas were produced, however in 1965 the Queen decided she wished to remain on the stamp. This led to the small profile silhouette on commemorative stamps being used instead, reminiscent of those produced in the 18th century of the English high society.

1965 Churchill Commemorative

Churchill Commemorative without the Queen’s Head 1965

A traditional silhouette portrait of the late 18th century

A traditional silhouette portrait of the late 18th century

To produce a profile portrait of the Queen, The Royal Mail approached the British sculptor Arnold Machin. He took inspiration from the simplicity of the Penny Black portrait, which was based on a medal of Queen Victoria by William Wyon. This again acknowledges the historical importance of the profile.

Arnold Machin Plaster Cast

Arnold Machin Plaster Cast

William Wyon Medal

William Wyon Medal

The image of the Queen we see today is not only practical for producing stamps but also evokes the idea of power and importance, circulating her image to the nation. The significance of the portrait on a stamp is not merely a representation of the person but as a symbol of their significance. Commemorative stamps elevate the importance of an individual by allowing them to feature prominently on the stamp, though the Queen still remains dominant as the accompanying silhouette.

Winston Churchill 1st (October 14 2014)

Winston Churchill 1st NVI (October 14 2014)

Next time you see a photograph of yourself have a think what you would look like on a postage stamp?

– Georgina Tomlinson Philatelic Assistant.

The 175th Anniversary of The Penny Black

Today we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive stamp, a truly great British achievement that changed the postal service forever. In a world of email and text we can forget the impact it had on communication. To mark this event we are exhibiting one of the original sheets of Penny Blacks in our Search Room until the 7 August.

Penny Black

Penny Black

Before 1839 postage was paid by the recipient not the sender, which limited those who could afford to receive their post. High prices and private franking also restricted who could send letters. To offset this, letters were cross written and codes were devised so that recipients could understand a letter’s contents without paying to receive it. This put the Post Office’s profits significantly at risk.

Cross Written Letter

Cross Written Letter

To counteract these problems Rowland Hill introduced a list of postal reforms, stipulating that postage should be paid by the sender, at a unified price based on weight not distance. These proved successful and in 1839 an act was passed to introduce Hill’s reforms. After a public competition it was proposed that the image of the Queen’s head should be used on the stamp as for security reasons minor differences could be detected in forgeries.

Pioneers of Communications Sir Rowland Hill

Pioneers of Communications Sir Rowland Hill

The design of the first stamp was based on a medal by William Wyon of Victoria taken at the age of 15, which would subsequently represent her until the end of her reign. Arnold Machin took inspiration from the Penny Black’s simplicity when he produced the Royal portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for modern day stamps.

William Wyon Medal

William Wyon Medal

Arnold Machin Plaster Cast

Arnold Machin Plaster Cast

The image was then engraved, in reverse, on a die by Charles Heath and rolled 240 times onto a copper plate to produce the sheet. For security, letters were placed in the corners of the stamps; contemporary stamps continue to adapt to stay one step ahead of the forgers.

Penny Black Die

Penny Black Die

The Penny Black was actually put on sale on the 1 May 1840 but was not valid for postage until the 6th. The Twopenny Blue however did not begin to be printed until the 1 May. The process was pretty quick and 600,000 stamps where being produced daily.

Twopenny Blue

Twopenny Blue

To celebrate 175 years a miniature sheet has been produced by Royal Mail with two Penny Blacks and two Twopenny Blues, each with a First Class value. The background to the miniature sheet features a photograph of the printing presses at Perkins Bacon & Petch – the original printers of the Penny Black.

Penny Black Miniature Sheet

Penny Black Miniature Sheet

This is not the first time we have commemorated the Penny Black in modern day postage. The Penny Black 150th anniversary stamps were produced in 1990 where five differing values depicted Queen Elizabeth alongside Queen Victoria.

Penny Black 150th Anniversary 1990

Penny Black 150th Anniversary 1990

The Penny Black 175 exhibition at the BPMA is available to view Monday to Friday in Freeling House, London.

-Georgina Tomlinson