Tag Archives: photogravure

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.

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.

New records available via our online catalogue

Don’t be a programme pirate

Don’t be a programme pirate (POST 110/4328)

Following an upload to our online catalogue earlier today, we’ve increased the amount of records searchable via our online catalogue to 89,240 – an increase of over 1500 descriptions of objects, documents, photographs and philatelic material.

These new descriptions include additional records of POST 110: Printed Publicity Material. Many of these new records describe posters placed in post offices advertising the latest stamp issues and posters for telephone kiosks advertising a variety of services, including Post Office Savings Bank.

As I grow, My savings will grow. Save regularly with the Savings Bank

As I grow, My savings will grow. Save regularly with the Savings Bank (POST 110/4329)

One telephone kiosk poster in particular tells users ‘Don’t be a programme pirate”, while another (POST 110/4329), showing a young child’s face, declares “As I grow, My savings will grow. Save regularly with the Savings Bank”. Post 110 also includes a sizeable collection of education posters from the 1980s which were aimed for classroom use.

Over 300 descriptions of King George V Registration Sheets have also been added. These comprise of low value Photogravures and Overprints. Many of the overprints were for use in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now modern-day Botswana.

Harrison and Sons in 1934 pioneered the use of the photogravure printing process in Britain. It introduced high-speed production and reduced the overall cost. The original designs were based on photographs meaning a new issue could reach the printing cylinder stage much quicker than preparing printing plates by the typographic process.

KGV ½d green photogravure, booklet panes of six, imperforate 1935 Jul 26 (POST 150/KGV/B/1557)

KGV ½d green photogravure, booklet panes of six, imperforate 1935 Jul 26 (POST 150/KGV/B/1557)

Search the BPMA catalogue at http://catalogue.postalheritage.org.uk

The first London Olympics stamps

Tomorrow Royal Mail is releasing the first ten of 30 1st class stamps which will be issued over the next three years in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The thirty stamps not only represent the 30th Olympiad but will showcase thirty different Olympic and Paralympic sports. Each stamp is designed by a different contemporary artist or illustrator, giving this issue a distinctive and modern look. 

The first of the London 2012 Olympics stamp issues

The first of the London 2012 Olympics stamp issues

But London 2012 is not London’s first Olympics and these are not Britain’s first Olympics stamps; London hosted the Games in both 1908 and 1948 (the only city apart from Athens to be awarded the Games three times) and a set of stamps was released to celebrate the 1948 Games (there were no 1908 Olympics stamps as commemoratives were not issued in Britain until 1924). Unfortunately we are unable to show pictures of the 1948 Olympics stamps, but we can tell you a little about them.

Four Olympics stamps were issued on 29th July 1948 (the day of the opening ceremony) in 2½d, 3d, 6d and 1/- denominations. The designers were S. D. Scott (of Waterlows stamp printers), Edmund Dulac, Percy Metcalfe and Abram Games. Scott’s 6d design was also selected for use on air letters, as it was suitable for both photogravure (stamp) and letterpress (air letter) printing.

The first day cover cancellations for the first London 2012 Olympics stamps

The first day cover cancellations for the first set of London 2012 Olympics stamps

A special slogan die bearing the impression of the Olympic rings set against a background of wavy obliterator lines was produced and a special stamp cancelling machine was installed at Wembley Stadium (the main Olympics venue). The Olympic rings slogan was used on all unregistered letters (provided they would pass through the machine) that were posted in specially-marked pillar boxes in the Wembley grounds or at the Olympics Games Post Office.

Overprints for use in Bahrain, Kuwait, Muscat, Morocco Agencies and Tangier were produced, but according to a press report of the time one of the Muscat overprints was faulty. On 11th August 1948 The Evening News reported that Mr J G Clive, managing director of a stamp wholesaler in Maidenhead, received an order of 9000 of the 1/- stamps overprinted 1 Rupee for Muscat. They arrived in 75 sheets of 120, and Mr Clive found that one sheet had a fault: the 1 Rupee overprint had been printed twice. Mr Clive told the Evening News that his find was worth at least £3,000 (more than £81,000 in today’s money).

In total 3.5 million sets of the 1948 Olympics issue were sold, earning the GPO £340,000 – and the stamps were much admired by the public and collectors. The magazine Stamp Collecting even published an anonymous poem on the subject in their issue dated 14th August 1948.

To the Very Refined Lady on the 1/- Olympic Stamp

Dedicated without permission, to the Postmaster General, by his humble and obedient servant a Member of the Public

She bounces on a weary world
Skittish, coy, and fat and forty.
Her wings askew, her hair is curled,
She hopes she’s looking rather naughty. 

Oh Whitehall, dashing, carefree, frisky.
How did you draw a dame so risqué?
Perhaps you wished to make us start
With admiration at your art-
Or was it just a double whisky?

POST 102/12 – Commemorative stamp issues, Channel Islands, Olympic Games and U K regional issues
POST 122/8232 – Postage stamps. Obliteration and sales to dealers etc.: philatelic revenue from new issues. Accountant General’s Department calculations on the Silver Wedding, Channel Islands and Olympics special issues

Barnett Freedman, Stephen Tallents and the making of the Jubilee Stamp

by Scott Anthony 

Historians often remember King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 as a jamboree, a day when the British collectively bunked off from the economic, political and social strife that beset the nation between the wars.

The Silver Jubilee stamp designed by Barnett Freedman was central to the popular celebrations. Philately played a large part in King George V’s popular appeal, and by an odd twist of fate Jubilee day fell on the 95th anniversary of the launch of the Penny Black. It was apt that King George’s Jubilee stamp would become one of a long 20th century line of everyday collectables.

Less appreciated now is Freedman’s extraordinary artistic ambition. Freedman’s design utilised then cutting-edge printing techniques to give the stamp something approaching a three dimensional texture, while his use of shading was designed to make it appear as if light was emanating from the King’s head. As well as a sentimental appeal, for contemporaries the stamp had an almost sci-fi attraction that attracted a degree of controversy.

George V Silver Jubilee stamps by Barnett Freedman

George V Silver Jubilee stamps by Barnett Freedman

“By taking full advantage of the photogravure process and getting a brilliance of effect hitherto unknown in our stamps”, sniffed The Manchester Guardian, “Freedman has sacrificed what is to some an essential quality of design.” In short, when it came to stamps, the newspaper critics of the day where stuck firmly in the flat earth camp.

However, the popular success of the Jubilee stamp marked an important step towards resurrecting the reputation of the lithograph. Artists like Freedman along with Paul Nash, Edward McKnight Kauffer and Graham Sutherland believed that the lithograph enabled mass production while keeping the artist in close personal touch with his audience. Something of Freedman’s working methods can be seen in the GPO Film The King’s Stamp. As the rhetoric of the day went, “in the modern age good art should not be the exclusive property of museums”.

Under the direction of Sir Stephen Tallents, Britain’s first public relations officer, the General Post Office had similarly sought to imbue everyday objects with rare aesthetic value. From Rex Whistler’s Valentine’s Day Telegram to Giles Gilbert Scott’s Jubilee Telephone Kiosk to the bright bakelite phones Tallents placed in Victor Saville musicals, Freedman’s stamp was part of a wider upsurge of what might be best described as a brief moment of Civil Service idealism.

Tallents’ triumphant commissions had also finally secured Freedman’s public reputation. Born of Jewish Russian émigrés in the East End of London, Freedman had begun attending night school at St Martins aged 15, while by day working on the design of tombstones (for a stone mason) and then war memorials (for an architect). After winning a London County Council arts scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art, Freedman eeked out an existence teaching and designing book covers. Notable successes included Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoir of an Infantryman and several books by Tallents’ friend Walter de la Mere. Indeed, Freedman would later design the Tallents family Christmas card.

The Post Office’s commissions brought Freedman’s methods to a mass national audience and secured the 33 year-old employment from the most far-sighted and prestigious corporate sponsors of modern art in 1930s Britain; London Transport, Shell and Crawford’s advertising agency. Freedman’s exacting style now playfully emphasised the importance of road safety, modern agricultural methods and the importance of beer drinking to sporting success. He also found minor celebrity as the violin player providing the musical accompaniment to William Simonds’ puppet show.

A Barnett Freedman illustration from The Post Office: A review of the activities of the Post Office 1934

A Barnett Freedman illustration from The Post Office: A review of the activities of the Post Office 1934

Most importantly, Tallents professional patronage sealed an ongoing personal relationship with Freedman. Both were part of a generation for whom the 1935 Jubilee was indeed a rare jamboree, as Britain was buffeted by successive wars and economic crisis. Post-war austerity required Freedman’s acceptance of an ever greater teaching load, the pressures of overwork, stress and relative poverty contributing to his untimely death at the age of 57.

Tallents and Freedman shared an interest in Alfred Stevens, a cult hero of British art typically held up at the time as a victim of Victorian vulgarity and short-sightedness. Amongst their last letters Tallents pointed out to Freedman that the flat (in Canning Place, Kensington) where he designed The Jubilee Stamp was adjacent to the one in which Stevens had designed his ill-fated Wellington monument.

It was a quirky and amused exchange, but Freedman could have been forgiven for thinking that not all the comparisons with the “British Michaelangelo from Blandford Forum” were entirely happy ones.

Many thanks to Jeremy Parrett at the Sir Kenneth Green Library, Manchester Metropolitan University for his assistance with this article.

Scott Anthony is a Research Fellow at the University of Manchester and author of the BFI Film Classic Night Mail. On 29th October he will be talking about the GPO’s patronage of art, design and film under Tallents at the BPMA.