Tag Archives: Shakespeare Festival 1964

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, renowned playwright and poet, famous worldwide for Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and his sonnets…but he has another claim to fame. In 1964 Shakespeare became the first commoner to appear on a stamp.

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Hamlet contemplating Yorick’s Skull, designed by C and R Ironside (issued 1964)

In 1964 the Post Office issued a set of stamps to coincide with the Shakespeare Festival, marking the 400th anniversary of his birth. Five designs were chosen, one by C&R Ironside showing an image of Hamlet and four by renowned stamp designer David Gentleman. Gentleman’s stamp designs proved controversial as the image of Shakespeare’s head was the same size as that of the Queen’s making him appear of equal importance. This objection was however overcome and Gentleman’s designs were issued alongside that of C&R Ironside to celebrate the Shakespeare Festival marking his 400th Birthday.

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Shakespeare Festival stamps, 1964

 

It is now his 450th Birthday and both he and his work have found their way onto a variety of stamps worldwide. Some such issues include the Bicentenary of Australian settlement, 1988; the 150th Anniversary of National Portrait Gallery, 2006, which featured celebrated Britons and the Reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, 1995.

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Reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre stamp issue, 1995

 

Animals and Stamps

Animals have featured on British stamps at least once a year since 1960; either as the main focus of the issue or to symbolise cultural traditions. The recurrence of animals on stamps reveals their varied importance; as pets, as the focus of preservation campaigns, as sporting and working companions, in art and literature, in folklore, and as symbols of national values.

Depictions of animals on stamps from 1911 until the 1960s were often symbolic promotions of the strength of the Empire. In 1924 a lion represented the British Empire’s power; in 1929 a horse alluded to medieval chivalry; in 1946 a dove represented peace; and in 1948 a cart horse signified a perceived return to a pastoral ideal in liberated Jersey.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

The 1960s saw a continuation of animal symbolisation, for example a squirrel happily embodied the message of a 1961 Post Office Savings Bank stamp. This decade also saw the first instance of animals as a stamp issue’s central theme with National Nature Week in 1963.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

In the late 1970s a yearly animal routine was established, with British Wildlife 1977, Horses 1978 and Dogs 1979 issued successively, and this pattern has only increased in subsequent years, accompanied by the development of a number of themes.

Animal companionship is emphasised in issues such as the endearing Cats and Dogs 2001, Cats 1995, Dogs 1981 and Dogs 1979.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Conservation is advocated in issues such as Action for Species 2007 – 2010, World Wildlife Fund 2011, and the 1998 Endangered Species issue. The diversity of British species was explored in Sea Life 2007, Insects 2008 and Woodland Creatures 2004. The importance of animal welfare was championed in RSPCA 1990 and Battersea Dogs and Cats 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

Working Animals were the focus of issues such as All the Queen’s Horses 1997, Farm Animals 2005, and feature on the forthcoming Working Horses issue.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Birds of Prey 2003 featured astounding images of a barn owl and kestrel mid-flight, demonstrating wildlife photography techniques.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Animals’ connection with folklore was explored in Folklore 1981, which depicted love birds for Valentine’s Day and animal heads atop Medieval Mummers. Animals’ connection with superstition was explored in Good Luck 1991, which featured a magpie (spotting one, according to superstition, signifies impending sorrow, while seeing two means joy), a kingfisher (said to be able to forecast the weather) and a black cat (signifying good or bad luck, depending on who you ask). Cats and dogs rain from the sky in the 2001 issue Weather, in a nod to the traditional adage.

Weather, 2001.

Weather, 2001.

Images of birds symbolised migration in the 1999 Settlers’ Tale issue, and hope in the 1992 Protection of the Environment issue.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

The prevalence of animals in British art, literature and theatre is demonstrated in issues such as Animal Tales 2006, Just So Stories 2002, Edward Lear 1988, Shakespeare Festival 1964 and British Paintings 1967.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

This frequent return to animals in stamp design demonstrates the variety of ways in which we interact with animals and their varied role in cultural traditions.

 There are many, many more depictions of animals on stamps. Which is your favourite?

Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

William Shakespeare on stamps

In February we marked International Darwin Day by taking a look at stamps commemorating the achievements of naturalist Charles Darwin. Today we celebrate the work of another notable Briton who has been commemorated on stamps multiple times, playwright and poet William Shakespeare, who died on this day in 1616.

Surprisingly, given the importance of Shakespeare’s contribution to world culture, requests to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his birth on stamps were not immediately approved. At the time the Post Office would only mark Royal or postal anniversaries, and current events of national or international significance. Lobbying followed, and eventually the stamps were approved as a commemoration of the national Shakespeare Festival of 1964, held to mark Shakespeare’s quatercentenary.

Hamlet contemplating Yorick's Skull, designed by C and R Ironside (issued 1964)

Hamlet contemplating Yorick's Skull, designed by C and R Ironside (issued 1964)

Reynolds Stone and Edward Bawden were amongst those who submitted designs for the stamps, but it was four designs by David Gentleman and a further design by C and R Ironside  which were chosen. The artists had been asked to ensure that if an image of Shakespeare was included in their design that it was not larger than the Queen’s head.

While the Ironside design showed Hamlet rather than Shakespeare, Gentleman’s designs complied with the instructions, but still proved to be controversial. This was partly because Shakespeare’s head was the same size as the Queen’s, giving it equal importance, but mainly because the image of a commoner had never appeared on a stamp before. “This caused a fuss that would be unimaginable now,” Gentleman later noted in his book Artwork. “…And there were jokes in Parliament about the proximity of the Queen’s head to Shakespeare’s Bottom.”

Shakespeare Festival stamps, 1964

Shakespeare Festival stamps, 1964

Shakespeare on a stamp celebrating the Bicentenary of Australian Settlement, 1988

Shakespeare on a stamp celebrating the Bicentenary of Australian Settlement, 1988

The rules were much more relaxed by 1988 when Royal Mail and Australia Post released a joint issue to celebrate the Bicentenary of Australian Settlement. Shakespeare joins John Lennon, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a stamp reflecting the continuing links between Australia and Britain through the performing arts. The Bicentenary of Australian Settlement stamps were designed by Melbourne-based designer Garry Emery, who was chosen from a number of British and Australian designers by the Stamp Advisory Committees from both countries. The Australian Bicentenary stamps were the first British stamps to be designed outside of the British Isles.

The National Portrait Gallery: William Shakespeare stamp, 2006

The National Portrait Gallery: William Shakespeare stamp, 2006

Shakespeare’s portrait is one of 10 portraits of well known Britons to appear on the stamps marking the 150th Anniversary of the National Portrait Gallery in 2006. The portrait is attributed to John Taylor and the original can be viewed on the National Portrait Gallery website.

British Theatre stamp depicting Hamlet, 1982

British Theatre stamp depicting Hamlet, 1982

Apart from images of Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s work as a playwright and poet has also been commemorated on stamps. The 1982 set on British Theatre included another stamp depicting Hamlet contemplating the skull of Yorick.

Greetings in Arts: All the Love Poems of Shakespeare, 1995

Greetings in Arts: All the Love Poems of Shakespeare, 1995

In 1947 Sylvan Press published the book All the Love Poems of Shakespeare, with illustrations by Eric Gill. One of Gill’s illustrations was included on a stamp released in 1995 as part of the Greetings In Arts issue. This was not the first British stamp to feature a Gill design. The Coronation stamps for George VI were designed by Gill with Edmund Dulac, and Gill also worked on the Proposed Coronation stamps for Edward VIII.

Also issued in 1995 was a set of stamps to mark the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s Southbank. The stamps show not only the original Globe Theatre, but many other Elizabethan theatres in which Shakespeare and his plays were performed.

Reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre stamp issue, 1995

Reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre stamp issue, 1995