Tag Archives: Stamp Artwork Project

Cataloguing Stamp Artwork – Phase II – 1975-1980

We have successfully applied for funding from the Aurelius Charitable Trust, the Leche Trust and the Charles Hayward Foundation to continue collection care, cataloguing and digitisation work of our collection of stamp artwork. Previous phases of the work have taken the management of the artwork from the reigns of George V to the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The second phase of work will see that cataloguing taken to 1980.

Before cataloguing and digitisation work is work carried a careful appraisal of the artwork is required to ascertain its condition, the accuracy of its caption and the security of its mount. This work is being undertaken by Richard West MBE, a respected philatelist and former editor of Stamp Magazine, in consultation with Douglas Muir, BPMA’s Curator of Philately, and Krystyna Koscia, our Conservator. This is a key process as the aim of the project is to preserve the artwork for future generations and it is reassuring to have Richard’s careful attention to detail deployed in this task.

Richard West MBE.

Richard West MBE.

Richard checks each sheet, writes and attaches the caption, before inserting it into a melinex sleeve (an inert, acid-free polyester) and placing it into an album. Richard has now completed albums up to 1979. This has been a pain-staking process and Richard has also been working backwards through the reign of Queen Elizabeth, making sure that captions written in the past are also accurate and re-writing them where necessary.

Stamp issues between 1975 and 1980 include Birth Bicentenary of JMW Turner (1975), Sailing (1975), 150th Anniversary of Public Railways (1975), Social Reformers (1976), Telephone Centenary (1976), British Cultural Traditions (1976), British Wildlife (1977), Horses (1978), Death Centenary of Sir Rowland Hill (1979) and London Landmarks (1980).

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Anna Flood, one of our archivists, has been editing stamp artwork catalogue descriptions for the reigns of King George V and King George VI and is now preparing the artwork for Queen Elizabeth II for release in the near future.

Now that Richard has prepared a substantial number of artwork albums from 1975, Anna will create catalogue descriptions for these. Anna will use the captions written by Richard as the basis for each artwork description, noting particular features and the name of the contributing artist. This is time consuming work, requiring Anna to liaise between Richard and Douglas to ensure that the appropriate detail is captured.

Digitisation of the artwork will begin towards the end of the year as the cataloguing descriptions are formed. Again, digitisation is laborious work – artwork needs careful handling at this stage too, and the scanning equipment has to be calibrated to ensure that the resulting digital images match as closely the colour and detail of the original piece of artwork.

Finally, once the digital images have been processed, the masters carefully stored away and the digital surrogates attached to the relevant record, the descriptions will be proof-read first by Anna and Douglas, and then a second archivist will carry out a final read. This quality control minimises the risk of errors but, inevitably, they do occasionally slip through. The catalogue records, along with digital images of each piece of artwork, will be available for consultation in the first quarter of 2013.

Two new additions to the website

Henri Cheffer's original design

Henri Cheffer's original design for a proposed Anglo-French stamp issue (1940)

Over the past day we have been uploading material related to stamps from the era of George VI to our website. Ten proposed or issued stamps dating 1937-1951 are documented and large-size scans of the artworks are included. This is part of our ongoing Stamp Artwork Project which aims to make available material related to British stamp issues from the eras of George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II. Find out more and see what’s new on the Stamp Artwork Project page of our website.

Also uploaded today is our latest podcast The Post Office Went to War featuring thematic collector Christine Earle. Christine Earle is a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London and a renowned thematic stamp collector. Her Post Office Went to War collection comprises a wealth of supporting material including GPO notices, ration books and saving stamps. To download or subscribe to our podcast visit: www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast.

The Accession Stamp issue of Edward VIII

by Adam Reynolds, Project Archivist (Stamp Artwork)

Recent months have seen the online publication of all philatelic artwork relating to the reign of King Edward VIII, as part of the ongoing Stamp Artwork Project at the BPMA. Despite the brevity of Edward VIII’s reign, there was a substantial amount of stamp artwork produced, for both the unreleased Coronation issue, and the Accession issue.

The stamps for the Accession issue are particularly striking in their break from the ornamentation characterising the stamps of George V. It was agreed at an early stage that there would be no invitation to artists to submit designs. With the adoption of the photogravure production process, it was possible to produce a portrait more successfully; with this process specifically in mind, the first essential was an acceptable photographic portrait of the King.

H J Brown's pencil drawing

H J Brown's pencil drawing

Profile pictures by Hugh Cecil were specifically taken for the stamp issue in March 1936. H.J. Brown, then only 17, submitted an unsolicited pencil drawing in April; this formed the basis of the design, along with the Cecil head.

The decision to use a photographic portrait was a cause of controversy to some, with one member of the public commenting that “the Post Office is content to produce these highly important exports without calling in the advice on the real expert – in other words, the artist. As well rebuild Whitehall without an architect!”

As issued in September 1936 the four stamps of King Edward VIII were very simple in format, quite different from anything that had gone before. The design reflected the new King’s desire for simplicity and change. Public reaction to the stamps was generally very positive, in particular praising their simplicity.

Edward VIII Accession issue, 1d

Edward VIII Accession issue, 1d

Despite this there were still reactionary grumbles to the issue; as one member of the public writing to the Daily Express exclaimed:

“Can anything be done to prevent the new stamp? The crown appears to have nothing to do with the head of the King (which looks as though he has been beheaded). As for the word ‘postage’ – words fail me. In short, it is a horrible production.”

The criticism took on a more apocalyptic tone from James Marchant of Poole, in his letter to The Times on 4th September 1936:

“It so happened that soon after I purchased one of the new stamps I walked into a typical Protestant Church of the Reformation period, with its shivering bareness of brick and whitewash. The new stamp expresses the same spirit which erected that stark abomination. It is the same spirit which is covering the land with iron and concrete barrack-flats in the design of which the artist has been forthright cast out”.

Readers can judge for themselves in viewing all the material related to the design process of the Accession issue on the BPMA’s online catalogue, and can also read more about other stamp issues from the reigns of Edward VIII and George V, at the home of the Stamp Artwork Project.