Saturday, 19 August 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Harold J. Bard

In 1938, Harold Bard's first known stamp engravings were issued. They consisted of the definitive set issued in the Cayman Islands. For this set, he engraved the profile head of King George VI. The engraved die, for Waterlow & Sons, was numbered 15656 and dated 14 May 1937.

There is another profile head of the king, also engraved by Bard for Waterlow & Sons, but no further details are known about either year or issue. The die number, 16523, would suggest though, that the engraving dates from around 1939 or 1940.

Harold Bard engraved the dies for the British Castle definitives of 1955. The engravings were based on the Dorothy Wilding photograph of the Queen and the watercolour designs of Lynton Lamb. As early as the Spring of 1953 it was clear that the high values would be recess-printed and include the Wilding portait of the Queen. Bard finished his die of the portrait that summer. He had to wait a long time before he could engrave the rest of the design for it was only at the end of 1954 that the final designs were chosen.

While Bard was working on the master dies of the four stamps, the designer Lynton Lamb is said to have been rather pleased with Bard's work. He has been recorded saying that Bard  had 'made a beautiful job' of the 2s6d and 5s dies, and later commented that the master die for the £1 value 'makes a very beautiful stamp'.

In 2005, the 50th anniversary of the British Wilding castles definitives was marked with a miniature sheet. The stamps reproduced on that sheet were made with the original dies engraved by Harold Bard. The castles were reproduced from their original dies. The only exception was the design for Windsor Castle. The original die was lost so the artwork for this particular value was computer-made, based on the original £1 stamp. The 'grotto' borders of all four values were all reproduced using the original die of the 2s6d value.

Sometime during his career (date unknown), Harold Bard engraved a test note for De La Rue / Giori. As luck would have it, it was a case of Bard doing The Bard, for the test note included a portrait of William Shakespeare! Bard 'hid' his signature on Shakespeare's left shoulder, next to the Bard's name.

You will find Harold J Bard's database HERE.

Friday, 18 August 2017

DATABASE: Gayfield Shaw


New Zealand, Congress of British Empire Chambers of Commerce, 2.5d (with FD Manley) (1)

1) The Australian Philatelist

Saturday, 12 August 2017

CHAT: The US Newspaper Stamps, or: The Headaches of a Philatelist (part 1)

27 July 2017
Being slightly bored before I retired, I went onto the ebay website and typed in 'signed die proof', just to see what would come up. And something came up all right! A signed die proof of one of those beautiful US Newspaper stamps from the late 19th century.

I remembered having seen it before, but never followed it up. All I knew was that the stamps are not mentioned in Gene Hessler's The Engraver's Line, and that I would therefore have a hard time finding out who engraved them. So I thought I had better take another look in the morning. And with that happy thought I retired.

28 July 2017
Okay, so I started looking again at this die proof. It was of the $2 value, issued in 1895, and it was signed by both Lyman F Ellis and George FC Smillie. Ellis was a letter engraver and Smillie a vignette engraver, so the two signatures made sense. There being no third signature I'm just assuming for the moment that Ellis did both frame and lettering, though it has been known, of course, for US stamps to have different engravers for frame and lettering.

A quick look at the stamp catalogue shows that the newspaper stamps have quite a long history with various printings and printers involved. My immediate concern is that the vignette of this $2 stamp was used in 1875 for a $3 value. The $2 stamp was printed by the Bureau for Engraving and Printing (BEP), but the $3 by the Continental bank Note Co (CBNC), later to become the American Bank Note Co (ABNC). This does not concern the Ellis bit because he signed off the frame/lettering, which is for the $2 only so that's firmly done in 1895. But what if the vignettes of the 1875 and 1895 stamp are the same one? Could the BEP have made use of the original CBNC dies? If so, does that mean that Smillie actually engraved the 1875 vignette?

Gene Hessler's book, which I had hoped would bring some clarification, unhelpfully stated that Smillie worked for the CBNC/ABNC from 1871 to 1887, and for the BEP from 1894 to 1922. So he could have been responsible for the 1875 CBNC die.

I figured that the only way to find out was to sollicit the help of some American philatelists, and so I started a topic on the website. Most helpfully, this soon yielded a scan made by YeaPolska of the two engravings:

Having studied them well, I would come to the conclusion that it seems probable that the 1895 vignette was a copy of the 1875 die, with some enhancements here and there. After all, they look pretty identical with just some minor alterations. These would then most probably have been done by Smillie, as he signed them off on the 1985 die proof.

Then I suddenly remembered that Smillie did not just sign this die proof, but there was something written in front of his name as well. I tried to scan it and enhance the contrast as best as I could, and came up with this:

I would swear, though maybe just to corroborate my theory, that it says: worked over by GFC Smillie.

Remains to be seen, though, who engraved the original die.

While doing this little research on the $2 stamp, I bumped into two other signed die proofs, which, thankfully, were less of a headache. First up there was this signed die proof of the 1c value, again from 1895.

Although the vignette is the same allegorical figure as that of the low value stamps from 1875, they're anything but identical so they're easy to tell apart. This proof was signed by James Kennedy who was a letter engraver, so he will have done the lettering and probably the frame as well.

The second proof I found was featured on aforementioned stampcommunity website and it was of the $60 value from 1875.

It was signed by Charles Skinner, who was a vignette engraver, so he will have done the allegorical figure of the 'Indian Maiden'. A similar vignette is used for the $100 stamp of 1895, but as I have no copies at all of anything at this moment, I cannot compare them yet to see if they're identical or not.

Finally, as if it wasn't enough for a single day, I bumped into a website on these stamps by D, who had also written handbooks on them. So I fired off an email to him as well.

To be continued!

Friday, 11 August 2017

DATABASE: Manfred Kuppler


Nauru, Definitives (2)

Papua New Guinea, Health services 1s (1)

1) website
2) The Australian Philatelist

DATABASE: David J. Hill


Papua New Guinea, Fifth South Pacific Conference, Frames of 5d and 1s6d (1)

1) stampboards. com website



Papua New Guinea, Definitives: 8d (1)


Saturday, 5 August 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Herbert Bourne

Herbert K Bourne (1825-1907) was born in Staffordshire in 1825, into an artistic family. He soon showed artistic talents himself as well, as becomes clear from an early 1840s census which had him down as 'historical line engraver'. He had taken local art classes but later moved to London, where his engraving career soon took flight.

Courtesy of
Bourne could profit from a revival of the art of engraving. While he was young, it became all the rage to own engraved copies of famous paintings and other art works. Biblical scenes were very popular as well. This insatiable demand by the public meant a golden age for art journals and copper engravers. Bourne certainly knew how to ride that wave.

His work was appreciated so much, that when in the late 1860s the French artist Gustave Doré took the art-loving public by storm, Bourne became one of a small circle of engravers who dedicated themselves to translating Doré's work into engravings. These became popular all over Europe, all the while enhancing Bourne's reputation. In  fact, there are even engravings which are signed by both Doré and Bourne.

In those years, Bourne developed himself as a master portrait engraver, and when we turn to his stamp work, we find that it exclusively exists of portraits on stamps. Records of Bourne's philatelic work are scant, and not helped by the fact that he himself started to destroy his own archives at the end of his life, not thinking it might be of immense interest to future generations. Legend has it that he even used a now highly sought after proof of his Queensland definitive as blotting paper!

This means that the list of his stamp engravings must almost by definition be incomplete and certainly full of question marks, probabilities and could-well-be's. The first engraving that can definitely be attributed to Bourne is the portrait of Queen Victoria for the 1878 Falkland Islands definitive.

His remit for these definitives was to emulate Alfred Jones' portrait of Queen Victoria used on Canada's stamps. It is generally thought Bourne actually improved the portrait, by giving the queen a more regal expression and a slimmer neck. He also altered her diadem and gave her chignon greater freedom.

The printers Bradbury, Wilkinson, for whom Bourne worked at least from 1878 to 1892, were so pleased with the portrait that they used it for a good number of other issues as well. That same year, it appeared on the new Transvaal definitive set, and on several Transvaal revenue stamps. In 1879, the 'Bourne Head' as it is now known as, was used for revenue stamps issued in Griqualand West and on beer duty stamps issued in Transvaal.

The next major set, for which Bourne engraved another portrait of Queen Victoria, was that of Queensland, introduced in 1882. To complement the existing range of low values, for which William Humphrys' engraving of the Chalon portrait was used, Bourne also engraved the Chalon portrait, for Queensland's high definitives in larger format. These would remain in use until the advent of the Commonwealth of Australia stamps in 1912.

From 1894, Bourne did some engravings for Waterlow & Sons. He engraved the portrait of Queen Victoria for the Niger Coast definitives which were introduced in May 1894. Apparently, Bourne had the utmost difficulty with this engraving, finding it very hard to engrave a satisfactory portrait, but that was mainly due to the fact that the illustrative material provided was of poor quality.

However, it was the revenue stamps for the Indian States which Bourne engraved near the end of his career, and which were issued around 1900, which impressed Waterlow the most. In fact, after Bourne had engraved the vignette on the one anna receipt stamp for Sirmoor, portraying the Raja Sir Shamsher Parkash, they produced a special sheetlet of nine stamps, overprinted them with their name and 'specimen', and used these as printer's samples of their in-house expertise.

Bourne did not just engrave stamp portraits for the British Empire. Of note among his 'foreign' work is a beautiful portrait of Christopher Columbus which he engraved for a definitive set for Chile, introduced in 1900.

In an interview Bourne's son gave some time after his father's death, he said that towards the end of his father's life, his hand would become shaky. He needed help from his son, also an engraver, to do the outlines of the work, but as soon as he himself took up the burin again, his hand would grow steady again.

Looking at the Nyassa Company definitives of 1901, and the quality of the details on the tiny profile of King Manuel II of Portugal, shows that Bourne did indeed manage to produce high quality engravings until the very end of his career.

In that same interview, which was published in a 1922 London Philatelist Journal he also described his father's willfulness, saying: "He had a curios instinct for knowing exactly how deep certain lines in an engraving should be in order to produce the desired effect. It often happens that parts of the work are deepened by the use of acids, and as may be imagined it is of vital importance to wash off the corrosive fluid exactly at the right moment. I have seen my father, in spite of the protests of those around him, take a plate from the hands of an employee after it had, in their opinion, been etched sufficiently, and cover it again with acid. In some cases it seemed inevitable that the result of months of work must be destroyed by his willfulness; but actually this never happened, so great was his knowledge and experience."

While at the time a London Philatelist journal rather romantically stated that Herbert Bourne passed away on 13 November 1907, almost literally still with a burin in his hand, working on a stamp die, there is in fact no evidence of any stamps engraved by Bourne after the 1903 3c definitive issued in Chile, which was printed by Perkins, Bacon.

You will find Herbert Bourne's database HERE.

Friday, 4 August 2017

DATABASE: Atwood Porter


United States, Newspaper stamps, Frame of $60 (1)

1) The United States Philatelist, December 1967

DATABASE: C. A. Kochler


United States, Newspaper stamps, Frames of $1.92 and $3 (1)

1) The United States Philatelist, December 1967

DATABASE: Charles H. Smith


United States, Newspaper stamps, Vignette of $36 (1)

1) The United States Philatelist, December 1967