Saturday, 23 July 2016

France 1955 - Deportation Camps

March 1933 marked the beginning of a terrible chapter in world history. That chapter was entitled 'Nazi concentration camps'. After Hitler became Chancellor in Germany, his Nazi Party was given control over the police at the behest of Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring. Immediately after Hitler seized control, the first concentration camps were built. Initially the camps were used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers. At this time the camps held some 45,000 prisoners in horrid conditions. 

In 1934 things went from bad to worse when Heinrich Himmler's SS took full control of the police and concentration camps throughout Germany. The role of concentration camps changed dramatically. They now also held the so-called "racially undesirable elements" of German society, such as Jews, criminals, homosexuals, and Romani. Before this change occurred the number of people being held in the camps had dropped to 7,500, but it now grew again to 21,000 souls. Astonishingly, that number grew and grew to peak at 715,000 in January 1945. Of this rather alarming number of people, some 200,000 had been deported from Vichy France.

***

On 25 April 1955 France issued a stamp in remembrance of the 200,000 French people deported to Nazi concentration camps during WWII. The stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.


This stamp is a poignant reminder of the desolation and stark terror of being trapped behind walls of barbed wire with very little chance of leaving alive. One shutters to think what it must have been like for all those poor, wretched souls.

Until next time... 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

I Muse...On Red Cross Booklets

Not long after I started looking for French engraved stamps I spotted a Red Cross issue booklet. It was very nice, but at the time I honestly didn't give the idea of buying any of them all that much thought. Then the other day I received a couple of year sets in the mail. One of the sets was 1969. I have to say the Red Cross stamps really stood out as superb. While studying them, I recalled seeing some booklets on ebay. So I went and had a look to see what was available and the prices. I quickly found a booklet for the 1969 stamps for only $4.00 Australian. I thought this was reasonable -  I hope it was - so I bought it.

I haven't received the item yet, so the below scan is not the best quality, but its good enough to get a glimpse of what I got. Both stamps were designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon from paintings by Nicolas Mignard.


Does anyone else out there collect these booklets? Have I in buying this first one, opened up a whole can of monetary worms I should have left in the can?

Until next time... 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

France 1955 - Television

Radio-PTT Vision was the first television station in France. It began broadcasting on 26 April 1935. Through a transmitter located atop the Eiffel Tower the station broadcast programmes three days a week from 11 am to 11:30 am and 8 pm to 8:30 pm and on Sundays from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. This channel was the only one in France for 28 years, and it is one of the oldest television stations in the world. Incidentally, the world's first television station started in 1928. It was called WRGB and it broadcast from the General Electric facility in Schenectady, NY. 

***

On 18 April 1955 France issued a stamp commemorating television in France. The stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.


In this design Decaris has illustrated a television signal emanating from the Eiffel Tower, which has been placed right in the centre of the image. Elongated antennae represent all the television antennas in the city of Paris, picking up the signal. The radiating signal to me suggests of a rising sun spreading its light on a new dawn - a new dawn of technology.

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Monaco 1958 - Basilica of St. Pius X

The Basilica of St. Pius X located at Lourdes in France is a part of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. For those of you who are not catholic, the sanctuary is a major catholic pilgrimage site where it is believed that the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous on several occasions. These appearances are known as the Marial Apparitions. I personally remember learning about St. Bernadette when I was in school many moons ago. If you'd like to read more about St. Bernadette click HERE.

Designed by architect Pierre Vago, the Basilica is also known as the Underground Basilica since it is almost entirely underground. And it is truly massive! When I first looked at some images from inside the Basilica I was staggered. It incorporates over 12,000 square metres of open space which can accommodate up to 25,000 worshippers. The Basilica was opened in 1958 - the same year as the release of the Monaco stamp - in anticipation of the massive crowds that would gather for centenary celebrations of the Marial Apparitions.

Here is an image from Wikipedia just to give you an idea of the scale of the building...

 
***


On 15 May 1958 Monaco issued a set of two Airmail stamps. The 100f stamp, depicting the Basilica of St. Pius X, was engraved by Albert Decaris.


When I first started collecting Decaris stamps I saw this particular stamp and, to be honest, I didn't think all that much of it. But in preparation for this blog I did some research into the subject of this stamp and I was fascinated, which in turn gave me a new appreciation of the stamp. Decaris has done a rather nice job of rendering the impressive main entrance to the basilica. Certainly not my favourite Decaris stamp but nice nonetheless.



Until next time...

Monday, 18 July 2016

France 1969 - Stamp Day

The horse-bus, or what is more commonly known as the horse-drawn omnibus, was used for passenger transport before the advent of motor vehicles. They were predominately used in Europe and the USA in the late 19th century.  The typical omnibus was like a large stage coach. They were often double-decker with the bottom level enclosed and the top level open the air. Occasionally the top level had a canopy to protect passengers from the elements. On the lower level the seating was typically arranged as two wooden bench seats running along the sides of the cabin facing each other. While on the second level the each seats were arranged in the same fore to aft configuration, but the benches were placed back to back in order, I presume for the passengers to look out at their surrounds more easily. Interestingly, it seems that large businesses took advantage of these vehicles as a form of moving billboard. Covered in advertising, omnibuses actually looked pretty cool.

***

On 17 March 1969 France issued a fantastic stamp featuring an omnibus for Stamp Day. Click HERE for more on Stamp Day. The stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Becquet.


This stamp is absolutely beautiful. The details are stunning. As the eye wanders over this stamp, we see a superbly rendered omnibus in vivid green. You can clearly see the bench seat arrangements in the cabin as mentioned above. Although background detail, the building to the right has been drawn with minute attention to detail. In the foreground to the right we see a couple taking a stroll down the street, the woman dressed in all her finery with a wide-brim hat and a parasol. The design is so alive we can almost hear the clack-clack of the horses hooves on the road and the murmur of the chatter from the passengers as the vehicle trundles past.

Until next time...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

France 1935 - SS Normandie

The French engraver, Albert Decaris, began his illustrious career in 1935. When I first started looking into the engravings of Decaris I had assumed that the first stamp issued with his name on it was the first stamp he engraved. This turned out not to be the case. In this blog I shall take a look at the first Decaris engraved stamp ever issued - a stamp commemorating the maiden voyage of S.S. Normandie. In case you are interested the first stamp Decaris engraved was the Cloister of the Church of St. Trophinus, which was issued on 2 May.

***

The S.S. Normandie commemorative stamp was issued 23 April 1935. I have discussed the design and quality of this stamp with several different people and the feelings have been mixed. Some like it and some downright loathe it. I, for one, rather like it. It was only the second stamp Decaris produced so he hadn't fully developed his style yet, but you can already see in the stamp quite an engraving talent emerging. What do you think...?



***

Now let's have a close look at the subject of this great (imho) stamp. Normandie was a French passenger liner, built in Saint-Nazaire for the French line: Compagnie Generale Transatlantique. Her hull was laid on 26 January 1931 and her maiden voyage was four years later on 29 May 1935. Incidently, I have used here the feminine 'she' to describe the ship, but in France ships were described in the masculine 'he'.

Normandie was one of a new breed of luxury liners. Before the 'Roaring Twenties' passenger liners such as RMS Olympic and RMS Mauritania dedicated large portions of the ship for third class or steerage accommodations for those wishing to immigrate from Europe to the United States. After the United States cracked down on immigration in the early twenties passenger liners became more and more the domain of wealthy travellers. In fact, many passengers were those escaping US prohibition for a while to live it up in Europe,  getting drunk and indulging in other pleasures...

S.S. Normandie was a radical ship, utilizing many new design innovations. One such innovation was her bulbous forefoot beneath the waterline, which, combined with a slim hydrodynamic hull, enabled her to achieve faster speeds than earlier ships. She also had new style turbo electric engines, which was far more efficient than earlier propulsion systems. Coupled together these innovations enabled Normamdie to hold the Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossing on many occasions during her career.

In doing research on this amazing ship I was blown away by its lavish interiors. I could probably go on and on with details, but I don't want to bore you. Instead I'll mention a few of the most staggering details. Firstly,  a new design feature whereby the funnel intakes were redirected down the sides of the ship instead of straight up the middle gave interior designers far more room to work with. This extra room was utilized to stunning effect! The ship's First Class dining hall was the largest afloat. It was 305 feet (93m) in length, 46 feet (14m) wide, and a staggering 28 feet (8.5m) high. If that in and of itself isn't grand enough for you, well imagine yourself in your finest garb strolling through entry doors that are 20 feet tall! Then you enter a room sumptuously decorated in Art Deco style with glass ceilings ornate columns and huge chandeliers that earned Normandie the nickname 'ship of light'. 


One more little tidbit I'll add - purely because I am an ancient Egyptian history buff - is the decor of the first class smoking room, which was decorated with large murals depicting ancient Egyptian life.

Sadly, this grand lady of the oceans met with a fate unbecoming her regal stature. At the outbreak of World War II Normandie was docked in New York. And there she remained until after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The French crew was removed and the ship was prepared for conversion into a troop ship to contribute to the war effort. Normandie was renamed USS Lafayette in honour of the French general who fought for the colony in the Revolutionary War.

Now to the tragic bit. While being outfitted a fire broke out aboard ship, since the fire-watch systems had been deactivated for the conversion. This proved to be just the beginning of a dark comedy of errors! When fire fighters arrived they found to their horror that the US hose fittings weren't compatible with those on the French ship. While manually pumping water on the blaze using fire ships the vessel developed a dangerous list to port as a result of water flooding the ship. The designer of the ship arrived on the scene to help, but he wasn't allowed to participate. He suggested that the firefighters open the seacocks, which would flood the lower decks causing her to sink the few feet the harbour floor. This would have stabilized the ship. But his suggestion was ignored! As a result the ship listed further and further until at 2.45 am on 10 February USS Lafayette capsized. 



Once she was salvaged she was reclassified as an aircraft and transport ferry, but the damage from the accident was too extensive and she sat in dry dock till the end of of the war. Finally, at the end of the war, on 11 October 1945 USS Lafayette was stricken from the naval register and scrapped. Such a terrible end for a ship once nicknamed 'ship of light'.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

France 1955 - Sainte Claire Deville

Henri Étienne Sainte Claire Deville was a French chemist, born 11 March 1818. Among his many scientific achievements, in 1849 he discovered anhydrous nitric acid (nitrogen pentoxide), which was the first of the anhydrides, a mono-basic acid. But perhaps his most important discovery occurred in 1855 when he successfully obtained metallic aluminium. He also worked out a method whereby large scale production of the metal could be achieved. 

But this isn't the whole story. It seems that unbeknown to Sainte Claire Deville, a German chemist ten years earlier had already discovered aluminium. If only they had access to the net! That scientist's name was Friedrich Wöhler. Apparently there was no hard feelings, as they collaborated in 1857 and together discovered silicon nitride.

***

On 7 March 1955 France issued a set of six stamps under the theme Famous Inventors. One of these stamps featured Sainte Claire Deville. The stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.


I think this design is fabulous. Decaris has incorporated the various uses of aluminium over time in a most unique and effective manner. The combination of the streamlined car and interestingly shaped building in the background makes me think of the art deco period in the early 20's.

And of course, I can't finish without mentioning yet another engraved beard for my collection! 

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Friday, 8 July 2016

France 1974 - Medal of the French Resistance

The French Resistance played a vital role during World War II. Known in France as La Résis the Resistance organised themselves into small groups of armed men and women who worked against Nazi German occupation through various forms of guerrilla warfare and providing intelligence information for the allied forces. Additionally, the Resistance helped allied troops caught behind enemy lines providing them with possible escape routes. Perhaps one of the most important roles of the Resistance was to aid significantly the successful advance of allied troops through France after the Normandy invasion on 6 June 1944.

To honour the service of these brave men and women, the French Resistance medal, Médaille de la Résistance, was a decoration awarded to members of the Resistance. The award was established on 9 February 1943 to...
"...recognize the remarkable acts of faith and of courage that, in France, in the empire and abroad, (the Resistance) have contributed to the resistance of the French people against the enemy and against its accomplices since 18 June 1940".1
***

On 23 November 1974 France issued a set of three stamps commemorating the 30th anniversary of the liberation of France from the Nazis. One of these stamps features the French Resistance Medal. The stamp was designed and engraved by Claude Haley.


The design of this stamp is very evocative. On the left is a representation of French imprisonment under Nazi Germany. On the right a burning torch suggests of liberation from oppression. And in the centre of the stamp is a depiction of the French Resistance Medal.

References:

1. "History: Médaille de la Résistance", Chancellerie de l'Ordre de la Libération, 28 October 2006.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

I Found...Another Decaris Stamp

A few days ago I spoke to a fellow Decaris collector on a stamp forum. Through him I was made aware of a Decaris engraved stamp that I had no idea existed. I usually always like to verify for myself if a stamp was indeed engraved by Decaris (not to impugn the word of the collector who told me about the stamp). So far I haven't been able to find any information that conclusively proves the stamp was engraved by Decaris, but I am still assuming he did.

With that said, let's take a look. The country of origin of the stamp, I have to say, surprised me somewhat. The stamp in question is from Peru! It was issued in 1957. Below is lovely block of 4 I managed to track down. When I look closely at it I can definitely see signs of Decaris' style.


Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Friday, 1 July 2016

I Found...Some More Year Sets

With a bit of strategic searching on ebay I have now managed to find complete France year sets for the decade of the 1970's for a reasonable total price. Well, I think it's reasonable, and I guess that's all that really matters.

My latest purchase, which completed the decade, was actually two year sets in one. The purchase included 1969 and 1970. A total of 82 stamps. I managed to find this batch for just over $20 AUD, which I consider quite bargain at 23c a stamp!


It goes without saying that I very much look forward to the arrival of this lot of stamps.

***

On a slightly different topic, you may recall from a blog I did recently, in which discussed display issues. I believe I have - albeit tentatively - come to the conclusion that displaying my stamps by engraver instead of by year may be the better option. Now all I need is a whole box of hagners for all these new stamps!!

Until next time...

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Marie-Noelle Goffin

Marie-Noelle Goffin began her training at the age of 19 at the School of Fine Arts in Rouen. She spent four years there from 1954-1958. After this she continued her studies, deciding to specialise in engraving. In 1962 she received a National Engraving Diploma, which earned her a scholarship to study for a year at the School of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. Marie-Noelle then went on to teach at the school of Fine Arts in Lilie for 26 years as a Professor of drawing and engraving. She has also worked for the French Post since 1976. Marie-Noelle is also vice-president of the World Academy of Philately.

On 11 October 1976 the first Marie-Noelle Goffin stamp was issued in France. The subject of the stamp was Theirs, a commune in the Puy-de-Dôme department in Auvergne in central France. As mentioned above the stamp was designed by Goffin, and it was engraved by Eugène Lacaque.  The design is fantastic.


***

In 1977 Goffin designed and engraved her first stamp for France, showcasing the Collegiate Dorat. It was part of a set of six tourism stamps.


***

Over the years Goffin has engraved some 70 odd stamps for France and several for the French Colonies. Her engravings are bright, crisp, and full of life. It is really nice to see engravers such as Goffin prolonging the life of the declining art of stamp engraving. She is continuing to delight engraved stamp collectors in a style that well fits the modern era of philately.

France 1955 - Saint-Simon

Louis de Rouvroy, also known as Duke of Saint-Simon, was a French soldier, diplomat and a noted diarist. He was born 16 January 1675. Saint-Simon began his career in the military, but this was not where his heart lie. After serving in the military for some ten years, he retired in 1702 his commission against his father's wishes, and he ensconced himself into the intrigues of court life. 

Saint-Simon now spent his time writing, recording as much of the juicy gossip around him as he could manage to put to paper. Apparently he was incredibly prolific in his note-taking. It is worth noting that during his lifetime, Saint-Simon's writing did not achieve much notoriety. But posthumously he has achieved great literary fame. Critics over time have discovered he had great narrative skill and he was very talented in building quite complex characters. His work has been compared to the historical writings of Tacitus and Livy. Additionally, he can be credited for turning the word 'intellectual' into a noun, and he is possibly the creator of words such as 'patriot' and 'publicity'. Saint-Simon died 2 March 1755.

***

On 7 February 1955, France issued a stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint-Simon. This stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.


I particularly like the colour choice of of this striking portrait. The dark background serves to highlight the intricate detail of Saint-Simon's hair. The clothing has also been superbly rendered. In conclusion, an excellent portrait of a truly fascinating character.

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Australia 1937 - 150th Anniversary of Sydney Cove Landing

In 1770 Captain James Cook steered his ship HMS Endeavour into a bay on the east coast of the great southern continent then known as Terra Australis. He originally named it Stingray Bay, but then altered it to Botany Bay in homage to the wonderful botany specimens retrieved by botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.

Upon his return to England Joseph Banks raved about the beauty of Botany Bay. After Britain’s loss of the North American colonies, it was suggested that Botany Bay was an ideal spot to start a new colony. Lord Sydney was given the responsibility of devising a plan to settle convicts at Botany Bay. Lord Sydney chose Arthur Phillip as Governor for the new colony. This choice proved to be inspired. Governor Arthur Phillip was a great leader, and he ensured the survival of the early colony by nursing it through its darkest days.

On 13 May 1787, eleven ships under the command of Arthur Phillip, set sail from Great Britain to the shores of Terra Australis. In the fleet were 696 convicts – 504 male and 192 female. There were also 348 free people, the majority of which were marines, the colony’s police force.

On 18 January 1788, HMS Supply reached Botany Bay. After arriving it was quickly decided that this place so raved about by Captain Cook and Joseph Banks was not at all ideal. On 21 January Arthur Phillip and a small party including John Hunter left the bay in three small boats and headed north. They discovered an excellent site for the colony 12 kilometres to the north at Port Jackson. In a letter to England he wrote of the site, 
“the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security...”

On 26 January 1788, the fleet sailed into a cove that Arthur Phillip named Sydney Cove in honour of Lord Sydney. On this day the British flag was planted and the land was claimed by Britain. Of course, the land already had occupants, the Aborigines! The relations between the European invaders and the Aborigines is a long story - one which I will not go into here. Suffice it to say, the Aborigines suffered greatly by the invasion.

On 1 October 1937 Australia issued a set of three stamps commemorating the 150th Anniversary of Arthur Phillip's landing at Sydney Cove. This set of stamps was designed and engraved by E.N. Broad and F.D. Manley. The original die bore the 2d denomination. Two secondary dies, in which the denomination was erased, were then created. These dies were engraved with 3d and 9d denominations by T.C. Duffell.



The details in this design are fantastic. The uniforms are striking. I love the depiction of the trees and the ground. In the distance to the left the three boats in which Arthur Phillip and his officers came ashore can be seen.

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!

I Muse...On Display Conundrums

As my new France stamp sets slowly trickle in, I am faced with an ever increasing conundrum. The thing that perplexes me is this: how do I sort and display my engraved stamps?

As regular readers of my blogs will know, I am an avid collector of all things Albert Decaris. In fact, it was in the course of building my Decaris collection that I became more and more aware of many other supremely talented French stamp engravers out there. By simply collecting Decaris I didn't have any display conundrums rattling about in my brain. But, now that I have expanded my engraver collection to include all French engravers, I am unsure how to proceed.

As I see it I have two options:-
  1. Display my French stamps by date of issue/year, thus mixing a bunch of engravers on one hagner page.
  2. Display my stamps chronologically by engraver. 
Both options have pros and cons, hence the dilemma. If I were to choose option 1 I would need to dismantle my Decaris collection in order to insert stamps in their relative positions. It would also probably, over time, minimise the number of hagners required to house the collection.

Option 2 has, in my mind, several pros. One of which is that, by having all the stamps by one particular engraver set out in chronological order, I may then be able to study the changes and/or improvements in the engraver's style. This is something I really like to do. Also, perhaps a bit less importantly, this option would actually enable me to keep all my Decaris stamps as they are. Additionally, not all French stamps are engraved, especially as the years tick on. Therefore, the French year sets would actually not be full year sets. This is also, I guess, a consideration.

So what to do? In all honesty I have not found a solution yet. At present I have all my new stamps in their relevant years and I have left my Decaris collection as is for now. Ultimately, I guess whatever choice I make is not exactly irreversible, but I'd definitely prefer to choose the best solution for me the first time round - if possible.

How do you display your engraved stamps?

Until next time...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

I Received...Another Engraved Cover

I mentioned in a previous blog that I have started buying up French year sets where possible to flesh out my French engravers collection. Well, another set arrived in the mail the other day, locked inside a rather cool cover with two engraved stamps affixed. Just ignore the hideous third stamp (hideous to me, anyway).


Here is a closer look at the stamps.


The stamp on the left was issued by France on 8 December 1980. It is a semi-postal with a Red Cross surcharge. It was designed and engraved by Michel Monvoison. The stamp depicts filling the granaries of the Cathedral of Amiens. 

The stamp on the right was issued by France on 14 December 1970. It is also a semi-postal with a Red Cross surcharge. This stamp was designed and engraved by the prolific Pierre Gandon. It depicts a fresco at Chateau of Dissay (I think) in Dissay, a town in the department of Vienna, France. I haven't fully researched this stamp yet, so the details may be wrong.

Until next time...

Sunday, 19 June 2016

France 1974 - TGV Turbo train

The TGV 001 (Train Grande Vitesse 001) was an experimental high-speed railway train built in France. This train was the very first TGV prototype. The prototype was commissioned in 1969, and testing of the train began in 1972.

The TGV 001 was part of a vast research program studying high speed rail technology. The program covered all technical aspects of the train, such as traction, behaviour of the vehicle on the tracks, braking, aerodynamics, and signalling. The initial plan was to construct two TGV's , but in the end only one was produced. According to Wikipedia, "The second was to be a tilting train equipped with an active tilting system, but was abandoned owing to technical difficulties".

The TGV 001 was unique, design-wise. It utilised an experimental gas turbine-electric locomotive. This system proved very effective. It managed to break the land speed record for a railed vehicle, achieving 318 kilometres per hour. It fact, it broke the 300 kilometre per hour barrier some 175 times! 



After the oil crisis of 1973, the cost of oil skyrocketed. This increase made gas-powered trains - like the TGV - no longer economically feasible. Testing on the TGV officially concluded on 19 July 1978.

***

On 2 September 1974, France issued a stamp commemorating the TGV 001 experimental train. The stamp was designed and engraved by Claude Haley. It was printed in Rotary Intaglio in three colours.


I'm not usually much of a fan of trains on stamps, but I really like the way Haley has conveyed a sense of speed in this image. The curved lines of air whoosing over the locomotive and the slightly blurred features on the nose of the train combine to create a sense of power and speed. Overall, a great design.

Until next time...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

France 1974 - Sea Rescue

The National Society for Sea Rescue (Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer) or SNSM, is a French voluntary organisation that was created in 1967. The purpose of this organisation is to provide a sea rescue service encompassing the entire French coast. The service also extends to the French territories. 

***

On 29 April 1974 France issued a stamp to commemorate the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. The stamp was designed by Roger Chapelet, and it was engraved by Claude Durrens.


This stunning design brings to life the inherent dangers faced by a sea rescue crew. The rescue vessel has been vividly captured ploughing through rough seas perhaps returning home after rescuing stranded sailors from a ship (top left) that is badly listing, perhaps about to sink. I love the urgent energy conveyed in this stamp. Additionally, I think the waves have been beautifully rendered by Durrens.

Until next time...

Thursday, 16 June 2016

France 1954 - Metric System

The origins of the metric system can be traced back to 1799 during the French Revolution. Fed up with the existing units of measurement, the French Republic implemented a new decimal system based on the kilogram and the metre. Initially, the system didn't last. France reverted back to their old system in 1812. But then in 1837 it was once again adopted by France, and this time it stuck.

In order to maintain this system internationally, three controlling bodies were set up in 1875 in France:-
  1. The International Committee for Weights and Measures (French: Comité international des poids et mesures- CIPM). 
  2. International Bureau of Weights and Measures (French: Bureau international des poids et mesures - BIPM). 
  3. The General Conference on Weights and Measures (French: Conférence générale des poids et mesures - CGPM)
On 6 October 1954 France issued a stamp to commemorate the 10th General Conference on Weights and Measures (number 3 on the list above). The stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.


This beautiful stamp depicts the Angel of the French Republic measuring a meridian arc across the earth. Decaris has captured the far-reaching impact of the metric system in a profound way. Stunning!

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

France 1973 - Moliere

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his stage name Molière, was born in Paris on 15 January 1622. Moliere was a French playwright and actor. In fact, he can be considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. Some of his best known works are The MisanthropeThe School for WivesTartuffeThe MiserThe Imaginary Invalid, and The Bourgeois Gentleman. Moliere died on 17 February 1673.

***

On 22 October 1973 France issued a stamp to commemorate 300th Anniversary of the death of Moliere. The stamp was designed and engraved by Jacques Derrey.


This fun and frisky stamp depicts Moliere dressed in costume as Sganarelle. Sganarelle was a character from a Moliere play entitled, The Imaginary Cuckold (Sganarelle, ou Le Cocu Imaginaire). 

Until next time...

Saturday, 11 June 2016

France 1974 - The Pfister house in Colmar

In 1974, the 47th Congress of the Federation of French philatelic societies was held in Colmar, the third-largest commune of the Alsace region in north-eastern France. The city is home to some amazing architecture, an example of which will be seen in a moment. The city is also on the Alsatian Wine Route, and it is considered to be the "capital of Alsatian wine".

To celebrate the Congress of the Federation of French philatelic societies, France issued a truly stunning stamp on 3 June 1974. First Day Covers were produced with a 1 June date. The stamp was designed and engraved by Eugene Lacque. And what an incredible result he achieved! 


The stamp depicts Pfister house. The detail in this stamp is exquisite. The architectural details are clear and crisp, and the addition of people meandering on the street adds a sense of life to the overall composition.

Pfister house was built in 1537 for Ludwig Scherer. Scherer was a successful money trader, in it was in this capacity that he managed to become very wealthy. Wealthy enough to have commissioned such a beautiful house.


The house is a lovely example of renaissance architecture, drawing upon medieval styles. The foremost corner of the building that can be seen in the above image is known as a corner oriel. The building also features an octagonal turret to the left on the image, and a beautiful wooden gallery (verandah). The name, Pfiser house, comes from the family who lived in the building from 1841 to 1892 and in that time, they lovingly restored it to what we see today.

Until next time... 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

France 1953 - Publishing & Bookbinding

On 6 May 1954 France issued a set of five stamps to celebrate French artistic industry. One of the stamps really captures my imagination. It is the 30f value stamp, which pays homage to publishing and bookbinding. This stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon. And it is fabulous.


There are two focal points to this stamp. Standing in the shadows in the background is the Institute de France, which was established on 25 October 1795 by the French Government. In the foreground we see a pile of nicely bound books. One book is open, revealing a lovely illumination within. Below is a close-up of the open book.


The combination of the dark, enigmatic building brooding in the background and the stack of books packed with mysteries of their own, sitting and waiting to be read, to reveal their secrets, makes this stamp both charming and loaded with intrigue. This is a definite favourite in my burgeoning collection of books and printing on stamps.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

**I Muse...On Year Sets

What is the most cost effective way to get started on a collection of French engravers? Especially when you consider the sheer volume of stamps within said collection, since we are not only talking about the stamps of France but also her many colonies. This is the question I started pondering a few weeks ago when I made the decision to build a French stamp engravers collection. 

Obviously there's no easy answer to this. Building such a large collection is an immense challenge, and a very rewarding one. So back to the question: where does one start? The answer to this depends very much on the collector. My personal preference is to opt for year sets. My reason for doing it this way is threefold. Firstly, it is often a cheaper method, especially if you collect your stamps through a bidding site or a dealer to whom you have to add postage to the cost. Postage costs can add a lot of extra money to your purchases. Secondly, a lot of France year sets, especially in the years before litho took centre stage, were predominantly engraved stamps, so value for money is excellent. Lastly (but by no means least), it's quite frankly loads of fun to get a large batch of stamps in the mail to sort through. And that's what this whole collecting caper is for me. Fun!

With the primary method for building my collection sorted, I then considered where to start. Truthfully, the answer to this came rather spontaneously. I happened to spot an engraved stamp issued in 1974 that I quite liked, so I searched for 1974 year sets on ebay. I found a seller who had many different year sets available, all for around $10-15. I quickly grabbed the first three sets I saw. 1974, 1978, and 1979.




I got all three sets for just over $30. There are roughly 40 stamps per year, which works out at about 0.25c a stamp! Not a bad deal. This is why I go for year sets as often as I am able.

These three year sets just arrived in the mail. So the next few days will be spent - very happily - sorting them. And planning future blog posts for them. How much more value can one get?

Until next time...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

I Received...A Nice Engraved Combo

I have to confess that when it comes to covers I receive in the mail, I'm a bit of a hoarder. I tend to keep everything, whether I'm interested in the stamps or not. Consequently, I end up with large stacks of covers that, from time to time, need to be sorted into keepers and discards. Last night I decided to go through one of my stacks and I was pleasantly surprised to find a few covers from France with engraved stamps affixed. So I thought I'd share some of the stamps I've found in a few blogs. 

The stamps below have been cut away from the rather large and ugly cover so I can store them more easily.


The stamp on the left is from a set of four Red Cross stamps celebrating the four seasons issued in France on 30 November 1974. It was engraved by Cecilie Guillame, a female engraver who engraved 37 stamps for France. The stamp on the right is from the 2009 Marianne definitive series issued in France on 28 February. It was designed and engraved by Yves Beaujard.

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Let's take a closer look at the Red Cross stamp without the postmark. The subject of this delightful stamp is Ete, which is French for Summer. It features children playing on a beach, while in the distance a sail boat rides the waves. I love the colour choices in this stamp.


Until next time...

Monaco 1944 - Saint Devota

Sometime around 283 AD, a girl was born at Mariana in Corsica.The girl's name was Devota. Devota grew up as an ordinary girl, working as a servant in the household of senator Eutychius. Her only desire in life was to devote herself totally to the service of God. As part of her service to God, Devota decided to remain a virgin. Then in 303 AD her life was thrown into chaos when Emperor Diocletian launched the most severe Christian Persecution the Roman Empire had ever seen.  

Devota's death warrant arrived by ship in the form of a man named Barbarus. Barbarus led a fleet of ships to Corsica, and upon landing set about purging the land of Christians. Of course, it didn't take long for Barbarus to discover that a prominent senator had one of those hated Christians in his service. Barbarus demanded that Devota be handed over to him. But to his credit, Eutychius refused. Outraged by Eutychius' defiance, Barabarus arranged to have him poisoned. 

Devota was promptly taken into custody. She was imprisoned and tortured. Horrendous things were done to her. Her mouth was crushed and then she was dragged over rocky, brambles before eventually being stoned to death. The cruelty of these acts and Devota's bravery made her a martyr to her people. The local governor was horrified by this so he sought to have her body burned before it could be further venerated. 

In what must have been a daring and clandestine mission, the Christians managed to secret Devota's body away, saving it from the flames. Hidden in a boat bound for Africa, her body was escorted by three men: the boat's pilot Gratianus (Graziano); a priest, Benedict (Benenato); and his deacon, Apollinaris. These brave men hoped that Devota would receive a proper Christian burial in Africa. Unfortunately, Devota's woes did not end with her death. A terrible storm overtook the boat, threatening to consign it to the cold depths of the ocean. Then a dove suddenly appeared and guided the boat to safety to present-day Les Gaumates, a principality of Monaco. After this Devota became known as Saint Devota. So says the legend, anyway!

***

On 7 December 1944, Monaco issued a set of nine semi-postal stamps commemorating Saint Devota. This blog will focus on the high value stamp, featuring the legend of the ocean journey of Devota's body. The stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon.


The stamp is a true masterpiece, packed with details of the legend. First, we see the boat battling against the high seas of a terrible storm. Inside the boat, the three men who escorted her body are working to keep the boat under control. Interestingly, there are also two women on the boat. Perhaps they were the ones who stole the body? And above the boat, we flies the miracle dove, guiding the body of Saint Devota and her brave rescuers to safety.

Until next time...


France 1953 - French Theatre

Over the course of five months in 1953, France issued a stunning set of stamps celebrating French Literature and Theatre. The set is also a celebration of three highly talented French engravers. In this set we not only see the beauty of each engraver's subject, but the different interpretations of the art of engraving.

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The fantastic creative adventure began on the 27 May with the giant, Gargantua. The stamp was designed and engraved by Henry Cheffer. 



Written in the 16th century by the talented author, François Rabelais, The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel, was a set of five novels, chronicling the adventures of two giants, Gargantua and his son Pantagruel. Those of you who are readers of my Decaris Crazy blog may recall that I did a post studying France's 1950 François Rabelais stamp, designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. If you  have not already read it or would like to take another look, click HERE 

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On 8 June the second stamp in the series was issued. The focus of this stamp is the play Hermani by Victor Hugo. The stamp was designed and engraved by Robert Cami.


Hermani is a drama set in a fictitious version of the Spanish court of 1519. Romance and intrigue abound in this classic love triangle story.  Three men, all in love with the same woman, vie for her attentions. One can easily imagine the chaos that ensued. On the 25 February 1830, the play opened in Paris. The play is probably now best remembered for the fights and demonstrations that erupted on the night of its première. On  a positive note, the play inspired Verdi to create his opera, Ernani.

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Issued on 21 September was a stunning stamp focusing on Moliere's The Misanthrope. The stamp was engraved by René Cottet. It was designed by Robert Cami. This collaboration resulted in a visually sumptuous stamp. Just look at the detail in the costume!


The Misanthrope or Cantankerous Lover was written in the 17th Century by Molière. The play was a comedy of manners written  in verse. It premièred on 4 June 1666 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, Paris. It was performed by the King's Players. The play ridicules the hypocritical nature of French aristocratic society, but on a deeper level, it also suggests that all humans in one way or another possess similar character flaws. Interestingly, the play was somewhat of a box office flop at the time, but it now considered Molière's best known work.

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Also issued 21 September was a charming stamp focusing on The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais. This stamp is the second stamp in this set engraved by Henry Cheffer. It was designed by Andrew Spitz.


The Marriage of Figaro was written in 1778 by Pierre Beaumarchais. Structured as a comedy in five acts, the play is the second in the Figaro trilogy. It was preceded by The Barber of Seville and followed by The Guilty Mother. The play featured another one of those classic love triangles. In this story we have a girl, a rich baron, and a barber (Figaro). The play premièred at the Théâtre Français on 27 April 1784. From its opening night it was a huge success. It continued to run for 68 consecutive performances, and it became the biggest box office hit of the 18th Century. Apparently the theatre was so crowded on opening night three people were crushed to death.

Until next time...


France 1982 - Jules Verne

“The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the Living Infinite. ”
― Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

On 8 February 1828 one of the greatest science-fiction writers ever to put ink to parchment was born. His name was Jules Gabriel Verne. He was born on a small artificial island called Île Feydeau within the town of Nantes on the Loire River. His father, Pierre Verne, was a lawyer and he expected his son to follow in his footsteps. But it became very clear early in Verne's life that he had little interest in such a vocation. While studying to be a lawyer in Paris, Verne frequently indulged in his passion for writing and theatre by composing several plays. Even though he spent a great deal of time writing plays, poems, and stories, Jules Verne graduated from his law studies in 1851.

It was in the same year, 1851, that Jules Verne met a fellow writer from his home town of Nantes, Pierre-Michel-François Chevalier. Chevalier was the editor-in-chief of the magazine Musée des familles (The Family Museum). He was a great admirer of Verne's research skills and attention to detail. Inspired by Chevalier's interest in his work, Verne wrote and submitted a short historical adventure story The First Ships of the Mexican Navy. It was published in July 1851. A second short story A Voyage in a balloon was published in the next month's August issue. This second story was later described by Verne as...
"...the first indication of the line of novel that I was destined to follow."
As far as writing goes, destiny was very kind to Jules Verne. He wrote over 70 novels and numerous stories, poems and plays. And he is the second-most translated author on the planet behind Agatha Christie. 

***

On 22 November 1982 France issued a beautiful set of two semi-postal Red Cross stamps celebrating the amazing stories of Jules Verne. Both stamps were designed and engraved by Pierre Becquet.

The first stamp has a 1,60f face value with a 0,30f surcharge. It features the novel Five Weeks in a Balloon.


Five Weeks in a Balloon was first published in 1863. The novel follows Dr. Samuel Ferguson, a scholar and explorer, who, accompanied by his manservant Joe, and his friend, professional hunter, Richard "Dick" Kennedy, sets out in a balloon filled with hydrogen on a journey across the African continent, which at that point was still in parts unexplored.

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The second stamp has a 1,80f face value with a 0,40f surcharge.  It features the novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was originally serialised from March 1869 through June 1870 in the magazine Magasin d’Éducation et de Récréation. The story features Captain Nemo, which is Latin for 'Nobody', and his steam-powered submarine Nautilus. 

Until next time...


Friday, 3 June 2016

France 1954 - Abbey of Saint Philibert

Created in 1953, the International Centre for Romance Studies (Le Centre International d'Etudes Romanes) is located in Tournus, Burgundy, France. It is commonly known by the acronym CIER. The aim of the centre is to promote the study of Romanesque Art through exhibitions, study tours, and conferences and other activities. It is also dedicated to the preservation of the local monuments of Tournus, such as the Abbey of Saint Philibert, and the St. Lawrence church.

***

On 20 June 1954, France issued a stamp to commemorate the establishment of the CIER. The stamp has a value of 30f. It was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.


This stamp is beautifully designed. It features a Romanesque column in the foreground, while in the background stands the lovely Abbey of Saint Philibert. This striking church was once a Benedictine Abbey. It was founded in 875 by Benedictine monks who were fleeing Viking raids on the community on Noirmoutier. They carried with them holy relics of Saint Philibert of Jumièges.. The building that survives today was designed in the Romanesque style of Burgundy.


Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A Mouldy Situation!

Have you ever opened up one of your albums that has been sitting on the shelf for a year or so to discover that one - or perhaps a few - of you precious stamps has developed a fungal disease or has started to rust? I always assumed that I was immune to this. I live in a cold climate with very little humidity, and I store my stamps in a cool, dark place. Safe, right? Wrong! None of this means diddly if the fungus or rust already existed on the stamp microscopically before you added it to your album.

Unfortunately, I have now experienced this first hand. Several years ago I purchased a MNH set of AAT 1957-59 definitives. All of the stamps seemed perfectly clean. Then about a year ago, I pulled out the folder in which they were stored. I was horrified to discover that my 2/3 stamp was playing host to a rather nasty fungus!


Hideous, right? So what happens now? Toss the stamp out as fast as possible and buy a new one to replace it (not always easy to buy a single from a definitive set)? Well, you certainly could, and such an act would be understandable. That growth is rather disturbing. But there is a solution. A solution that was revealed to me by a stamp buddy. It involves a very simple procedure. However, the procedure does have a drawback. If your stamp is mint, the gum will be removed, as the process requires soaking the offending stamp. Of course, there are many who may not wish to do this, and that''s fine. That's the beauty of this hobby. All decisions are our own, and we can do with our own collections as we see fit. But if you are one of those who doesn't care because you never intend to get rid of the stamp, and a lack of gum is not an issue, then the following process may be for you.

The key to the process that will kill the spores, and often remove the staining, is over-the-counter Peroxide. The strength you are looking for is 6%-9% solution Peroxide. Once you have acquired this, the process is simple.

Grab your peroxide and an opaque dish and something you can place on top of it. Place enough Peroxide - directly from the bottle - in the dish to allow the stamp to soak in it easily. Then drop the stamp into the Peroxide. Once you have done this place the cover over the bowl. It is absolutely vital that you cover the bowl straight away! The key to the success of this procedure is darkness. Depending on the size and/or intensity of the stain the process can take between 15 to 30 minutes. You must leave the cover over the bowl for the whole process. It is, however, a good idea to give the stamp a quick check every 5 or so minutes to see how it is going. Give it a swish in the Peroxide, then place the cover straight back on. Once you are satisfied with the results, remove the stamp from the Peroxide and give it a rinse in water to deactivate the Peroxide. Do not soak the stamp for any longer than 30 minutes.

I used the process I just described on the fungus-infected AAT stamp I showed you above. Here is a before and after...


It looks like a totally different stamp, doesn't it? I will say, though, that this procedure may not always give this level of result. What it will definitely do is kill the mould outright and most likely lighten the discolouration, at least somewhat. After seeing the results I got from the above stamp, I'm thoroughly convinced.

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy! 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

France 1954 - Château Gaillard

Imagine you are travelling along the River Seine in a north-westerly direction from Paris. You enter the Eure département of historical Normandy. Then something catches your eye. A large circular castle standing on a huge mound. It looms some 90 metres over the commune of Les Andelys on the River Seine. You are seeing the stalwart medieval castle known as Château Gaillard.

Construction on the castle began in 1196. It was built for the King of England, Richard the Lionheart. At this time King Richard was also the Duke of Normandy. It was a massive castle with a considerably advanced design, employing the principles of 'concentric fortification'. Its complexity notwithstanding the castle was completed in the record time of just two years. It was built at the same time as the town of Petit Andely, which it overlooked. Today, the castle is in ruins, but it is still an awe-inspiring sight.


***

On 8 June 1954 France issued a set of seven stamps featuring French Monuments. The 8f value features Château Gaillard and Les Andelys on the River Seine. According to Phil-Ouest, Albert Decaris only designed this stamp. But I cannot find another name on the stamp, which usually, from what I've seen, means that it was both designed and engraved by the one person. So I'll assume Decaris engraved this stamp also. If anyone knows differently, I'd love to hear from you.


In this design, the River Seine sweeps through the centre of the stamp, drawing the eye towards the middle distance where the ruin of the medieval castle, Château Gaillard, stands proudly. Below the castle to the left is the commune of Les Andelys.

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Friday, 27 May 2016

In the Mail...France 1974 & 2009

I have to confess that when it comes to covers I receive in the mail, I'm a bit of a hoarder. I tend to keep everything, whether I'm interested in the stamps or not. Consequently, I end up with large stacks of covers that, from time to time, need to be sorted into keepers and discards. Last night I decided to go through one of my stacks and I was pleasantly surprised to find a few covers from France with engraved stamps affixed. So I thought I'd share some of the stamps I've found in a few blogs. 

The stamps below have been cut away from the rather large and ugly cover so I can store them more easily.


The stamp on the left is from a set of four Red Cross stamps celebrating the four seasons issued in France on 30 November 1974. It was engraved by Cecilie Guillame, a female engraver who engraved 37 stamps for France. The stamp on the right is from the 2009 Marianne definitive series issued in France on 28 February. It was designed and engraved by Yves Beaujard.

***

Let's take a closer look at the Red Cross stamp without the postmark. The subject of this delightful stamp is Ete, which is French for Summer. It features children playing on a beach, while in the distance a sail boat rides the waves. I love the colour choices in this stamp.


Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Australia 1966 - First Decimal Definitives

On 14 February 1966 Australia's currency changed from the Australian Pound, which was introduced in 1910, to Decimal Currency. Accordingly a new set of definitives were required for the new decimal values. Below is the actual TV commercial informing Australians of the changes to come.


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It was decided to use the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Anthony Buckley for the 1c to 4c denominations. This was not the first time the Buckley portrait was used for an Australian definitive. It was previously used on the 1963 5d definitive and the 5d Royal Visit stamp.


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For the new 1966 decimal definitives, the design of the 5d stamp was significantly reworked. The circular frame was removed and the portrait of the queen somewhat enlarged.


In order to save money, it was decided that a single master die would be engraved leaving a blank space in the top left corner for different values to be inserted later. The undenominated master die was engraved by Bruce Stewart. As mentioned above, this design was printed in four different values on 14 February 1966. 1c Red-brown, 2c Yellow-green, 3c Grey-green, 4c Red. The four cent denomination was the standard letter rate at the time. Below is a lovely a booklet pane of the 4c denomination.


Three further denominations of this design were printed, reflecting increases in the standard letter rate. The 5c Blue on 29 September 1967.



The 6c Orange on 28 September 1970.



The 7c Purple on 1 October 1971.


An 8c denomination had been prepared to be issued in 1973, but by this time intaglio printing was being replaced by the cheaper photogravure printing method. Sadly, this lovely set of engraved definitives was replaced by the Marine Life series, which was photogravure printed, on 11 July 1973.

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!