Sunday, 28 February 2016

France 1949 - Aerial Views of France Airmails

Commencing on the 27 April 1949, France issued the first stamp in what was to become a glorious set of five Airmail stamps, the last of which was issued on 16 January 1950. All of the stamps in this set were designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. This set is known by the name: Aerial Views of France.


The 100f  value, issued 27 April, depicts the city of Lille, France.

Lille is located in French Flanders on the Dûele River in the north of France. There is an interesting feature within this stamp worth mentioning. Turn your eye to the middle left of the stamp. You will see a column. This is the Goddess Monument. It commemorates Lille's resistance to the Austrian siege of 1792. Atop the column stands the Goddess. She has in her right hand a a linstock, which was used to light the fuses of cannons. Another interesting feature in the stamp is located in the centre foreground of the stamp. This arched structure is known as the Porte de Paris. This is one of the gates that was originally a part of the ancient wall that surrounded the city.


The 200f value, issued 23 June, depicts the city of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is a port city located on the Garonne River in southwestern France. Bordeaux is considered the wine capital of the world. There are a couple of features in this stamp worth highlighting. The first is the Gustave Eiffel Railway bridge in the centre of the stamp. And to the left stands St. Michael's church, with the prominent bell-tower known as "The Arrow" reaching toward the sky.


The 300f value, issued 23 June, depicts the city of Lyon.

Lyon is located in east-central France in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region, between Paris and Marseille. The Rhône and the Saône Rivers snake through the centre of this amazing stamp. The left side of the stamp is dominated by a geographical feature known as "The Hill That Preys". Sitting atop the hill is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fouvière. And behind that at the top left is the Tour métallique, a TV tower fashioned to resemble the last stage of the Eiffel Tower.


The 500f value, issued 1 July, depicts the city of Marseille.

Marseille is located in France's south coast, and is the second largest city in France. The prominent feature of this stamp is the Old Port, which has been the city's natural harbour since around 600 BC when Greek settlers from Phocaea arrived.


The 1,000f value, issued 16 January 1950, depicts the city of Paris.

The capital of France, Paris is located in the north of the country on the River Seine. This stamp is the pièce de résistance of the set. It is truly superb! The image is looking west. Dominating the centre left of this stamp is Notre Dame Cathedral. Winding through the right of the stamp is the river Seine.

This stamp also highlights some of the many bridges of Paris. While doing research for this blog, I found a great Powerpoint presentation on the net dealing with the bridges of Paris on stamps. Click HERE to look at the presentation. Within that presentation is an image that lists the names of many of the bridges Decaris engraved into the stamp.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

I Muse...On a Cursive Revelation!

While compiling stamp images to do my France 1946 Year Set blog, I had somewhat of a durr revelation! In my Luxembourg Palace blog - click HERE - I commented on the unique way in which Decaris signed his name to the stamp.

It has been signed in cursive script. What I did not realise was that Decaris signed every stamp he engraved in 1946 in the same way! Just in case you don't believe me, I have arranged below a close-up image of the signature on each stamp Decaris engraved in 1946.

Joan of Arc


Francois Villon


Peace Conference



Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Friday, 19 February 2016

France 1946 - Francois Villon

Francois Villon was born in Paris in 1431. The first thing that came up when I googled this guy was that he was a poet. I thought 'okay, this will be a pretty simple, perhaps not so exciting blog'. But then I kept reading and I grew more and more interested.

It seems that good old Francois was more than just a poet. He was somewhat of a rabble-rouser. I think Wiki used the term 'Ne'er do well'. It all started on 5 June 1455. Francois along with two others - including a priest! - were in the Rue Saint-Jacques, when trouble erupted. In a scuffle a knife was pulled on Francois, who in turn drew his own knife. His assailant struck first, then Francois responded by stabbing his attacker. But he didn't stop there. To ensure his attacker would never again do him harm, Francois struck him with a stone, killing him. Now a murderer, Francois Villon fled. In his absence he was sentenced to banishment. He was later pardoned for this crime. 

Not to be deterred from his new life of crime, Villon is said to have robbed the chapel of the College de Navarre. A year after the crime took place, one of Villon's gang turned king's evidence and named Villon as the ringleader of the robbery. He was again sentenced to banishment and did not return to Paris. Is it believed that after this he was part of a wandering band of thieves. The demise of Francois Villon is unknown. After 1463 he simply disappeared. A commentator by the name of Anthony Bonner wrote this of Villon's possible end:
"He might have died on a mat of straw in some cheap tavern, or in a cold, dank cell; or in a fight on some dark street..." (Bonner, The Complete Works of Francois Villon, Bantam, 1960, p xxiii)

In 1946 France issued a set of six stamps commemorating 15th Century celebrities. Albert Decaris designed and engraved two of these stamps. Joan of Arc (see my blog on this stamp HERE). The second stamp is the subject of this blog - Francois Villon.

This is an interesting stamp depicting a rather colourful character. What is that expression on his face? Fear? Guilt? Contrition? Whatever Villon may be thinking here, I'm glad I got to meet this intriguing poet. The joy of stamp collecting!

Until next time...

Thursday, 18 February 2016

France 1946 - Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc, which in French is Jeanne d'Arc, was born into a peasant family at Domremy in north-east France on 6 January c. 1412. Joan of Arc is famous for her military role in the Hundred Years War. She said that she received visions from the archangel Michael and other angels. They instructed her to approach Charles VII and offer her services to the country. Her amazing victories at the siege of Orleans and several other battles at the age of 18 gained her legendary status. But not enough it seems to save her from the stake. On 23 May 1430 she was captured by the French Burgundian faction who were allied with the English. She had many charges thrown against her and she was found guilty and burned at the stake on 30 May 1430.

But the story doesn't end there. Twenty five years after her execution, her trial was reconsidered and she was found not guilty - not that it helped her much! She was thus declared a martyr. In 1909 she was beatified, and in 1920 canonised. She is now remembered not only in the church, but through modern popular culture, in literature, movies, television and video games to name a few. For more on this amazing young woman click HERE.


On 28 October 1946, France issued a set of six stamps commemorating 15th Century celebrities. Two stamps in this set were designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. Francois Villon and Joan of Arc. Since this blog is a quick study of Joan of Arc, it is this stamp we shall examine.

This stamp is stunning. The divine adoration on the face of Joan coupled with the heavenly rays of light illuminating her path to sainthood make this stamp a real Decaris treasure.

Until next time...

Monday, 15 February 2016

Australia 1929 - Centenary of Western Australa

The first permanent settlement on the west coast of Australia was created in 1829 on the Swan River. It is true a settlement had begun in 1826 at King George Sound, now Albany, but this was only temporary. The expedition to found a permanent colony was driven by Captain James Stirling, who in 1827 explored the Swan River in the HMS Success. The fledgling colony had a very rough beginning. It fought through many trials before it finally found its feet. Originally, it was called The Swan River settlement. It was changed to Western Australia in 1832, but it retained the informal name of Swan River for many years. Captain Sterling was the first Governor.


On 28 September 1929 Australia issued a commemorative stamp to celebrate the Centenary of Settlement in Western Australia. 

The design of the stamp was prepared by Mr. G. Pitt Morison, who was the curator of the National Gallery, Perth. The desgin incorporated the famous black swan, the emblem of the state. It also included in the top corners above 'Postage' kangaroo paw flowers, as well as eucalyptus leaves and flowers, which can be seen below the written value. This stamp was engraved by Frank Manley.

There were many designs to choose from. G. Pitt Morison submitted several. This is another of his designs...

An unadopted design

This wasn't the first time a swan was depicted on a stamp. During the colonial period, Western Australia issued many lovely swan stamps. Here's one from 1854 - Australia's own Penny Black.

Until next time...

Stay Engrver Crazy!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Czechoslavakia 1957 - International Farming Congress

I was browsing through the stamps put up on my Engraver Crazy Facebook Group the other day and I spotted a stamp that I really liked. The stamp was issued in Czechoslovakia in 1957 in honour of the third congress of agricultural cooperatives. 

This stamp was engraved by Jan Mracek, who worked for Czechoslovakia from 1948-1987. Yet another engraver who has just appeared on my radar! I think it's the real world feel of this stamp that I like so much. Thanks to Toon for allowing me to use the image.

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!

Friday, 12 February 2016

France 1946 - Luxembourg Palace

The original Luxembourg Palace was designed by French architect Salomon de Brosse. Construction took place between 1615-1645. Its original, purpose was to be the residence of the regent Marie de' Medicis, the mother of Louis XIII. It went through two further refurbishments to get the stage we see today. Its usage also changed over time. It has been a legislative building since 1805, and since 1958 it has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.

By DXR - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

On 29 July 1946, France issued a 'Sights and Monuments' series. The Luxembourg Palace engraved by Albert Decaris appears on the 10f value. This engraving was subsequently used for different values in later years.

This is one of my favourite early Decaris stamps. He has masterfully etched the structural details of the building to great effect. And the gardens are truly beautiful. One expects a slight breeze to ruffle the leaves of the many plants surrounding the building.  

There is a rather charming little detail to this stamp, a final flourish as it were. Instead of the engraver name simply appearing in standard text, Decaris has signed his name in cursive as though this were a painting. I love this aspect of the stamp!

Until next time...

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Australia 1930 - Charles Sturt

Captain Charles Sturt came to Australia in 1827. The following year he set out to explore the Macquarie River. He also discovered another river which he named the Darling River. 

On 7 January 1830, he set off on a second expedition, this time sailing in a whaleboat, Sturt and his team travelled down the Murrumbidgee River to its junction with the Murray River, which he also named. He continued down the Murray and reached Lake Alexandrina a month later. The journey was arduous and the party suffered many hardships along the way.


On 2 June 1930 Australia issued a set of two stamps to commemorate the Centenary of Charles Sturt's Exploration of the Murray River. It was issued in two denominations: 1½d red & 3d blue. The design for the Sturt commemorative features the portrait of Sturt by J.H. Crossland flanked by lyrebird tails. It also includes spearheads and shields typical of those used by Aborigines in the area. The stamp design was the work of R.A. Harrison. It was engraved by Frank Manley.


Many interesting designs were considered. Below is an unadopted design depicting a portion of the Murray River.

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

USA 1938 - Airmail

I am officially very excited. Today I received my first Charles A. Brooks engraved stamp in the mail. I first came across the work of Brooks a couple of weeks ago and I instantly fell in love with his style. Charles A. Brooks was an American engraver, who engraved many stamps, mostly vignettes. He worked from 1938 to 1966.

The stamp I received today is the 1938 US Airmail. Charles A. Brooks engraved the vignette of this gorgeous stamp. For the newbies out there, the vignette is the image inside the frame of the stamp, which is often in a different colour.

Let's take a look at the stamp...

The detail of the vignette is stunning.

It is an interesting rendition of the Great Seal of the Untied States. A bald eagle is clutching thirteen arrows and an olive branch. These items symbolize the power of peace and war which is exclusively vested in congress. And the shield bears the stars and stripes of the United States.

I have to say, I can't wait to get more stamps on which this talented engraver worked.

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!

Monday, 8 February 2016

France 1946 - Paris Peace Conference

The Paris Peace Conference of 1946 was held between the months of July to October in Paris, France. Representatives from United States, Soviet Union. Great Britain, France and other allied powers discussed and agreed upon the provisions for the Paris Peace Treaties, which included monetary reparations, adjustments to territories, and political changes aimed at promoted democracy and peace. These treaties were signed in February 1947.


On 29 July 1946, France issued a set of two stamps in honour of this momentous event. The high value stamp of this set, the 10f, was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.

The imagery of this stamp is simple yet very effective. We have the dove representing peace at the point of being released, ready to fly the world over, promoting its credo.

Until next time...

Sunday, 7 February 2016

France 1949 - Charles-Louis de Secondat

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, most commonly referred to as simply Montesquieu, was born in France on 18 January 1689 at the Château de La Brède. He died 10 February 1755 at the aged of 56. Montesquieu lived during the Aged of Enlightenment. He was a French lawyer and a political philosopher.

Château de La Brède
By Carole J... - Own work (own photo), CC BY-SA 3.0,


On 14 November 1949 France issued a semi-postal stamp commemorating this man of letters. The stamp was designed by Paul-Pierre Lemagny and it was engraved by Charles-Paul Dufresne. The stamp is an absolute stunner. The life etched into the face of Montesquieu is awesome!

So far I know very little about the engraver of this stamp. According to the terrific blog, Stamp Engravers, Dufresne seems to have been active from 1939 to 1958. 

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Monaco 1961 - Sphinx at Wadi es-Sebua

Wadi es-Sebua is the site of two Egyptian New Kingdom temple complexes. The first temple was built by the Pharaoh, Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt from 1386 to 1349 BC.

Amenhotep III from a colossal granite statue


The second temple was constructed by Ramesses II. Ramesses II is perhaps the most famous Egyptian  Pharaoh - behind Tutankamen, I guess. He reigned from 1279 to 1213 BC, an unprecedented 66 years! His activities while Pharaoh are great and many. Click HERE for more on the "Great Ancestor".

Ramesses II at Luxor


This complex of temples is also known as the Valley of the Lions, so named after the sphinx lined path leading to the temples. Below is a sphinx of Ramesses II at Wadi es-Sebua...

By (Mr. Dennis G. Jarvis) -, CC BY 2.0,

The construction of the Aswan dam project threatened to flood the site of the temples, thus destroying these amazing monuments. The project, commonly referred to as the Aswan Dam, is actually the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The original Aswan Dam was built between 1898-1902. The Aswan High Dam, built between 1960 and 1970 had a significant effect on Egypt, one part being its monuments in the Nubian regions. The reservoir for the dam, called Lake Nasser, would flood many important ancient monuments if a solution were not found.

It is at this point in the story we can introduce the stamp issued by Monaco on 3 June 1961. It was issued to help gain publicity for the protection of these temples.

This stamp, engraved by Albert Decaris, showcases the need for the protection of monuments lest, as the image depicts, the monuments get drowned in flood waters. 

Thankfully, it was decided to move certain important monuments, these temples being two such monuments along with others such as Ramesses II's temple at Abu Simbel. Wadi es-Sebua was dismantled in 1964 and moved 4km west of its original location. The monuments avoided the disastrous outcome as depicted on the stamp! Incidentally, the temple at Abu Simbel was relocated in 1968. Now monuments such as these can continue to be enjoyed for many generations to come.

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Jamaica 1956 - Definitives

On 1 May 1956 Jamaica issued its first Queen Elizabeth II definitives. The set consisted of 15 stamps, all on paper watermarked multi-script CA. The series incorporated five different designs. The series was recess-printed by De La Rue.  


The first design consisted of four stamps, all of which are perforated 13.

The ½d black and deep orange-red uses the theme coconut palms.


The 1d black and emerald uses the theme of sugar cane.


The 2d black and carmine-red was issued later than the first two on 2 August 1956. The theme of this stamp is pineapples.


The 2½d black and deep bright blue was also released on 2 August 1956. The theme of this stamp is bananas.


The second design format in this series consisted of four stamps, and all are perforated 13.

The 3d emerald and red-brown was issued 17 December 1956. 

The theme of this stamp is the flower of the Blue Mahoe tree, which is Jamaica's national tree. The Blue Mahoe is a beautiful and durable timber that is widely used for cabinet making and also for making decorative objects such as picture frames, bowls and wood carvings. The inner bark of the tree is often referred to as Cuba bark because it was formerly used for tying bundles of Havana cigars...


The 4d bronze-green and blue was issued 17 December 1956. This stamp can be found with wmk inverted, so be on the lookout. Such stamps have a cv of £110 mint.

The theme of this stamp is breadfruit. Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a species of flowering tree in the mulberry family. It is found throughout Southeast Asia and most Pacific Ocean islands. Its name is derived from the texture of the cooked fruit, which has a potato-like flavor, similar to fresh-baked bread...


The 5d scarlet and bronze-green was issued 17 December 1956. 

The theme of this stamp is the Ackee, which is the national fruit of Jamaica. Ackee and saltfish is the national dish.


The 6d black and deep rose-red was issued 3 September 1956.

The theme of this stamp is the Doctor Bird. The Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus) also known as the Doctor Bird, is indigenous to Jamaica, where it is the most abundant and widespread member of the hummingbird family.


The third design format in this series consisted of four stamps. All of these four stamps are perforated 13½. All four stamps were released on 15 November 1956.

The first stamp in this the third design format is the 8d ultramarine and red-orange. 

The theme of this stamp is Blue Mountain Peak. Blue Mountain Peak is the highest mountain in Jamaica at 2,256 metres (7,402 ft), and it is the second highest peak in the Caribbean after Pico Duarte of the Dominican Republic.The Blue Mountains are considered by many to be a hiker's and camper's paradise.

The 1/- yellow-green and blue. 

The theme of this stamp is The Royal Botanical Gardens, Hope. Hope Gardens in Kingston, Jamaica, was established in the late 1870s on 200 acres of land. Crops such as pineapple, cocoa, coffee, and tobacco were introduced to the island through the Gardens. 60 acres of garden was set aside to create a formal garden with the assistance of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England.


The 1/6 ultramarine and reddish purple. 

The theme of this stamp is Rafting on the Rio Grande. Not to be confused with the Rio Grande that flows through Colorado USA, the Rio Grande is a large river in Jamaica, found in the parish of Portland. Rio Grande means 'Big River' in Spanish, and it was named as such by the Spanish who occupied Jamaica in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Rio Grande is a popular tourist spot. The river is especially popular for rafting.


The 2/- blue and bronze-green exists with an alternate colour, grey-blue and bronze-green, which was issued on 24 April 1958. 

The theme of this stamp is Fort Charles.Fort Charles is one of the oldest forts in Port Royal in Kingston. It was built by the British after Jamaica was taken from the Spaniards. The Fort was initially named Fort Cromwell after a general at the time, but was later renamed Fort Charles.


The final four stamps in this great series are perforated 11½. They constitute the high values for this set, and all incorporate the Jamaican Coats of Arms as the central motif. So let us delve a little into just what makes up the Coat of Arms of Jamaica...

The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sandcroft, granted Jamaica its first Coat of Arms in 1661. Since then it has only been partially modified a couple of times, which included a revision in 1957. The Coat of Arms depicts a male and female Arawak, standing on either side of the shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples superimposed on it. The Crest is a Jamaican crocodile surmounting the Royal Helmet and Mantlings. The Latin motto, "Indus Uterque Serviet Uni", reads "Both Indies will serve one lord." In 1957 the motto was changed to read "Out of Many, One People". Click here to find out more information on the history of Jamaica.


The 3 and 5 shilling stamps are in landscape format, and they include a side-on portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The 3/- black and blue was issued on 12 August 1956.


The 5/- black and carmine-red was issued 15 August 1956.


The final two values of this set were printed in portrait format, and the Queen's head has been removed. Both of these stamps were released on 15 August 1956.

The 10/- black and blue-green.


The £1 black and purple. This colour combination is, in my opinion, stunning!

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Australia 1932 - Opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge

The building of a steel "through arch" bridge that spanned Sydney Harbour was a colossal undertaking. It was designed and built by the British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough under the direction of Dr J.J.C. Bradfield of the NSW Department of Public Works. The bridge's design was influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932. At the time, it was the world’s widest long-span bridge at 48.8 metres (160 feet). 

The southern bridge end – the CBD end - is located at Millers Point in an area known as The Rocks. The northern end touches down at Milsons Point in an area known as the North Shore. The bridge carries six lanes of road traffic on its main roadway. Additionally, on its eastern side are two lanes of road traffic, which were formerly two tram tracks. It has a footpath, and on its western side are two railway tracks and a bicycle path. The main roadway across the bridge is known as the Bradfield Highway, named after the man who oversaw construction of the bridge. The highway is approximately 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) long, making it one of the shortest highways in Australia.

An official ceremony on 28 July 1923 marked the "turning of the first sod". It was held on the spot at Milsons Point on the north shore where two workshops to assist in building the bridge were later constructed.

Arch construction itself began on 26 October 1928, and in less than two years, on Tuesday, 19 August 1930, the two halves of the arch touched for the first time. Workers riveted both top and bottom sections of the arch together, and the arch became self-supporting, allowing the support cables to be removed. On 20 August 1930 the joining of the arches was celebrated by flying the flags of Australia and the United Kingdom.

Arch Construction

The deck for the roadway and railway were then constructed. The deck was completed in June 1931. On 19 January 1932, the first test train, a steam locomotive, safely crossed the bridge.

The bridge was formally opened on Saturday, 19 March 1932. The Labor Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang, was to open the bridge by cutting a ribbon at its southern end. However, just as Lang was about to cut the ribbon, a man in military uniform rode in on a horse, slashing the ribbon with his sword and opening the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the name of the people of New South Wales before the official ceremony began. This notorious man was Francis de Groot. For his dastardly deed, he was convicted of offensive behaviour and fined £5 after a psychiatric test proved he was sane.

The infamous Francis de Groot
The task of designing stamps to commemorate such an epic moment in history was placed upon the shoulders of the Note Printing Branch. At this time, the bridge was only partly constructed, so it was necessary to study drawings of the proposed design of the bridge. The stamp designers also took an avid interest in the progress of the bridge's construction. The set of commemorative stamps were released on 14 March 1932.

As is always the case many different designs were considered. The chosen design depicts the bridge in a foreshortened perspective and incorporates the landing sheds, the roadway, and a ferry in the foreground. To add a sense of proportion, the overseas liner RMS Orford was added to the design. It can be seen sailing under the bridge. It is a stunning stamp, designed by R.A. Harrison and engraved by F.D. Manley - a man who by this time had cemented his name in Australian stamp engraving history.

1932 Opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge

Because of the sheer volume of 2d stamps required, it was decided produce the bulk of them by the letterpress method on watermarked paper. The rest of the 2d, the 3d and 5/- stamps were all recess printed. Because the 2d stamps were printed using two different methods there are two different sizes to collect.

Until next time...

Stay Engraver Crazy!