Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Monaco 1977 - The Career of a Navigator 1st Issue (Part 1)

He was born into royalty, but he possessed the heart of a scientific explorer with a passion for the relatively new field of oceanography. Honoré Charles Grimaldi, later Prince Albert I of Monaco, was born 13 November 1848. His love for the ocean was perhaps cultivated while he was still a young man serving in the Spanish Navy. Then during the Franco-Prussian War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871) he joined the French Navy. In this capacity he excelled, earning himself the Legion of Honour. 

Throughout his life, Prince Albert's love for oceanography was evident in nearly every aspect of his life, but he also had a keen interest in unravelling the mysteries of the origins of man. In fact, he founded the Institute for Human Paleontology. The institute went on host a number of archaeological digs. During one such dig "Grimaldi Man" was found in the Baousse-Rousse cave, and it was named in his honour. 

As a skilled navigator and a trail-blazer in the burgeoning field of oceanography, Prince Albert devoted his life to the study of oceans and aquatic life. In all, he led 28 scientific expeditions around the Mediterranean, to the Azores, and even an adventure to the Arctic. In order to make the most of these research expeditions, he had several ships retro-fitted with high-tech (for the time) scientific equipment. He had four ships in total: Hirondelle, Princess Alice, Princesse Alice II and Hirondelle II. But what is field research without a home base? To this end, he founded the Oceanographic Institute in 1906, which is comprised of two establishments: the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco (for which there was a lovely stamp series issued) and the Home of the Oceans in Paris.

Housed within the Oceanographic Museum is the Salle Albert I, an exhibit dedicated to his exceptional career as a navigator and oceanographer. It houses numerous marine specimens, photos, and a library of scientific analysis. It also includes several display models, including miniatures of his research ships and even a full size sperm whale!  


In 1902 Albert I published a book La Carriere d'un Navigateur (The Career of a Navigator), which documents his adventurous life at sea. In 1977, the 75th anniversary of the publication of his magnum opus, Monaco issued a glorious set of 18 stamps, issued in two sets of nine, honouring the Prince's achievements.. The first set, which I will focus on in this blog, was issued 3 May 1977.  To engrave this mammoth issue, a stellar cast of French engravers was enlisted: Pierre Gandon, Claude Haley, Michel Monvoisin, George Betemps, and Pierre Forget. They even brought in a top gun outsider a fellow whose name you may have heard of one or twice - Czeslaw Slania! This set was created based on illustrations by the French illustrator Louis Tinayre (14 March 1861-26 September 1942).


Considering this set is so big, I have broken it into two separate blog posts. This week we will study the first four stamps of the nine, and next week we will see the remaining five, and I might even be able to find a few more tidbits about Prince Albert I. So without further ado...


The 0,10f stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon. It features L'Hirondelle, Prince Albert I's schooner.


The 0.20f stamp was designed and engraved by Czeslaw Slania (although not a French engraver, I include the stamp so the entire set can be perused). It features the portrait of Prince Albert I.


The 0,30f stamp was designed and engraved by Claude Haley. It features a lovely moment being shared by the crew members aboard one of Prince Albert I's research vessels.


The 0,80f stamp was designed and engraved by Michel Monvoisin. It features a splendid action shot of L'Hirondelle battling some rough weather. That wave in the background sure does look menacing!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this gorgeous set next week!

Until then...

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