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Articles on Herm stamps

Love Story by Dr Bob Forrester - Part 1
   

The story of the creation of a stamp, from its conception as someone's 'brainchild' to its issue over the post office counter  

This article originally appeared in the Channel Islands Reporter in two parts: the first in November 1987 and the second in February 1988

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Love Story Part 1                                          Love Story Part 2                                      Love Story Part 3      

Download complete Love Story Word file                              Download complete Love Story PDF file

Most forms of popular entertainment involve stories.  Think of the 'soap' on television this afternoon.  Think of the successful movie which is rated by the critics as having a 'fast-moving plot'.  There is something in human nature that makes the following of a sequence of events through to an ending a generally satisfying and enjoyable experience.  In many ways we try to maximize our enjoyment of our collections by similar means - 'the story behind the stamp' or 'the story behind the cover' is a theme common to many successful philatelic articles and the knowledge of some such story may be the reasoning behind the favoured positions many of our private treasures hold in our hearts.  I was certainly very pleased when, a few months ago, I realised that a chance purchase had filled a gap in my collection and so had let me illustrate the story of the creation of a stamp from its conception as someone's 'brainchild' to its issue over the post office counter.  The items which form the chapters of this story do not relate to one particular stamp but instead to a range of Channel Islands issues, mostly those of Herm Island .  Despite this heterogeneous nature of the items in this theme they do enable a story to be told and illustrate the fact that the stamp on the album page got there only after months of endeavour and sweat. 

The ideas for stamp issues come from various places.  Some owe their existence to the bright ideas of highly-placed postal or other officials.  On the other hand the post offices of most stamp-issuing authorities are bombarded with requests from pressure groups who hope for a place in some future stamp issue programme.  Philatelic agents, committees, monarchs, dictators and anticipated collector demand may also have their part to play.

My one, albeit rather tenuous, claim to philatelic immortality lies in this area for as I mentioned in my article "Well, Almost . . . " ('The Channel Islands Reporter', August 1984) it was my suggestion to Sue Faed, then Tenant of Jethou, that she should react to the suppression of Jethou's postal service under the Post Office (Guernsey) Law of 1969 by 'going down fighting' with the issue of a final set of stamps, which led to Jethou's issue of 4 overprinted stamps on 30 September 1969.  I have in my collection Mrs. Faed's letter accepting this proposition but, as I rarely bother to take a copy of any letter I write, do not have the tangible evidence of this first spark - this first stage in the story of an issue.  This is a pity for in this case it was truly the first spark, the very thought which gave birth to an issue and it would have got this story off to a fine start.  But I am to blame and so we will move on quickly to the next stage.

We are going to have an issue; what should the designs be?  This question is usually answered by the same people who made the initial decision that there should be an issue and it is only rarely that the artist has a more or less free hand but this seems to have been the case when the Tenant of Herm wanted a new definitive set in 1958 for on the back page of artist Rigby Graham's sketchbook is a roughly pencilled list of possible subjects:

Nautical aspects of buoys

Birds Puffins Cormorants?

View of Guernsey ?

View of Herm with Jethou

Brehon Tower - Arrowhead off

Hermetier/Jethou/Herm  Sark distance

Judging by the evidence in the sketchbook the first and second of these suggestions were not pursued.  The final idea, that of a view from Herm with Sark in the distance, was roughly sketched but did not materialize as a stamp - instead it is the third, fourth and fifth suggestions that, with some development, produced stamp designs in the form of the 1s 6d, 3d and 6d values of Herm's 1959 definitive issue.  This aide memoire is then the tangible form of the mental sparks which were the very first stages in the conception of these designs.

 

On a number of occasions (three to my knowledge) our mutual friend the Jersey Post Office has obtained designs for its stamps by that most democratic of methods, a public competition.  Although no artist I enter these for the sake of seeing what form the letter of rejection will take for these, too, form part of the designing process - albeit a negative aspect.

 

   Figure 1.  Letter of rejection of an entry in a Jersey stamp design contest

An artist needs material on which to base his designs.  Sometimes this material is supplied by the issuing authority in the form of photographs, postcards, books or other items.  On the other hand, one of the 'perks' of being a stamp designer is that it is frequently necessary to visit the territory to prepare material 'in situ'.  Often the finished designs are a product of a combination of these methods.

It is exciting when it is possible to marry a finished design with the source material from which it was developed.  It is obvious that the Jersey Tourist Board was asked to supply Gordon Drummond with a copy of their current island tourist guide when he was commissioned to design Jersey 's 1976 definitives for the Board's design of a flag rising from the island.  This was used on a variety of its literature and was adapted for the 30p stamp.

 

Figure 2.  Illustration from a Jersey tourist guide which, in revised form, became the design of a postage stamp.  Here, Britain and France appear as their respective flags.

Sometimes the design can claim a longer history.  An earlier version of the Jersey Tourist Board's literature utilised a very successful design by British poster artist Abram Games.  This was adapted by an unknown hand for some of the island's holiday publicity slogan of the 1960's and finally by Mr. Games himself for the 10p value of the 1975 Tourism issue.

The 'Herm Island Prospect' and the view of 'Alderney Cliffs', shown on the 7p and 13p values of Guernsey's 1976 Bailiwick Views, were both taken from postcards published for sale on those islands.  The delightful view of 'Sark Cliffs' (in fact Grande Greve Bay) on the 11p has been in the Guernsey Tourist Board's Guide and Accommodation List for a number of years.

Such material can have its pitfalls however.  Presumably Richard Granger-Barrett has learned to study such source material very carefully after his error in transcribing the figures of latitude on British Admiralty Hydrographic Chart 2669 'The Channel Islands and Adjacent Coast of France' which formed the basis of the 1d and 1s 6d values of Guernsey's first definitive issue.

To return to my own collection I am able to illustrate these on and off site designing activities by reference, once again, to Rigby Graham's Herm definitive set of 1959.  Mr. Graham spent some time on Herm in August 1958 and his industry during that time is recorded in a variety of pencil, indian ink and ballpoint sketches and two watercolours in his sketchbook, some of them made under very rough conditions as, for instance, when he tried to sketch the island mailboat MV Arrowhead whilst himself travelling on another small boat in very heavy seas!  Fortunately I now have a photograph taken from Mr. Graham's rather wet viewpoint to illustrate this important stage in the designing process - the artist undertaking preliminary research (Figure 3a).  Mr Graham was also supplied with a photograph of the ‘Arrowhead’ for use when making his final design (Figure 3b)

Figure 3a.  Photograph of the 'Arrowhead' at sea, taken while Rigby Graham (in the boat on the left) was making rough sketches subsequently used for the 6d design of the 1959 definitives

Figure 3b.  Photograph of the 'Arrowhead' entering Herm Harbour , the basis for the 'Arrowhead' as it appears on the 1s 6d stamp

 

However much work an artist carries out on this preliminary work he will not earn any money unless he produces the finished goods.  In the course of producing a design to submit to the postal authorities an artist may pursue and discard a number of designs. 

Figure 4 shows a design by Rigby Graham for the 1959 issue.  It was Mr. Graham himself who decided not to pursue this particular design although it is worth noting that it contains elements subsequently incorporated into the finished designs.  

 

Figure 4.  Rigby Graham's rejected design for a stamp

Of course there will also be 'roughs' which pleased the artist and so were improved to the extent that they were submitted for approval (or otherwise!) to the issuing authority.

 

Figure 5.  Sketch of the 'Arrowhead' entering St. Peter Port Harbour.  The design was used on the 1s 6d stamp of the 1959 definitives

 

 

For convenience of work artists usually prepare their designs in a larger than stamp size format and this is often photographically reduced to stamp size or thereabouts before submission to the client authority.  These are often known as 'bromides'. 

Figure 6.  Bromide for the 1959 4 doubles (½d) stamp

Figures 6 and 7 show two of Rigby Graham's suggestions eventually submitted to Herm.  The 4 doubles design was used with only minor modifications for the three lower values.  The 3d was not prepared with suitable linear proportions and to achieve the desired effect the design was 'stretched' by the addition of foliage and other detail to each end. 

 

Figure 7.  Bromide for the 1959 3d stamp

 

Continue to Love Story Part 2

Illustrations from the collections of Dr Bob Forrester and David Ackroyd

Scanning and editing by Peter Hewitt

 

Love Story Part 1                                          Love Story Part 2                                      Love Story Part 3      

Download complete Love Story Word file                              Download complete Love Story PDF file

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