Saturday, March 31, 2012

Queensland First Sideface article - Bornefeld pt. 1

J. Bornefeld wrote Queensland: The Electrotyped Postage Stamps from 1879-1906 which was serialised in Stanley Gibbons Monthly JournalThe section dealing with the fist sidefaces was published in 3 parts from 21 July 1907, p. 10, to 30 November 1907, pp. 114-116. This is part 1. Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here.

Among comparatively modern stamps which  are very interesting, especially from a  specialistic point of view, the Queensland issues from 1879 to 1895, or even to the present day, occupy a prominent position, as they exhibit a great multitude of alterations or variations of design. The varieties of type, of which there are four of each value in each issue, cannot claim to be classed as new designs, or in all cases as the result of alterations made to remedy a defect, or intended to attain a desired effect; still each of the four types has characteristics and peculiarities of its own, which either are secret marks, or are `due to the method of reproduction employed. Thus they may be the result of retouching of the original die, or of defects in or retouching of the four leaden moulds that were struck from that die, or of the electrotypes that were produced from those moulds. Again, they may be caused by retouching the word “QUEENSLAND,” or they may be due to the fact that (except in the case of the one value that was engraved on the original die) the value was separately engraved upon each of the four electrotypes which formed what maybe termed a quadruple original die for each value. The peculiarities produced by any of the above causes are to be traced throughout the reproductions of the block of four which constituted the plates of a hundred and twenty from which the stamps were printed, and we therefore cannot do otherwise than recognize that each value exists in four distinct varieties of type, and in many instances in four varieties of type of a certain die, where a special die or mould was employed for the electrotypes forming a certain plate or plates.

Alterations or variations in the design must always occupy a position of the first importance, in the eyes of a specialist, who will regard them in the same light as an expert would regard intentional or unintentional variations in the replica of a picture, painted by the artist who produced the original.

Changes of shade or colour occupy a second place, varying as the tints used by the artist for his second copy may vary from those of the first.

In the third rank we may place changes in the Paper or Watermark, the material on which the picture is painted (canvas or wood) being of minor importance; whilst the fourth and fifth places may be assigned to variations in the Perforation and the Gum, which rank with the frame of the picture or the varnish with which it is coated.

So-called errors, such as are due to defects in the printing, accidental variations, damaged impressions, little omissions, etc., occurring in isolated specimens are worthy of less notice.

As regards the nomenclature of shades, experts will always differ, but if collectors will adopt the system I suggest, I think they will always be able, with a fairly good eye for colour, to classify their shades, and then it will matter little whether they call a particular shade dull salmon or pink-ochre.

In the first place, dull shades should be separated from bright or clear shades; where the line of demarcation between the two appears doubtful, as is sometimes the case, make a third: heap of the doubtful specimens, and you will be able to put them in their places later. Now lay out these heaps separately, arranging the shades from light to dark; then pick out those in which a certain colour appears to predominate, forming as it were the ground or base colour, such as yellow, ochre, orange, vermillion, scarlet, carmine etc., placing them in order from the yellow to the red shades; you will thus be able to give each of your shades a place, and to make up either a larger or smaller, but more distinctive, shade collection. I found this system work admirably in enabling me to arrange some 250 shade varieties of the early English Penny line-engraved stamps.

But be careful of one thing; discard all specimens, as unworthy of admission into your shade collection at any rate, where there is the slightest indication that the shade owes its peculiar tint to the action of water, light, or chemicals. If possible admit no copies that have been soaked off the envelopes. For the last twenty years almost all Australian stamps have been printed in fugitive colours; I have seen, even in fine collections, common stamps, which have not only lost the surface bloom, but of which the original colour was positively destroyed by the action of water alone. Take two South Australian 1d.-stamps, of the current issue, on the same paper and of the same shade, immerse one of them in water only for a moment and then compare the shades again.

The exhaustive statistics collected by Mr, Basset Hull, and published in Vindins Philatelic Monthly 1893-4, from which I quote freely, have been of great assistance to me in my investigation, examination, and description of the Stamps themselves.

I have endeavoured to obtain additional information from the Brisbane authorities to clear up certain doubtful points in Mr. Hull’s explanation of how the plates were constructed, but, owing to lapse of time, I have not been able to get it; although the Permanent Secretary of the Commonwealth Postal Department, Mr. Robert T. Scott, kindly submitted my queries three times with recommendations to his officers to assist me if possible.
The facts, so far as now ascertained are; That on the recommendation of Mr William Knight, the Queensland Government engraver, it was decided in 1876 to produce the future postage stamps of Queensland by means of what is called the electrotype process and surface printing.

Mr. William Bell of Sydney was instructed to make a steel die to bear the Queen’s Head, the inscription “Queensland” and the value "ONE PENNY.”

After considerable delay and repeated remonstrance the die was delivered in May, 1877. It was not, however, till February, 1879, that the plate of the penny stamp was finished. This delay is partly accounted for in a letter addressed by M r. Knight to the Treasury, September I2tl1, 1881, which is given in full in Mr. Basset Hull’s paper, and from which I quote as follows :—

"Impressions are taken in lead by means of a drop hammer. A sufficient number of these are soldered together to form a part, or the whole of a sheet numbering 120 stamps; this mould is then placed in the battery to receive a deposit of copper, which when sufficiently thick (taking two or three days), is separated from the lead, backed type high with metal, and is then ready for the press."  

This plain explanation of the general process is lost sight of by Mr. Hull in his further minute description of the actual system, in as much as he only speaks about "electros," and thereby assigns to the electrotypes constituting the plate, changes and alterations which had been made on the electrotypes used to make the moulds he consequently falls into the error of stating that the lettering (of value) was altered in each of the 120 electros, whereas there are really only four variations, which were made in the moulds.

In copying the further description of the process as given by Mr. Hull, I put in italics all the words and passages with which my observations do not agree, and I explain my views further on.

Mr. Hull then says:—

In making the electros for these three values (2d., 4d., and 6d.), Mr. Knight prepared each one separately from the original die, in the course of manufacture producing a blank space in the lower half of the oval band, upon which be engraved the new value by hand, ‘ after the electro was removed from the matrix. Consequently each of the 120 impressions on the sheet shows some slight variation in the lettering of the value. When finished the separate electros were blocked up in one form, arranged in twelve horizontal rows of ten, and the printing was done in the ordinary vertical press. Owing to the electros being disconnected, the impressions are somewhat irregular, and out of ‘register,’ and the outer line of design ‘comes up' darker in some than in others."

"While in Brisbane I was kindly permitted by Mr. Knight. to examine the die, and he explained the details of production of the electrotypes. As stated, in preparing values other than that denoted on the die, the label is filled in (the lettering, appearing ,white in the impression, is sunk in the electro), and the new value engraved by hand on each separate electro, after production. As the appliances at Mr. Knight’s disposal are somewhat primitive, he is in the habit of preparing the electrotypes in pairs or blocks of four, the bath being too small to accommodate a large plate. In addition to the minute varieties found in the lettering of all values except the Twopence [This is the value mentioned in Mr. Hull’s paper. The dies he saw was that if the 1882 issue], occasional differences are caused by retouching any portion of the electro that seems to require attention.’

On consideration of the extract from Mr. Knight’s letter, and in the light of my own observations, and minute examinations of the stamps themselves, I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Basset Hull is wrong in his explanation of the process employed, and that he misunderstood what Mr. Knight stated in his interview with him. The constant repetition of four types showing every time the characteristics of each, including the peculiarities of the hand-made letterings of value, proves without doubt that the plate of a new value was made by means of altering the lettering on one block of four electros only; -Mr. Knight then transferred this to a leaden mould, and from the new mould made all the electros forming the plate required. Any and all other variations found on a sheet are simply diminutive defects in a certain electro, or are caused by indifferent printing, but not by a retouch of a certain electro.

Mr. Knight received from Mr. Bell a single die on which there was a certain defect (or was it a secret mark?), already in existence, namely; a fine line through the network of the left lower spandrel .This line (appearing white in the printing) is nearly always visible on every stamp, of all the values, of this issue. With this die Mr. Knight made four impressions in lead, the value "ONE PENNY’ being `on the original die was also reproduced. 

An electro taken from this mould of four impressions was, however, unsatisfactory, the principal defect being that the network in the four corners was not sufficiently detached from its surrounding borders.

In remedying this defect on the electro, he caused all the various points of difference which constitute the four types, described later on as the types of Die I. With this retouched electro he made a new mould, and with the latter he made all the electros of that die of the One Penny. 

For making the mould for the Twopence value, various ways were open to him, one being to cut away the words " ONE PENNY" (being in relief) from the mould referred to above; but in that case he would have destroyed his matrix mould of the penny value, which he scarcely would have done, not knowing if and when he would require further electros to replace damaged ones in the plate, etc. I therefore believe the following to have been his method of making the various moulds:—

He took one of the One Penny electros (a block of four), exactly the same as those which he used for the plate, filled in the value "ONE PENNY? (with plaster of Paris ?), and made a new blank mould; therefrom he made a blank `electro, on each of the four types of which he engraved the words. "TWO PENCE," making no other retouches whatever, and made from this a new mould, the matrix mould of the Twopence, Die I.

The various retouches he had originally made, being hurriedly and irregularly executed, did not however satisfy Mr. Knight; he therefore again made an electro from his very first mould, and now retouched this electro by separating the borders from the network, in a regular and even way, cut the horizontal strokes of the letters "EL" in the four words "QUEENSLAND” almost even (not long and short as in Die I), and altered the lower ends of the letters "s" in the same words unevenly, or left them irregular as the lead had produced them. With this altered electro, he made a matrix mould with the value blank, the original of all the matrices of the various values in Die II.

In a blank electro from this, he engraved the value "ONE PENNY " (observe the variations in the shape of the letters Y "), and retouched this electro as before; his tool seems to have slipped several times, cutting into the borders, as I shall show later on when describing the particulars of Die II, values One Penny, Twopence, and One Shilling only.

It is scarcely possible that in retouching another blank electrotype, produced from the same matrix mould, the tool would slip in exactly the same points as before, and I therefore believe that in  making the mould for the Twopence, Die II, he took one of the electrotype blocks of the One Penny of that die, filled in the value, made a blank mould and thence a blank electrotype, upon which (a block of four) he engraved the value "TW0 PENCE” ; he at the same time made some alterations in the side ornaments, either upon the mould or upon the electrotype (see the lower curls, which are thinner and more rounded than in the Penny), he also rectified the damage in the right-hand ornament, and then made his matrix mould for the Twopence, Die II. 

For the Fourpence value, however, he made a blank electro from the original blank matrix referred to above, added an extra hook to the right ornament, and engraved the words “ FOUR 1 PENCE," but made no further retouches, and used this electro for making the matrix mould of Fourpence, of this type.

In the same way he made the matrix mould for the Sixpence.

About the middle of 1880, when the stock of the old One Shilling stamps got exhausted, he seems to have taken an electro of the One Penny, Die ll (instead of a blank electro from the original mould), filled in the value, made a blank mould, and then a blank electro, as in the case of the Twopence, and engraved the words "ONE; SHIILLING.” He cut off the ends of the curl of the side ornaments, but did not repair the damage on the right-hand ornament (Z), and he thus ; made a matrix mould for the One Shilling value.

The first plate of the One Penny was made up of twenty-two blocks of four of Die I, and eight of Die II. The first plate of the Twopence was all Die I, thirty blocks of four. While the (only?) plates of the Fourpence, Sixpence, and One Shilling were Die II, throughout.

The first plates of One Penny and Twopence were both of them reset later on, the various errors in each value being in different positions in the reset plate. Whether any further resetting was done I was unable t to ascertain, and I do not believe that an entire new plate of One Penny value was ever made, as I have  examined large quantities of Penny stamps and have not found any errors which do not occur on  Plate I. Of the Twopence value, however, there was a third plate (if we call the reset plate No. 2) on which nine blocks of Die I were replaced with nine of Die II.

In the later printings of the Twopence, copies of  Die I, and Die II, are about equally common, so that it is possible that a fourth plate of that value was made, which either contained more blocks of Die II, or consisted entirely of the latter, but I have never met with a block of stamps which would not fit into one of the three plates that I have mentioned above.

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