Saturday, April 7, 2012

Queensland First Sideface Article - Scudder

SOME COMMENTS ON THE QUEENSLAND 1878-80 ARTICLE by Ken Scudder, QSG Newsletter, February 2004, pp. 4-5

It was interesting to see in the QSG Newsletter - December 2003 the article QUEENSLAND 1878-80 by the late A.R. Butler, reprinted from the London Philatelist, Vol.89, 1980.

Ron Butler was one of the leading enthusiastic collectors of Australian Colonial stamps, and his sad passing will leave a large gap in the ranks of such specialists.

The article gives a very detailed idea of the manner in which these first electrotyped stamps were produced. However, there are several points which may be questioned, and it would be remiss to let this pass without some comment.

Mr Knight, the Government Printer
William Knight was never the Government Printer. Over the years he had various titles as did his Department. On the death of Thomas  Ham, in March 1870, Knight became the head of the Lithographic Branch with the title of Engraver and Lithographer.

A dynamo for the generation of electric current was not available to the Queensland Printing Office until 1896.
Because of congestion at the Government Printery the Lithographic Branch was transferred from the Colonial Secretary to the Colonial Treasurer between 1869 and 1886. The move to the Treasury yard taking place around early 1871.

In April 1883, the Edison Co. of the USA., made a temporary installation of electric lighting at the Government Printery. The power, of 110 volts dc., was supplied by an 8% hp dynamo, driven by the steam engine used for driving the printing machinery. This facility was not removed until replaced by a permanent installation made to supply both the Printery and the Parliamentary Buildings up the road.

In the 1880’s the Government Printery was expanded with a new Engine Room, 1885, a new machine Room, Dec. 1886, and a new Lithographic Office, 1886. On completion of their new building, the Lithographic Branch was returned to the Colonial Secretary.

So it may be seen that generated electric power, although not at the Lithographic Branch until 1886, was available at the Government Printery from 1883 onwards.

Figure 9
It is obvious that in the preparation of the original article this illustration has been reversed. The printing surface should be shown in negative, i.e. with the Queen‘s head facing to the right.

The words ONE PENNY were filled up, most likely with Plaster of Paris.
This suggestion has obviously been taken direct from the very good series of articles by J. Bornefeld, in the Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal, commencing in July 1907.

Bornefeld’s investigation of this first Queensland typographed issue is most extensive and very largely his conclusions remain accurate today. However, in his belief that only one lead mould was produced from each quadruple die, and that this one mould was used to produce all the electrotypes for that plate, he trapped himself into some wrong conclusions.

Bornefeld says, "For making the mould for the Twopence value, [the 2d Die I] various ways were open to him [Knight] 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, ...... ".

Bornefeld then goes on to suggest the alternative method of filling in the value in one of the "One Penny" electros "[with plaster of Paris ?]". Unfortunately, this suggestion has since been repeated in this article and, at the same time, deleting Bornfeld's question mark.

Although the plaster of Paris option may be feasible, Bornefeld's first thought of cutting away the unwanted words of value from a lead mould would appear to be the most practical method for any engraver.

One Penny Fiscal. The plate for this was not built up from 30 units of four but comprised 120 single electrotypes.
Again, this has obviously been taken from a series of articles by A.F .Basset Hull in Vindins Philatelic Monthly. The quote in question being in the Feb. 20, 1894 edition.

Referring to the 1878 ld Stamp Duty die, Basset Hull says, "From this die Mr. Knight prepared 120 electros, arranged in 12 horizontal rows of 10."

A study of this stamp will show the plate was actually made up on the same 30 quadruple principle as used for the postage stamps which followed. Although there are other features, the main type features are :-

Type 1. The small solid triangle in the lower right corner is badly misshapen and joins the bottom frame.

Type 2. This has no good distinguishing flaw. However, apart from the absence of the flaws of the other types, one minor flaw is worth mentioning - it may have a small white pimple on the top of the "P" of "Stamp".

Type 3. Left frame is split centrally near the top for 1 to 1.5mm. Hidden when overinked.

Type 4. Break in the lower frame between "E" of "One" and "P" of "Penny".

Bell to engrave a master die for a Halfpenny stamp.
The necessity for the Halfpenny overprint was brought about by information from the United Kingdom that the newspaper rate was to be l½d to the UK.

The provision of a permanent ½d stamp was immediately put into operation and, as the matter was of some urgency, it was decided to print by lithography. William Knight completed the engraving of a die on copper which had been supplied by William Bell, of Sydney.

The die, as supplied by Bell, consisted of an engraved profile of the Queen‘s head on a ground of vertical lines in an oval frame, surrounded by a broad oval band of engine turned lines. Knight completed the design, adding "HALF PENNY" at the top and “QUEENSLAND" at the bottom, in tablets, respectively above and below the broad oval band. The tail of the "Q" of "Queensland" was to the left, although this appears to have remained unnoticed for some time. He also added an outer frame. Later, the reversed "Q" was corrected and the shaded background removed.

It is possible that the die came from Bell that week although, in view of Bell's previous tardiness in supplying the ld Side-Face dies, it is possible it came some time earlier. However, William Knight only engraved on copper, whereas the other two dies supplied by Bell were of steel. William Bell was also a die sinker. It is therefore possible Bell was able to very quickly impress the Queen‘s head and machine turn the oval, and then send this uncompleted die to Brisbane for Knight to complete.

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