Britain's most spectacular commemoratives, No8: 1964 Shakespeare Festival 2s 6d

In an attempt to plug the hole it had punched in its traditional issuing policy, the GPO insisted this was not an issue honouring Shakespeare himself, whose 400th birthday it was, but one commemorating the Shakespeare Festival as an event. Nevertheless, this was a ground-breaking and controversial issue, the first to depict a commoner.

In a multi-coloured set of five showing scenes from plays, the only recess-printed stamp, and the only one to name the play in question, was the monotone top value in deep slate purple illustrating the hapless Hamlet contemplating mortality.

Reminiscent of the line drawings of Shakespearean scenes so beloved of the Victorians, with its scrolled vignettes and decorative pylons containing lyres, torches and starbursts, it is an outstanding piece of engraving.

Design: C & R Ironside.

Printing: recess by Bradbury Wilkinson.