Britain's most spectacular commemoratives, No20: 2009 Charles Darwin 1st class

Following the lead given by the Beatles stamps (see No28), the Charles Darwin set took further advantage of the versatility of die-cutting by way of jigsaw-shaped designs, alluding to the great naturalist’s thinking as he tried to work out how all life fits together. 

Particular amusement can be had by juxtaposing the portrait on the 1st class stamp with the 81p value’s depiction of an orang-utan from the same angle. Their similarly grizzled, similarly hairy faces remind us of the fun caricaturists had in Victorian times, when the idea that humans were descended from apes was shocking.

Design: Hat-Trick Design.

Printing: gravure by De La Rue.