Great Britain

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Jeff Dugdale  |  May 25, 2016  |  0 comments

Commemorating Dr Edward Jenner’s invention of a defence against smallpox in the 18th century, this stamp cleverly alludes to a folkloric tale and involves a very subtle optical illusion.

It was from the knowledge that milkmaids did not contract smallpox if they had previously suffered from cowpox that Jenner developed his ‘vaccine’ (the word comes from the Latin for ‘cow’) containing material from cowpox sores.

Accordingly, the design shows a caricature of a Friesian cow, whose black and white markings contain a silhouette of the doctor vaccinating a child.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 24, 2016  |  0 comments

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Queen’s Awards for Export and Technology, were four very bold stamps realised in dark blue and yellow, in similar format and available in se-tenant pairs.

At the heart of this stamp is the Export award’s crowned insignia, with an ‘E’ at the centre of four arrows growing out of the cogwheels of industry.

This casts a shadow over a stylised globe symbolic of international trade.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 23, 2016  |  0 comments

This arresting illustration is the work of Wildscreen at-Bristol, an educational charity which became a Millennium Project, working to promote our appreciation of biodiversity through wildlife imagery.

It looks like something out of a science fiction film, but is simply a beautifully lit photograph of the head of an ant, at huge magnification, showing its eyes, antennae, mouth and ‘whiskers’ in the finest detail.

Most eye-catching of all is the smile the ant appears to have as it glares into the lens! Design: GettyOne Stone.

Julia Lee  |  May 22, 2016  |  0 comments

One of two stamps celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, from a set on the theme of peace, this design uses simple imagery to make a telling point.

Two open hands, suggesting no malice, with fingers of different colours, representing all mankind, emerge from the globe in supplication to the background of heat and flames, alluding to conflict.

It looks like a thought-provoking piece of modern art, rather than merely a postage stamp.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 21, 2016  |  0 comments

A set of six aimed at stamp collectors and Beatles aficionados alike used album covers as its artwork, which could be considered the lazy option.

However, making it a self-adhesive issue allowed Royal Mail to experiment with asymmetric perforations, which it cleverly used to suggest a pile of LPs casually arranged.

And on top in this case is the revered Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, whose sleeve design is iconic in its own right, with its montage of celebrity faces, including those of writers, musicians, film stars and Indian gurus.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 21, 2016  |  0 comments

The most elegant of all the early Queen Elizabeth II commemoratives was created by a French-born artist who remains one of the most famous stamp designers ever.

Strikingly, it was the only stamp in the Coronation set of four, and indeed the only postage stamp of the reign until 1966, which did not adopt the Wilding portrait.

Instead, it defied convention by showing the Queen full-face, in Coronation robes with the orb and sceptre, against the background of a Tudor tapestry containing symbols of the nations of the United Kingdom.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 20, 2016  |  0 comments

From one of the most detailed sets ever, celebrating Harrison as the inventor of the marine chronometer, the 28p shows the escapement, remontoire and fusée of his marine timekeeper No4 in all its intricate glory.

Made in 1759, this allowed navigators to work out their longitude wherever they were, boosting global exploration and thus the British Empire.

Clearly, it was also a thing of beauty.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 19, 2016  |  0 comments

This was the first of a series of three ‘poppy’ designs commemorating events in World War I (in this case the Battle of the Somme), initially available only within a miniature sheet but later re-released in counter sheets.

Seven beautiful tall red poppies seem to weave their way plaintively into the sky, and then we notice that their stems are made of barbed wire, a moving metaphor which requires no further explanation.

Design: Hat-Trick Design.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 18, 2016  |  0 comments

In stark contrast to the preceeding sets devoted to the other three seasons, all five values in the 1995 Springtime issue were designed to puzzle the viewer on first appearance.

In that, the highest value succeeds especially well! Is it a representation of the Sun in computer-altered colours? A black hole? Part of an eye? Some psychedelic vision induced by drugs? Not quite, but it is grass! It’s a very effective photographic essay showing hundreds of fresh green blades, with white stems, laid around a central void in a starburst pattern to suggest the growing season exploding into action.

It takes the breath away, as no simple lawn could ever hope to do.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 17, 2016  |  0 comments

A remarkably masculine stamp, and the most warlike ever issued by Great Britain, depicts Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, at the place where he changed the history of his nation, Bannockburn in 1314.

The image, which seems to have been inspired by C Pilkington Jackson’s equestrian statue at the battle site, is of a king ready for war, resolute in expression, resplendent in helmet and chainmail and with axe in hand.

In the background, silhouetted infantry wielding pikes and cavalry bearing standards prepare to see off the English foe under a darkening sky.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 15, 2016  |  0 comments

The centenary of the international conference which met in 1884 to decide a universal system of longitude was marked by four classy stamps, each with the 0° meridian shown dramatically by a bold red line across the design.

On the best of the four, it is superimposed on a historical but very detailed sepia map of the south of England and north-west of France.

Even the most basic of inscriptions seems superfluous, because the illustration says it all.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 14, 2016  |  0 comments

Celebrating immigration to Britain, this stamp is a veritable riot of colour, if not easily understood until you take a closer look.

Its main icon is a glorious hummingbird, typically associated with tropical regions such as the Caribbean.

Within the bird’s multi-coloured breast you can make out an immigrant’s face, whilst in the background is a naval chart and compass rose.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 13, 2016  |  0 comments

A set commemorating traditional seaside postcard artwork could never be anything other than light-hearted, and the top value is a real fun stamp.

Filling most of the frame is a portly middle-aged gent with a beer belly and a large backside, in the style of bathing suit which suggests he should really know better.

The expression on his face makes it clear that he has been caught out obtaining chocolate when he shouldn’t, and he seems to be on a roll, with bars simply tumbling out of the machine.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 13, 2016  |  0 comments

Another successful approach to suggesting frenetic activity can be seen in a set of four stamps on the theme of racket sports.

None has more energy than the design showing squash, which would give even the uninitiated a good idea of what the sport is about.

Two silhouetted players are shown part-way through a rally, and stretching every sinew to win the point, with the route the ball has taken shown by a maze of sharply angled dotted lines.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 12, 2016  |  0 comments

Some of the most stunning stamps are the simplest, and here is a case in point.

It takes the classic image of a gas flame, very well known to millions of homes in the late 1970s, and places it on the calm surface of a stylised North Sea.

Beneath the surface lie the strata of sediment which contain the crude oil from which the gas will be refined.