Great Britain

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Jeff Dugdale  |  May 02, 2016  |  0 comments

The 1990 set of four which set out to tell the story of astronomy featured arguably the most intricate designs ever issued by Royal Mail.

The 31p, concentrating on advances in observation, is a veritable feast for the eyes.

At the bottom centre it depicts the old Royal Observatory with the Greenwich Meridian running through it.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 05, 2021  |  0 comments

A stamp marking the development of the astronomical telescope as an achievement of the millennium, and name-checking Isaac Newton as a pioneer of the science, carried a very simple and yet absolutely breathtaking image.

It’s a photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, presenting false-colour imagery of the gas giant Saturn, the most visibly dramatic planet in our solar system, against the backness of space.

The planet’s mysterious and fantastically complicated ring system, first observed by Galileo in 1610, is made up of ice, rock debris and dust, with the darker Encke gap caused by the presence of the tiny moon Pan between the inner and outer elements.

Jeff Dugdale  |  May 01, 2016  |  0 comments

Have you ever seen a jollier Father Christmas than the one realised by five-year-old Samantha Brown, the youngest ever designer of a British stamp? One result of a competition on BBC Television’s Blue Peter programme, which attracted a staggering 74,000 entries and resulted in a set of five very different designs, Samantha’s glorious Santa beams at us with beady eyes, holding his arms wide with presents falling all around him.

Unencumbered by any other design detail, he is the total focus of our attention, and is he not the epitome of a toddler’s idea of Father Christmas: happy, cuddly, brightly coloured and full of surprises? Design: Samantha Brown.

Printing: photogravure by Harrisons.

Julia Lee  |  Apr 30, 2016  |  0 comments

In a year dominated by modern-looking issues, one that stood out was a more traditional one marking the 150th anniversary of the pillar box by showing its development through the years.

The star of this very elegant set of five, based on engravings by the celebrated Czeslaw Slania, was the 2nd class NVI depicting a light green Victorian box with a fantastic array of golden decoration.

Apparently this embellishment was exclusive to the capital cities of England, Scotland and Ireland, in contrast to the plain ‘economy’ version seen everywhere else.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Apr 29, 2016  |  0 comments

With parliamentarians representing the thousand million people in the British Commonwealth meeting to promote democracy at Westminster Hall in London, the single stamp issued to mark the event was wonderfully symbolic and elegant.

Central to the design is a ballot-paper X, rendered in a particularly clever way that suggests the integration of representatives from many different countries, with many strands of opinion.

The patronage of the Queen is acknowledged through the use of regal silver, and the activity of the conference through vibrant red and blue.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jan 12, 2016  |  0 comments

Sport-themed issues today commonly suggest movement, but the set of three heralding the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh was the first British set to try it.

The designer adapted the ‘foot-exposure’ filming technique which was being trialled by sports coaches to analyse athletes’ movements and thus enhance posture and performance.

The subtle changes of colour across the figures in the stamps also help to create the illusion of action, and the busyness of the designs, not least the 5d showing track athletes, suggests keen competition.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jan 28, 2016  |  0 comments

Few stamps issued by Royal Mail have more action realised in their design than this one, honouring the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the importance of international flag signals.

The emergency launch of an Oakley-class lifeboat into a dark and stormy sea is brilliantly captured, with waves breaking over the bow as it hurtles down its slipway towards a brilliant flare fired by a yacht in distress.

At the stern, crew members cling on in anticipation of a rough ride, while the flag signals and pennants at the bottom right give the RNLI’s initials and the year of the issue.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jan 05, 2016  |  0 comments

Very few British stamps tackling nature themes have disappointed, but today they rely heavily on photography.

Not so in 1981, when the set depicting beautiful native butterflies was the product of meticulous artwork.

The small moth-like chequered skipper shown on the 25p, which is threatened with extinction, is so-called because of its darting flight over meadows.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Dec 22, 2016  |  0 comments

Until the Millennium series a decade later, few British issues were as revolutionary in design as this one addressing 1989’s Europa theme.

The design of each of the four stamps is bold, colourful and primitive, in this case depicting a number of traditional play objects including a doll’s house, a rigged yacht and a crude robot made out of a cardboard box.

The style is appropriately that of illustrations in a children’s book.

Julia Lee  |  Dec 21, 2016  |  0 comments

Amongst the most magnificent of all Christmas issues was the 1989 set of five celebrating important architectural features of Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, on its 800th anniversary.

Stunning in gold and silver, it was also unusual in having a charity surcharge of 1p on four of the five values.

The 37+1p shows the Triple Arch from the West Front of the cathedral, in silver, within which is a golden figure with exaggerated features, possibly inspired by the carvings on misericords inside the building.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Dec 21, 2016  |  0 comments

The Christmas issue of 1985 took the great British institution of pantomime as its theme, with the 22p presenting that jolliest of characters, the dame.

All the typical characteristics of the role are included: the ridiculous highly coloured wig, the rosy cheeks and nose, the flouncy padded dress, the fan behind which ‘she’ (the dame is traditionally played by a man) will make mildly rude asides to the audience, and the assertive attitude suggested by the left arm akimbo.

Dusted with stars and sparkle, this design sums up the fun of going to the panto.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Feb 07, 2016  |  0 comments

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Sullivan, the riot of fun and nonsense that epitomises Gilbert & Sullivan operas was brilliantly captured in a set of five stamps.

Most colourful of all is the 28p value for The Mikado, arguably the greatest and certainly the most popular of the Savoy operas.

It depicts Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of Japan, in his ceremonial costume adorned with axe logos, holding the large axe which he has never used! Knowing touches are the tilting of Ko-Ko’s head and the partial obscuring of his face with a fan, which allude to his cunning duplicity.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Nov 04, 2021  |  0 comments

This stamp depicts a magnificent piece of regalia worn only once in any monarch’s lifetime: the solid gold St Edward’s Crown first used for the coronation of King Charles II, who had it made to replace the one destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.

Reproduced in gold and a very regal shade of red, the image is classier than it would have been if it had attempted to show the emeralds, rubies, sapphires and pearls which adorn the crown in full colour.

The glorious detail remains, including the cross pattées and fleurs-de-lis above the ermine border, the gold monde at the intersection of the arches and the jewelled cross atop it.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jan 21, 2016  |  0 comments

Stamps depicting heraldic symbols are almost always spectacular because of their glorious colour and intricate devices, and this is a particularly stunning example of the breed.

In a set marking the 500th Anniversary of the College of Arms, the official repository of the coats of arms and pedigrees of English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Commonwealth families, it shows the Arms of the College itself.

Flanked by lions rampant is a shield crowned in gold bearing the St George’s Cross, and within each quadrant is a blue dove rising, signifying peace and constancy.

Jeff Dugdale  |  Jul 27, 2016  |  0 comments

This set of 10 self-adhesive stamps illustrated popular fruits and vegetables (most eye-catchingly a strawberry), with two twists.

Firstly, the designs extended beyond the rectangular frame of the stamps.

Secondly, they came with an interactive element, by way of stick-on facial features such as eyes, lips, bow-ties, hats and feet.