Sunday, 24 May 2015

Queen of Post

I'm combining the stamp royalty of Roland Hill with Queen Victoria in this, a recent acquisition, celebrating the issuing in 1840 of the penny black which brought the joy of post to everyone. A number of postal authorities are commemorating the occasion this year but I fell for Guernsey's action packed FDC. How could I resist a combination of pen, ink and postie with a commemorative sheet. The designer is Keith Robinson.

In contrast to the modern reproduction of a penny black lets travel to India and see those images of Victoria that were around when she was alive and the postal system was in full swing. 
The stamps from the 1880s feature the same portrait but the one on the left with its On HMS (On Her Majesty's Service) overprint could only be used on official mail by civil servants whereas we will never know who used the one anna stamp.

Lastly another stamp featuring royalty but in this case an imaginary one -
the The Queen of Hearts. It's from this year's  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland set whose 150th anniversary of publication falls in 2015. The artist is the award winning Grahame Baker-Smith

An entry to Violet Sky's Sunday Stamps II theme of - Royalty - see more crowns here

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Edible Mushrooms

1981: Chinese Edible Mushrooms
I have a number of stamps by the artist Pan Keming but this set is entirely different in style to any of the others. She is known for a simple but detailed style and I have shown her 'kites' on a previous Sunday Stamps here . I was not sure whether I liked these or not but they have grown on me as I think she was trying to capture the shady nature of their habitat in subdued colours.

All the mushrooms in the set have both culinary and medicinal uses. The stamp on the left shows the Silver Mushroom (Tremella fuciformis). It starts out as a slimy, mucous like parasitic yeast and grows as a film until it encounters its host fungi which it invades. The result is a gelatinous mushroom which is quite tasteless but used for texture in Chinese sweet desert soups and ice creams.  The Chinese call this mushroom Silver or Snow Ear but I rather like the Japanese name of White Tree Jellyfish
The fungi on the rights by contrast is quite normal and is the Bamboo Mushroom which as might be expected from its name grows in the bamboo forests of Asia after heavy rain.
The Lion's Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is often used as a replacement for pork or lamb in Chinese Vegetarian dishes and apparently tastes like lobster or shrimp. It grows on hardwood.
I am always highly suspicious of red mushrooms although I do like photographing them.  I would only be partly right with this one, the Russula rubra, which is called the sickener. Apparently it has a peppery taste but if eaten raw can make you ill hence its other names of emetic or vomiting mushroom. The cooking process makes it edible and apparently it is also popular in Russia. I won't be ordering that off the menu!
Here I am on more familiar ground as the mushroom on the left is the Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) used extensively in Asian cuisine but rarely the stems as they are harder than the cap and take longer to cook.
Lastly is the one seen on every supermarket shelf the button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) shown in its natural habitat growing on grasslands.

An entry to Violet Sky's Sunday Stamps II theme of - mushrooms, fungi - see more stamps growing here.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Peace and Freedom

I've shown the stamp on the left quite recently for the Sunday Stamp red cross theme so today is a great opportunity to display the trio designed by Jean-Michel Folon  (the other two being for the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations). His comment made about his own art  "I have only tried to depict my own dreams with the hope that in them others may hang their own." fits perfectly with the third stamp of the United Nations symbolising the world at peace.

This set of stamps was actually called "Peace and Freedom" (I don't think I will ever be more on theme for Sunday Stamps that that!) - the other two that complete the set were very different
and commemorate the end of the Second World War with soldiers and civilians celebrating. I wonder if that was Victory in Europe Day. So much celebrating went on in London 70 years ago this week that they ran out of beer at 8 o'clock. The other stamp shows St Paul's Cathedral.

Previous to what would become Victory in Europe Day Allied troops had pushed into Belgium in September 1944 and the major cities were quickly liberated and
 they celebrated with their heraldic lion although my own favourite is this 1937 two centimes stamp
officially overprinted with a red V on the 18th December 1944 to celebrate Belgium liberation. (in reality the stamp is a paler green than the scan so you get the contrast of a very delicate green and bold red V).  The Dutch at this point were optimistic they would be next to be free and began to plan the issue of their own 'liberation' stamp, however it had to be done in secret because the Germans were still in control.

To safeguard against consequences of the design of a Dutch lion defeating a dragon being discovered it had the words "TBC BESTRIJDING (Fight against tuberculosis) on the top of the stamp as a ruse. On July 15th 1945 (the surrender of the Germans forces in the Netherlands had taken place  in May) the stamp was released as intended with 19.HERRIJZEND.45 on the top "Rise again 1945". Nearly 57 million of these stamps were sold.

The Peace in the Pacific would be celebrated by Australia with this stamp in 1946
of star and wreath together with
a flag and dove of peace.  Unfortunately I don't have the third stamp of the set which was a green angel even though Australia reissued this set of stamps in 1995 as a "Peace Pack"  redrawn by L. Dolan from the original designs of Frank D Manley and G. Lissenden. I like the woolly nature of the dove, it could almost be part sheep.  For a more stylised version of the dove of peace here is a German one.
1956: Human Rights Day
An entry to Violet Sky's Sunday Stamps II theme of - Peace and Freedom - spend a peaceful time here


Friday, 8 May 2015


The world born anew in this view of sunrise at Halfway Bay in the Bruce Peninsula National Park. It sounds a wonderful place to visit and explore with its trails, limestone rocks, 1000 year old cedar trees and crystal clear water. No wonder then that it is part of UNESCO's Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. When Dawn sent the card back in January from Ontario it was a sunny -8° and she had shovelled and car brushed snow to get to work.  No doubt she is now enjoying the warmer spring weather which I read is a great time to visit Halfway Bay.

The card came with
2014: Roses
 one of the three roses used for the 2014 'permanent' stamp. This is a velvety red hybrid tea rose called 'Konrad Henkel'. The stamp designer was Isabelle Tousaint who photographed many roses in the Montreal Botanical Gardens before making her choice for the stamps.
Then there was Canada's first prime minister Sir John MacDonald who died in office in 1891 and his body was carried by train back to Kingston in Ontario. He has appeared many times on the stamps of Canada but this is a fine addition to their number. I love the typeface surrounding the photograph. The graphic designer is Louis Gagnon co-founder of the award winning design company Paprika.

Lastly is the stamp issued for the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in 2014. This Winnipeg based museum was designed by the architect Antoine Predock whose vision was for visitors to arrive at the ground floor symbolising darkness, move through large spaces and gradually reach the light of the Tower of Hope, the large spire on the stamp.  The stamp itself was designed by Adrian Shum of Circle Design from photographs taken by Mike Grandmaison who has a rather nice blog post about it here showing the interior and the other uses of his architectural photographs on the Canada Post's FDC and stamp booklet. There are also lots of gorgeous photographs of Canada on his main site. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Medieval Mayhem

The medieval warrior and Russian folk hero Ilya Murometz was the choice for their 1914 war charity stamp (its one kopeck over face value surtax was donated to charities active during World War One). This strong and fearless warrior's name would also be used as the name of the bi-plane bombers of that same war.
1987: Polish Rulers (2nd series)
Another weapon bearing character appears on a Polish stamp but this is of their first crowned king, Boleslaw the Brave.

A bow and arrow appears in this scene of a hunter and wild animals
1974: Polish Folklore 16th Century Woodcuts (1st series)

but with bird snaring apparently all that was required was a net
1977: Polish Folklore 16th Century Woodcuts (2nd series)
Meanwhile in medieval times the Scottish hero Robert the Bruce was mounted and ready for battle
1974: Medieval Warriors
I only have another two of this set which have rather heavy 1970s parcel franking on them
Parcels with proper stamps are a rarity these days and I have only received one in recent times and even that had no trace of a frank just overenthusiastic pen marks defacing them. Ah for the days of proper franking no matter how heavy.
For the medieval knight war and tournaments were all part of their life but hawking and hunting were a favourite pastime and in this highly hierarchical society the type of bird they would use for falconry would be determined by class. According to the famous English  'Boke of St Albans' (1486) and its Laws of Ownership a king would use a Gyr Falcon but a prince would fly a peregrine falcon like one of these
2013: Falconry
    which the stamp shows in a variety of poses.
An entry to Violet Sky's Sunday Stamps II theme of - Weapons, Hunting, War- more mayhem here

Monday, 27 April 2015


I don't think I would be bare foot anywhere near a drove road with all those little 'presents' sheep and cows leave but the scene the postcard shows is beautifully bucolic. The card was sent by Brad who like the Amish also lives in Pennsylvania and the card flew on its way to me with plenty of wings to take it to the skies.
A couple of acrobats of the air, hummingbirds, illustrated by Nancy Stahl and one of the 2014 Batman stamps issued to celebrate his 75th anniversary which took the batman symbol and character from each of the ages of batman.  The one Brad used is the earliest, the Golden Age.  Full sheet set here

Sunday, 26 April 2015


1965: Prehistoric Animals
Here is the plant eating Edaphosaurus (the name translates as 'pavement lizard'), the descriptions of it refer to the frilly attachment on its back as a 'sail' and there are all sorts of theories to what it was and what it was used for but of course no one really knows. I like to think of it floating along a river tacking from side to side. The stamp is part of a set by the graphic designer Andrzej Heidrich (1928-) who is also famous for designing beautiful Polish banknotes and inventing a typeface.

Next is the only stamp I have that portrays both the skeleton and the actuality
1958: Chinese Fossils
which is appropriate because it portrays a dinosaur from Lufeng in Yunnan  and its Dinosaur Museum  displays four complete skeletons.  The area is rich in fossils of animals and plants.

Journeying to another continent we have what was part of Gondwana when dinosaurs roamed the earth
1982: Karoo Fossils
and now the Karoo region of South Africa, which is described as containing the richest fossil beds on earth.  Today it is a a semi-desert region, in contrast to the prehistoric times of rivers and wet tropical forests. The stamp shows a Bradysaurus which looks deceptively small on the stamp but in actuality it was 2-5 meters long and weighed in at a half to one tonne.

The stamps all show representations of ancient plant life but when Royal Mail issued their Dinosaur set in 2013 they went for self-adhesive 'pop out' stamps
so I'll show a FDC of a steaming mist of a prehistoric landscape. The stamps were designed by the illustrator John Sibbick who specialises in prehistoric and natural history which fits nicely into his other speciality of fantasy where the imagination can run free.  The dinosaurs on the stamps certainly seem to have their own individual personalities.   All the species chosen to be shown on the stamps are ones that have been found in England and the south coast is especially rich in fossils. The Maidstone cancel shows a iguanadon (also shown on the bottom middle stamp) which was found in a local quarry in 1834 and incorporated into the town's coat of arms (see here) and known as the Maidstone Iguanadon.   

An entry to Violet Sky's Sunday Stamps II theme of - 'Dinosaurs or big animals', see more big beasts here