Paul Wright Display to BWISC at Philatex Nov 2008

Jamaica 1889 to 1891

The Key Plates, Officials and Vendryes Provisionals

This Jamaica display presents more than 100 pages on the narrow subject matter of the 1889-–91 key plates and officials and their associated provisional overprints. These altogether occupy Stanley Gibbons' Part I for only 9 SG numbers, but fill 3 chapters of the BWISC's Encyclopaedia of Jamaican Philately. Those 3 chapters are the best published introduction, but they are by no means the last word.

Present knowledge and continuing research rests, as ever, on the efforts of past collectors and researchers. Notable are Dr. Taylor, who first researched the provisionals at the beginning of the last century, Bob Swarbrick, who built the finest collection of the 1890 provisional, and the late Mike Vokins, whose research on the key plates was especially meticulous. Many items from both the Swarbrick and Vokins collections are in this display. Above all, tribute is owed to Philippe Camille Vendryes, the printer who did an excellent job in difficult circumstances and left philatelists two provisonals of great interest and complexity to unravel.

This display is a research collection, not a competitive entry. As such it is unfinished, and shows places where work is still in progress and questions remain. Anyone with material, knowledge or questions is invited to weigh in.

The display is in five parts:

The De La Rue Key & Duty Plate of 1889-91 (SG 27, 28 and 29)

Full Display

De La Rue produced key plate issues for Jamaica in 1889–91 to replace worn plates of the first, 1860 issue. The display includes die proofs and plate pieces.

Much fun is to be had assigning 1d stamps to printings. 32 million were printed in 15 printings using all four key plates, three different duty plates, each in different states of wear, two different inks, (one single fugitive, one double fugitive) and innumerable shades, even within each printing. The display includes Dr. Simpson's original study collection of the 1889 1d, based on an examination of 11,000 dated copies, formed in 1927 and kept intact, on which the listing in the 1928 Jamaica Handbook was based.

One page of the display shows several examples of the 1d with blue duty plate, whose existence was reported in the Jamaica Handbook. [There was some discussion at the meeting which tended to support the view, shared by the speaker, that these were colour changelings rather than authentic shades].

The De La Rue Official Overprint Of 1890-–91 (SG 03, 04 AND 05)

Full Display

In 1890–-91 De La Rue overprinted OFFICIAL on three of the values that they were then printing for Jamaica, the ½d green laureated head and the 1d and 2d keyplate designs printed in distinctive colours. On top of differences of plate wear and shade, especially in the 1d, the overprint shows varieties, some constant.

Using varieties, the display proves, it is thought for the first time, that the overprint was produced using a stereotype of a single typeset row of six overprints. From the stereotype DLR produced an overprint forme of 60 impressions, overprinting one pane at a time. Plate varieties appearing once in each pane may be distinguished from stereotype varieties repeated down each column.

Vendryes & Co. The Printer, His Background and His Work

Full Display

The majority of the display is devoted to the two provisionals produced in 1890 by Vendryes and Co. The display gives some of the background – on the Vendryes family, on what is known about Philippe Camille Vendryes himself and his printing firm (‘Vendryes and Co, Job Printers etc’), and the equipment he used, a Golding Jobber No 6 letterpress platen press. The Vendryes family background may have been significant – his father was a newspaper editor and, at one time, a printer himself.

Of particular interest are the possibilities that Vendryes and Co. produced 3 other postal items:

A good knowledge of the printing process used to produce the provisonal overprints helps greatly in understanding varieties such as double overprints and missing letters. The sheets of 240 stamps were cut into four panes of 60 to fit the press. There were not enough letters to print a complete pane of 60 stamps at one impression so the type was set up in settings of between 3 and 20 cliches for each printing. All panes were passed through the press once, each receiving a single strike of a setting. Then the lay was moved along and all the panes passed through the press again, and so on repeatedly until all 60 impressions were made. The type was dispersed after each printing and reassembled in a fresh setting whenever a fresh supply was required. The result is that each pane shows a cross-section of the progress of each printing, with early impressions on one side and late impressions on the other. Complete panes are therefore revealing, but are rare.

The Vendryes Official Overprint of 1890 (SG 01 AND 02)

Full Display

The Vendryes Official is a neglected field of study compared with the attention given to the 2½d on 4d provisional of 1890. The speaker joins a distinguished list of predecessors who have worked on the plating of the five settings, but to date no full guide has been published allowing the plating of single copies. Watch this space.

The display shows the five settings, including two complete panes, and the varieties and errors. The Vendryes Official produced errors including inverted and double overprints, compounds of doubles and inversions, and overprints double, one vertical.

The missing letter errors are controversial. It is technically possible that letters fell out during printing, but there is a worrying lack of correspondence between the configuration of some of the overprints that miss letters and any known position in any setting.

The Vendryes Provisional Overprint of 1890 (SG 30)

Full Display

The 2½d on 4d provisional of 1890 is better researched than the Vendryes Official, not least because it is simpler, with only three settings, each composed of distinctive varieties that make plating easier.

This display includes the only known complete pane of the first setting of the 2½d on 4d provisional. The display shows how, in the first setting, early and late printing characteristics were produced from left to right across each pane as printing proceeded. This enables individual copies to be tentatively plated by column as well as row. Research is continuing on the equivalent progression in the second setting.

Overprinted stamps in pair with unoverprinted are shown. These come from a single defective pane of printer's waste in which the overprinting stopped after the first two columns, so that column 2 is overprinted and the adjacent column 3 not. The pane was defaced in the press, accidentally or deliberately, to produce overall irregular speckled ink. The column of the error was salvaged from destruction, producing ten pairs, these are three of the ten pairs, one other is in the Royal collection.

The display shows many double overprints. These were mostly caused by slipping paper and the correction of errors with a second strike. The display also shows the only recorded examples of double overprints in the scarce third setting – a single and two in a block of four.

Other highlights include the unique J5 Specimen overprint on the provisional (the only Specimen in the absence of any having been produced for the Postal Union).

The display concludes with the postal history of the 2½d on 4d provisional of 1890, a progression of covers showing why and when it was introduced. This includes the earliest known date of use cover, 4 June 1890, thought to be the date of issue.