“‘I still find it fascinating to see how one line can make such a difference!” 

Inge Madlé, born in 1963 in  Amsterdam, has by now been busy as an engraver and graphic designer for some 25 years, many of those spent in the employ of Joh. Enschedé Security Print. Having finished her education as a silver and gold smith and engraver at the Technical High School in Schoonhoven, Ms. Madlé continued to specialise even further at the Utrecht School of Art, choosing graphic and typographic design as her main subjects.

In 1985, Inge Madlé came into the employ of Enschedé, where she spent the next two decades working on security print products such as bank notes and of course stamps. Since 2005 Inge Madlé also works on an independent basis, having many international organisations among her clientele. Combining old techniques, such as engraving, with modern technologies to produce security products is what makes her enjoy her work so much. 

Inge Madlé’s inspiration when it comes to stamp engraving harks firmly back to the realm of those beautiful old stamps from Austria and the many engraved portraits on those. To her, the little masterpieces perfectly translate matter into an engraving, and that is what for her makes a perfect engraving. Time and again, when interviewed, Madlé stresses that what fascinates her is to make matter look like matter. Skin should look like skin, stone like stone, etc.  This held particularly true for the stamps she engraved for Great Britain.

Enschedé was awarded the contract to re-engrave and print the Castles High Values, issued in July 1997. It was such an honour, Inge Madlé told me, to be allowed to engrave the High Value definitives of Great Britain, being a non-British engraver and printer. Although the same layout of the earlier versions, engraved by C. Matthews, was maintained, the engravings are original ones, based upon the original photographs by Prince Andrew, Duke of York. When comparing the two sets closely, one can find lots of different details in both engravings.

Inge Madlé’s work has more links with the British Commonwealth. Her first stamp product was the engraving of the 1990 miniature sheet for Stamp World London ‘90, issued by the Isle of Man. A less obvious link is a 1995 stamp issued by the Netherlands. It marks the acquisition by the Dutch Postal Museum of a Blue Mauritius. The Dutch stamp, printed in a combination of lithography and intaglio, depicts the actual Mauritian stamp, which is the engraved part of the design.

With so few countries still producing completely recess-printed stamps, it is not remarkable that quite a few of Madlé’s stamps are a combination of printing processes. She explains that the two types require a different approach. A completely engraved stamp should consist of a varied pattern of lines. 

Carefully translating matter into an engraving is of the utmost importance to prevent the engraving from becoming boring. Engraved stamps that are printed in combination with lithography need a good balance between the two processes. The lithographed colours should remain fresh and uncluttered, and the engraved lines should carefully follow the lines dictated by the lithography part of the design, so that the two complement each other seamlessly. A very fine example of this is Madlé’s latest foray into stamp engraving, the only recently issued Liechtenstein set depicting decorative eggs from the realm of the tsars, also printed by Enschedé.

But whatever the printing process, or the matter to be engraved, Inge Madlé sees her work on stamps as an important part of her design work. “Each and every time it is a challenge to depict a whole scene in such a small format!”

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of November 2011 and is reproduced with their kind permission.  


Ivory Coast, Archaeological research

Isle of Man, Penny Black miniature sheet

Netherlands, Notaries Association

Netherlands, Mauritius Post Office stamp
United Nations Geneva, 50th anniversary
United Nations New York, 50th anniversary
United Nations Vienna, 50th anniversary

Finland, Stamp Day

Great Britain, Castle High values

Finland, postal co-operation, ships

Netherlands, Postal Service (2nd issue)

Great Britain, Nobel Prizes 1st class

Liechtenstein, Decorative eggs

Liechtenstein, Prince Hans Adam's silver jubilee
Liechtenstein, Chinese porcelain

Liechtenstein, Prince Hans Adam II's birthday


Netherlands, Engraving 'Nederlands Zilverwerk 1600-1830', Enschedé promotional material


Madlé Design