MANLEY, Frank Davies

Frank Davies Manley (1894-1976) is rightly regarded as one of Australia’s eminent stamp engravers, and designers, but he was actually from England. He was born in London in 1894. It was his schoolmaster who noticed his evident talent to reproduce the essence of any image with just a few lines. He encouraged the lad and played a major role in having Frank Manley accepted by De La Rue and Company at the tender age of fifteen, to start a seven year apprenticeship as an engraver. During these years, Manley would receive additional education at London’s Central School of Art & Crafts and the Bolt Court School of Engraving & Lithography. His education was cut short because of World War One, and Manley never finished it after the war had ended. 

Manley worked in the publishing industry for about a decade and then got the opportunity of his lifetime when he was asked to start engraving for the Commonwealth Bank Note Printing Branch in Melbourne, Australia. He started work there in 1928 and the next year his first engraved stamp was issued: a single value marking the Centenary of Western Australia. 

Manley’s employers were soon convinced of his excellent engraving talents and asked him to try his hand at designing stamps as well. Manley proved just as talented in this field, and soon, in 1931, his first designed and engraved stamp was issued: a set marking the Kingsford Smith’s Flights. This set did prove rather troublesome when a first die of the 6d value had the words Air Mail / Service running along the side panels in the same way the lower values had included the word Postage. That made the words Air and Mail seem like one word, which was objected to, so a new die had to be prepared which saw the letters placed differently along the sides. This stamp, by the way, was the first to honour a living Australian, even though he wasn’t portrayed on the actual stamp. 

From then on, the name F. D. Manley would dominate the stamp catalogues of Australia and its territories, with the man being responsible for almost every stamp designed and engraved in the 1930s and 1940s. Even in the 1950s, right up to his retirement in 1960, his would remain a household name, though more and more he would have to share the limelight with other fine engravers. 

As a result, Manley was responsible for many iconic Australian stamps, such as the 1948 Hereford Bull stamp. This stamp was the direct result of an anonymous design competition held in 1946 by the Postmaster General. Over 200 designs were submitted, of which a small total of eight were eventually deemed worthy of any further consideration. Of these final eight, only two made it into an actual stamp, and Manley’s Hereford Bull was one of those. 

Besides Manley’s many stamp designs and engravings that we can enjoy, there is obviously a wealth of material which never made it into the stamp catalogues. In 2007, when an exhibition was held to honour Australia’s stamp engravers, Manley’s work took pride of place and it turned out that his well-known Queen Elizabeth definitive of 1950 was actually based upon a previous design for the aborted Royal Visit of 1949. King George VI was too ill too travel at that time, but dies for the stamp issue had already been made. Rather than waste these, Manley simply exchanged the portrait of Princess Margaret with that of Queen Elizabeth and thus created yet another iconic Australian stamp. 

Despite being so busy at the Note Printing Branch, Manley would hold a teaching post at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology for some five years. There, he taught etching, engraving and die sinking. After his retirement at the Note Printing Branch, Manley was asked to join the Stamp Advisory Committee, which he accepted and he served on the committee for five years.

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of March 2013 and is reproduced with their kind permission.  


Australia, Centenary of Western Australia

Australia, Capt. Sturt

Australia, Kingsford Smith's flights
Australia, Airmail

Australia, Lyrebird
Australia, Sydney Harbour Bridge
Papua, Definitives, Frames of 0.5d, 1d, 3d, 5d and 1s3d, Complete design of 2d, 6d (with E Broad), 9d, 1s, 2s, 2s6d, 5s and £1 (1)

Australia, Centenary of Victoria
Australia, John Macarthur centenary
Australia, Hermes definitive (Assisted by E. Broad)
Papua, 50th anniversary of Declaration of British Protectorate, 2d and 5d (1)

Australia, Gallipoli landing
Australia, Silver jubilee
New Guinea, Air (probably) (1)
New Zealand, Air (1)
New Zealand, Health stamp (1)

Australia, Telephone link
Australia, Centenary of South Australia
New Zealand, 21st anniversary of Anzac landing at Gallipolo (1)
New Zealand, Congress of British Empire Chambers of Commerce, 0.5d, 1d, 2.5d (with Gayfield Shaw) and 6d (1)
New Zealand, Health stamp (1)

Australia, Definitives (6d only bird and stump)
Australia, New South Wales, with 2d being original die
Nauru, Coronation (1)
New Guinea, Coronation (1)
New Zealand, Health stamp (1)
Papua, Coronation (1)

Australia, Definitives
Papua, 50th Anniversary of Declaration of British Possession (1)

New Guinea, Air (probably) (1)
New Zealand, Health stamps (1)

Australia, Imperial forces, with 2d being original die

Australia, Definitives (1.5d portrait only)
New Zealand, Health stamps (1)

Australia, 1d definitive, portrait only

Australia, Definitive

Australia, Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, with 2.5d being the original die

Australia, Victory
Australia, Thomas Mitchell, with the 2.5d being the original die

Australia, Newcastle
Australia, Princess Elizabeth marriage
Norfolk Island, Definitives

Australia, Definitive
Australia, William J Farrer
Australia, Ferdinand von Mueller
Australia, Jamboree

Australia, Definitives
Australia, UPU
Australia, John Forrest

Australia, Definitives

Australia, Commonwealth
Australia, Discovery of gold
Australia, Definitives (incl 7.5d!)

Australia, Definitives (incl 2s6d aborigine design!)
Australia, Jamboree

Australia, Coronation

Australia, Royal visit

Australia, Australian-American friendship
Australia, Mail-coach pioneers
Australia, Nursding profession

Australia, Responsible government
Australia, Olympic games
Norfolk Island, Landing of Pitcairn Islanders (SG info; Collas List mentions Cameron and Morriss as engravers)

Australia, First Tasman flight
Australia, Broken Hill
New Zealand, First Tasman flight

Australia, Definitive
Australia, Post office
Australia, Christmas
Australian Antarctic Territory, Definitives, 5d and 2s3d (1)

Australia, Definitive


Australia, Die for unissued King Edward VIII stamps, with 2d being the original die


- The Postage Stamps of New Zealand, Volume IV, Edited by RJG Collins and CW Watts (1961?)

- The Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, Volume IV, The Empire in Australasia (1962)

- The Australian Commonwealth Specialists' Catalogue, Brusden-White (1999) 

1) The Australian Philatelist