Marianne de Dulac

Every so often, our friend Hanneke from France sends me philatelic clippings from a local magazine called Le Criquet.

Although I usually know everything that's written about, it is of course a fantastic service for the people of the area to be spoonfed so much information on new stamp issues. Maybe we should all make more efforts to have something similar included in our own local wee paper!

But anyway, this time the pages were so much more interesting because they included information on a new version of the Marianne de Dulac stamp, which of course I've featured before. It is one of my favourites and I'm very happy to have yet another version to add to the collection. It also reminded me that I have yet to add one of the 1940s versions to the series as well.

As we all know, the original was engraved by Leonard Vincent Phillips. He worked for De La Rue in London which is where the stamps were printed, in 1944-45. The article in Le Criquet goes on to mention the essays which were printed by Harrisons but which were rejected because De Gaulle wanted the Cross of Lorraine to be included in the design. These, however, are not engraved and as such won't feature further in my collection. Which is just as well for they're not the cheapest of stamps.

Much more important for an engravers collection is the fact that the French tried to prove that they were actually capable of printing high-quality stamps. (The stamps were printed in Britain because of the presumption that war-ravaged France couldn't print high-quality stamps.) So they asked Charles Mazelin to engrave a generic stamp design and these were printed in Paris, in 1948. They are the ones I still have to add to my collection so the die proof shown here unfortunately isn't mine...

Mazelin's verion is of course readily recognisable because it does not include any value and instead has uncoloured squares in the four corners. Apparently, they were printed in fifteen different colours.

Any further Mariannes to add to the series are all more modern ones, usually issued to commemorate the original issue. We have, for example, the 1994 issue to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the original stamp. The design was engraved by Claude Jumelet.

In 2005, we saw a repeat performance, now celebrating the 60th anniversary. This particular design was engraved by Jacky Larrivière. By this time we have entered the age of computer-made printing cylinders, which means that the orginal artwork can be tampered with. The original die is still hand engraved, but the die is then scanned and the subsequent cylinder engraved with the aid of the computer. To make the die fit the standard (though awkward) definitive stamp format, it seems the dimensions have been distorted. Although I must admit I've never seen an illustration of the original die, so maybe it was engraved like this after all? Anyhow, not the most fortunate of issues, I don't think.

And now we have the latest version of the Marianne de Dulac stamp, issued as part of a miniature sheet marking the Liberation of 1945.

The sheet consists of reprints of several 1944-1945 stamps. According to the information from La Poste, the stamps were printed using the original dies, but of course the original die for the Marianne de Dulac stamps is not in France but in Britain! So they had to produce a new engraving of that particular stamp design, which is done by Elsa Catelin.

Thankfully, there was no need to confirm to preset dimensions, so the original dimensions could be preserved which makes for yet another fine addition. It could be argued that the engraving is a little coarser than the original, but I've read somewhere that modern printing presses can't really cope with the very fine engravings of the old days, so that would explain why. Although, having said that, I do wonder how they then managed to cope with the original Marianne de Gandon die!?