BIOGRAPHY: Johannes Britze

Johannes Britze was born in Berlin, Germany, on 19 February 1895. His father Friedrich was also an engraver (with even a single stamp to his name) who soon started teaching his young son the art as well. The family moved to Denmark in 1910, where Britze went on to study painting at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

During World War One, Britze fought at the German side, but he returned to Denmark after the war, becoming a Danish citizen in the process.

After another spell at the Academy, Britze began a career as an engraver, with his ex libris bookplates, especially, showing his engraving talent. In the mid 1920s, Britze started engraving stamps. The first ones were engravings for stamps printed by letterpress. 

According to Glenn H Morgan’s Handbook of Stamp Production, Britze engraved a few test stamps in the 1920s, depicting Ribe Cathedral, the astronomer Brahe and the kings Christian IV and V. These may well have been printed off a hand press for copperplate engravings, because they are thought to originate from a time when the Danish Post did not have any recess-printing presses.

In 1931, the Danish Post ordered a Goebel recess-printing press, as it wanted to start producing recess-printed stamps again. In July 1932, they asked Britze to make steel engravings for recess-printing of the existing Wavy Line, Caravel and King Christian X definitives, which had all been printed by letterpress up to then.

Britze engraved a 5ø Wavy Line stamp, a 15ø Caravel stamp and a 50ø King Christian X stamp, but only the first two were sent on to Goebel in Germany, who made the printing cylinders. Goebel, too, produced the first test sheets, and sent those of the Caravel design back to Denmark. The press itself was delivered in October 1932 and from then on the Danish Post could produce its own test printings.

Morgan’s handbook lists a good number of test stamps which were probably all used when this new M1 Goebel press had been installed, all engraved by Britze. Besides the Caravel stamp, there are other test stamps with a different caravel design, and test stamps depicting the Helligaandskirken, and Hans Christian Andersen.

For two of the eventual definitive designs, introduced in 1933, Britze engraved new versions. The original 5ø Wavy Line stamp, of which proof prints exist, and which can be identified because it has only one ring around the value, was thought to include too much white which might yield inking problems. On the eventual stamp die, therefore, a second ring around the value was added, and the hearts below the country’s name were removed. On the eventual Caravel stamp, shading was added to the sails.

With regard to the Wavy Line stamp, Britze engraved a mother die of the complete design without value. These could be added to newly laid-down dies. Britze himself engraved the values for the 1 to 8 and 10 øre, with later values engraved by others.

From then on, Britze was the sole engraver of all Danish stamps and he even engraved a set for Sweden, in 1942, marking the centenary of the Institution of National elementary Education. However, Britze’s brilliant career was stopped short rather abruptly at the end of World War Two. Only days after the end of the war, Britze was arrested for having continued to work under the German occupation, and for suspected Nazi sympathies. He had to end all his public commissions and never engraved another stamp.

Johannes Britze passed away on 22 July 1960 in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

You will find Johannes Britze's database HERE.

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