BIOGRAPHY: John Henry Robinson

John Henry Robinson was born in Lancashire, England, in 1796. Having been taught the art of engraving by James Heath, the grandfather of Frederick Heath who would go on to engrave the Penny Black, Robinson became a very successful engraver.

In 1847, Belgium adopted a postal law facilitating the prepayment of mail by means of postage stamps. The new system would only become operable on 1 July 1849. In the meantime, the brothers Jacques and Léopold Wiener were asked to look into the production of the country’s first stamps. The first engraved dies for these stamps were probably made by Jacques Wiener in England, but they were deemed of insufficient quality and, pressed for time, it was decided to get a specialist in. John Henry Robinson was then asked to engrave two dies, for a 10c and a 20c stamp. These were adopted and the stamps were issued on 1 July 1849. They have since become known as the ‘Epaulettes’ issue. 

Belgium’s next set, which was issued just a few months later, in October 1849, was also engraved by Robinson. These are the ‘Medallions’ stamps. Early proofs show that Robinson had been given the instructions that the stamp should only include the word Postes, and that no lettering should be under the oval. The final design, though, did include the value in letters under the oval.

In 1850, the Royal Academician Daniel Maclise was asked to design a new Britannia for the British banknotes. She would be engraved by John Henry Robinson. His Britannia would first appear on the 5 pounds note issued in 1873. This particular Britannia would remain in use until 1957 when it was replaced with a different Britannia.

John Henry Robinson passed away on 21 October 1871.

You will find John Henry Robinson's database HERE.