CHARLES AND FREDERICK HEATH: The Original Whodunit (part 4)


Interestingly, though not strictly related to the subject in hand, Smith also mentions Frederick’s other stamps, those being the 1870 GB halfpenny, the New South Wales coin stamp and the New South Wales diadem issue of 1856. But he goes on to say that Frederick probably also engraved the 1856 ‘Queen on Throne’ stamps of the Australian state of Victoria. As far as I know, this is the only source linking Frederick (or any engraver for that matter) to this particular stamp. 

Unfortunately, the author is no longer with us, so inquiries as to his sources can no longer be made. But seeing that Smith had been given access to the privately produced Records of the Heath Family, dating from 1913, it could be argued that he was well informed. If true, it is another link with New South Wales, because proofs exist of the Queen on Throne design with the colony’s name being New South Wales rather than Victoria. Seeing that New South Wales never ordered any such stamps, it is presumed this was a mistake in the making, upon discovery of which, the die had to be changed by erasing the name and value, and replacing it with more appropriate information. Even the New South Wales reprinted die proofs, which Perkins Bacon produced in the late 19th century and which don’t feature the Australian state’s name, can still be distinguished by the fact that the space left for the name is much larger than that on the eventual stamps for Victoria.


In 1964, the London Philatelist included an article on the De La Rue surface-printing dies. While this has no direct bearing on the Penny Black die, the authors write: ‘The publication of the De La Rue History has established the fact that, contrary to the belief previously held, the well-known engraver Jean Ferdinand Joubert de la Ferté was commissioned by the Board of Inland Revenue to engrave the die for the Great Britain Fourpence of 1855 for a fee of one hundred guineas, just as Frederick Heath was employed by the Board to engrave the die for the One Penny Black in 1840.’ The actual book, The De La Rue History of British & Foreign Postage Stamps, does not clarify this any further, merely stating that ‘It will be remembered that in the same way Rowland Hill (…) engaged Frederick Heath to engrave the Queen’s Head for the One Penny black in 1840’.

To be continued!