Jhalawar’s Court Fee Stamps

The First Design, Giant and Puzzling

The Court Fee stamps were issued by the hundreds of states within British India that retained hereditary rulers under British protection and were still able to tax and adjudicate over their subjects. They form a vast and fascinating field for philatelic study. Many of them were loosely based on the designs used by British India, which included an inner frame for the ruler’s head, and an area to the right that was large enough for the vendor of the stamp to date and sign it, in order to record the transaction and prevent re-use. The stamps were stuck on to any documents that might some day be needed in Court. Many states also had ‘stamped papers’ printed, again for use in litigation. These were foolscap sheets of often high quality paper that bore larger and more ornate versions of the adhesive stamps in contemporary use.

Jhalawar was historically linked to the fortunes of the much larger state of Kotah, to the north, which swallowed up much of its territory a century ago. The chief town is Jhalr


The rates charged were laid down, for British India by the Stamp Acts of the 1860s. Of course, the states were free to set their own rates, or to follow the British pattern. While their every move was followed and advised on by resident political representatives of British power, most Rajahs found they were well able to tax their subjects, without offering either any kind of democracy or any particular services to their subjects.

What we have here are stamps of great size, measuring up to 170mm across, which combine the impact of the stamped paper with the economy of forcing the litigant to look to his own resources for the cost of the paper for his documentation. They were issued by the State of Jhalawar, which now forms a small part of Rajasthan. Clearly, they were intended to be pasted or pinned to the top of a foolscap document. 

Bhawani Singh’s Giant Stamps

The design features the head and shoulders portrait of Rajah Rana Bhawani Singh, who died in 1929, the coat of arms of the state (This was a European-inspired conceit), and spaces for the vendor’s details, the date and the serial number. Dates and serial numbers were added before issue to the vendor, who might be a local lawyer. The date was the year of the Samvat calendar, which was widely used at the time. Samvat years are different in length that those of the Christian calendar. Samvat 1973 started in mid-1916, and Samvat 2001 started on 1 November 1944. dates and numbers were added using rotary rubber stamps and an inked pad. 

Is it A, B and C, or C, B and A?

The standard work on this material, by Adolph Koeppel and Raymond D. Manners, describes three distinct types of the same design, dated between 1918 and 1921. My copies are a bit earlier, from Samvat 1973 until 1979 (1916-22). Confusingly, while Koeppel and Manners ably describes the different types, they date their issue in the opposite to what I think is the observed and logical order, which would thus be their 'C', then ‘B’, then 'A’. 

4as C

Koeppel and Manners Type C


The first issue, their type C, is printed by letterpress, using a half-tone block for the portrait. At least some stamps are printed on a highly surfaced paper, and this heightens the visual impact of the portrait. 

A printer’s slug denoting the value, is inserted into each lower corner of the cliche, HIndi to the left, English to the right. Each inscription is flanked by a simple ornament.

This is a high quality product.

4as B

Koeppel and Manners Type B

Type B, which I think appeared next, is distinguished by the different font for the English value, and different ornaments next to the Hindi. 

4as B value detail


But it is in fact a much flatter image that appears to be lithographed. But I think it is a worn plate, letterpressed as before. I only have one copy of this type. [Appeal for more]. 

4as B vignette


Just compare Bhawani Singh’s head, in the above image. I would guess, from the practice I have seen in other nearby States, that the value was added during the preparation for a plate specifically for each value.  

Stamps of Type A, which is the type most often met, again show the smooth surface of lithography, but the values are clearly applied by letterpress. In this Samvat 1976 (used in 1920) example of the Two Annas, the value slugs are not squared up with the tablets. Further, if you turn the stamp over, it is very clear that the type set for the values and the ornaments next to them presses into the paper so far as to slightly raise areas on the back. The rest of the design is perfectly flat. I am trying to get a good picture of this. 

2as A

Koeppel and Manners Type A 

Now, just look closely at the Hindi word दो which translates as ‘two’. 

The accent on the ‘o’, which extends above the line, breaks the frame of the value tablet, leaving a tiny uninked dent in it. This shows that the value lettering was firmly attached to the plate so that the whole design was printed in one action, in one colour. But the value lettering stood a little higher than the rest of the plate, so that when the inked plate hit the paper, the value went in first and deepest. This pressed the paper around it downwards into the slight ‘give’ offered by the make-ready. This meant that the paper was not available to be inked in that tiny area just above the accent on the ‘o’. Fascinating! 

Quality or Cost

The sequence of printings follows the usual pattern of the buyer commissioning the very highest quality printing and paper, to depict a monarch and collect his dues, and then gradually compromising quality as costs mount during the use of an issue.  

Any collector who knows the later issues of Jhalawar will know that printing quality took back seat, indeed seems to have been thrown out of the back of the bus, by the time India reached independence.  

jhalawar court fee stamp rs

Just to add to this topic, on a very high note, here is an amazingly high denomination, Rs 500, on an undated and unused stamp in this same design. Scan kindly sent to me by Ratan Chand Batia, of Jaipur. 


pasted-file-6

Jhalawar ₹100 group of 5. Found on an oath presented to the Court, 3 March, 1943.

The adhesives bear serial numbers 1999 and 1 through 5. Their design is that of the Court Fee adhesives of the time, recorded denominated up to ₹2. They bear serial numbers, which are normally four digit and presumably from 1 each fiscal, or tax, year. Perhaps  for the unusually high denomination these were the first stamps to be used that year!  The year is numbered by the Samvat calendar. Samvat 1999 corresponds to the Gregorian fiscal year that starts with November 1942. The script cancellation is written on each stamp as ⅔/43 so the vendor was using the Gregorian calendar system, so the stamps were both dated and used in winter 1942/3. They are partly perforated, and generally creased and mutilated.

What can we deduce about the sheet make-up and printing method?

Viewing it against a strong light, we see that the document is a wove stye of brown foolscap paper watermarked Titaghur. This was paper made at Kankinara or Titagarh, near Calcutta.

The delivery of paper from Titaghur Paper Mills. Titaghur is on the opposite bank of the Hooghly to Serampore, and is just south of Barrackpore. http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/wmward/Image%20Lib%20html/lpaper.html

Linotype Department. Copy was keyed in by hand. Moulds (called matrixes) fell down from the top of the machine and lined up in the correct order. Wedge shaped word spaces were then inserted to fill out the line of type. The whole line was then cast as a slug (hence Linotype) and the matrixes returned to the top of the machine to be re-used. After printing the slugs were melted down and the metal re-used. Before computers this is how all newspapers were set. http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/wmward


Damage to the stamps

Creases

Each stamp was folded across its top right and corner, twice. The creases from the fold nearer the corner on #2, 3 and 4 are really hard to see because they are hidden by material on the surface of the stamp.

Stamp #1 was creased so badly that the stamp had almost fallen into three pieces before it was stuck on to the document. The actual corner does seem to have broken entirely away. However, the user has carefully put it back together and lined up the bits of the whole stamp so that the longer crease, which nearly severed a much larger corner of the stamp is arranged neatly in place.

Adhesions

One can see, against the light, that there is material on the front of the stamps #2-5, and to the back of #1.There is thinning to #3, which matches up with thickening that not being visible on the front, must be on the back of #2.

There is a strip of edging on the back of #1 which came off the front of #2.

There is thickening to the back of #4 that matches thinning to the front of #5. 

So it seems clear that the stamps were gummed and then kept together, and left long enough to stick together. 

Holes

There is a pair of tiny holes to the left of the left hand vignette, (the raised hand) and above that a hole that is joined by a wide tear to the left hand edege of each stamp. It may be that the stamps were pinned together, with a folded pin such as a staple, that could be removed, leaving a pair of tiny holes. The hole and tear would be consistent with the stamps being kept together with a thread of cotton pushed through the stack with a needle. Stamps can then be pulled off the stack but at the cost of this very telling tear. 

So the damage suggests, strongly, that the stamps were kept in a stack, pinned and threaded together, and that they were gummed before use, and got stuck together. The way in which they were stuck and the damage that came from the creasing both suggest that the stamps were stacked in sequence, #1 being on top. 


Hand-stamped Numbers

We have the Samvat year, 1999, and the serial number of the stamp, hand-stamped on each adhesive stamp. They are done in the same ink, and I think from the same type, but independently of each other, in that there is no fixed relationship between them. From its positioning, the year must have been stamped before the adhesive stamps were pinned and threaded together. But the serial number could have been added after the stamps were pinned, it always hits the other end of the rectangle of the design. As a general rule, Jhalawar Court Fee stamps are handstamped in just this way. But the conclusion must be stated, that no inference about the arrangement of each adhesive stamp in relation to any other can be drawn from the sequence of the serial numbers. In other words, #1 was not necessarily next to #2 in the sheet.

Sheet set-up

So how were they arranged? 

For one glorious moment (OK, it was a lot longer than a moment but I hide my head in shame), I though that I could get help on this one from the sheet watermark ’TITAGHUR’. But of course that is the watermark of the document, not the stamps. But using the watermark where a sheet has been watermarked with a single design is a useful technique for positioning many other stamps, I can mention the later postal issues of Cochin as a case. 

Koeppel and Manners, in the account of these issues in their catalogue, state that this issue was issued in booklet panes of six, presumably three rows of two. 

I have studied the other denominations of this issue, which are far more common than this very high value denomination. They seem to fall into four types, each carrying consistent but tiny flaws that suggest the slight damage that happens when a transfer of images is made to a lithographic plate. I do not have enough material to be certain that there are only four types, if there were six, and these occurred once in each position of a booklet pane, then they would occur with roughly equal frequency in a sufficiently large sample. Examples of these types, which I might upload one day, are consistent in their arrangements of straight edges. The only perforated edges that occur would be within and to the left of a block of four or six, with two columns. So we might suggest that the stamps were printed from a stone, or more likely a zinc or copper plate, which carried four or six transfer images, arranged as a block, which would fill a complete booklet pane. The pane was then perforated where it was needed, in other words, between the stamps and along a left hand margin so that the pane could later be handled and stored by fixing it in a booklet by the left-hand margin, from which single stamps could be torn. 

The denomination was printed at the same time as the rest of the stamp. It appears to be formed from two slugs of loose type (one in Devanagari the other in the local merchants’ notation) that are somehow arranged on the plate that carried the lithographic transfer. With such a high denomination it may be that for security reasons the stamps were printed in pairs or even singly.
These stamps have been so mutilated and are in such a pale colour, that it has been hard to check the flaws that I know of from the lower denominations. Judging from the stamps' straight edges, #1, 2 and 4 all seem to come from the top row of the pane, and #3 and 5 from the bottom row. However, #4 has some trace of perforating to the right hand end of the top edge. So if there was a three row pane, then it could come from the middle row.  

None of the five stamps has a perforated right-hand edge, so we can assume that they were printed in one column, either one at a time, or in two or more rows. All of them have a perforated left-hand edge, so my view that there was a perforated left-hand margin holds. I am still sorting my other stamps of this issue and may return to this one. My suggestion at present is that this denomination was printed from lithographic transfers, and that the sheet size may have been no more than two subjects, one above the other, with a wide left hand margin that could be perforated for quick removal and easy storage.