1 - Design and Printing

It is worth taking some time to study this design. The layout and size are typical of so many from the Indian State. It is in effect a double frame. The left-hand takes an oval portrait aspect and the right-hand takes a rectangular landscape aspect. The oval portrait contains what philatelists call the vignette. This is filled by the pictorial element, usually a portrait of the ruler, sometimes a scene or device. The right-hand tablet is designed to be written on. Here we find details written in or stamped. They will include the date of purchase, the vendor, perhaps the user, and often the serial number.

Umed Singh 1

Type 1

This is the first likeness that we have of him, as a young man, with a face largely in shadow and facing down. This issue has been noted with dates from 1910 to 1915. It is not common. These examples show that the language of the court could be expressed in Urdu as well as Devanagari script. 

Umed Singh

The inscriptions are bilingual. We find here the state’s name, the purpose of the issue, and the denomination. While, as I have said, the layout and design is typical, this actual product is very like issues from several other states, Dhar, Jhabua, and Mandi come to mind. We must assume that one particular designer, perhaps working for a single printer, is responsible for stamps that were supplied to states all over India. In conversation with David Padgham we take the view that these states are so widely scattered that a printer who served them all must have been based in one of the great cities. The use on later issues of both Hindi and Marathi spellings for the word Anna points to Mumbai, which is the one city where both conventions would have been in use. I really would welcome comments on this point.

We do have copies of estimates given by printers to princely states for their security printing. These printers were based in Bombay.

The size of stamp is typical for court fees stamps from the states. It measures, perforation to perforation, 86 x 42 mm. And old-fashioned sheet of foolscap paper measured 343 x 432 mm. This is just right to fit 10 rows of 4 columns. It is really hard to find blocks and large pieces of these stamps. Nothing I have rules out a sheet of this size. In fact, much of my study has suggested that there are no more than 15 stamp impressions on a sheet. But it is interesting that the estimates that I have quote a minimum quantity of 1000 impressions. 15 doesn’t divide into 1000. On a sheet of 40, only 24 stamps, or 60%, could show any evidence that they came from the edge of the sheet. On a sheet of 15 the proportion would be 80%. Such evidence would include a wide ‘wing’ margin between the edge of the design and perforation or sight of a solid line down the edge of the sheet, known by philatelists as the Jubilee line, and now part of London’s underground railway system (spot the joke).

type 1

The design itself is intricate, and a superb example of the printer’s craft. And it would be extremely difficult to imitate. Using a portrait makes imitation difficult as we all remember a face. This one is screened and is printed from a photograph that has been converted to a half-tone block. See my notes on Jhalawar for a another example. The rest of the design has used some kind of engine turning to repetitively and accurately engrave intricate patterns. Even the backgrounds to the denomination and inscriptions have engine turning.

I think that the actual printing is carried out by lithography. The surface is perfectly smooth, and there are tiny traces of ink in places where they shouldn’t be. While a hand-operated press using a plate made up from copper blocks would be expected in the Indian setting, and copper blocks are specified in the quotes I have attached, lithography can also use a copper or zinc base on which to draw and etch the design, from which transfers can be made.