Notes from the Past

Cape of Good Hope 'Woodblocks' - Part II

Meanwhile, work continued on the 1d.  The block for this stamp was assembled in a group of  64 and printed twice on each sheet so that a full sheet comprised 128 stamps.  A small supply was delivered February 27.  By March 7, 100,352 stamps in 789 sheets had been delivered.  The 1d. was printed in red ranging in shade from vermilion to carmine.

During the time the 1d. block was being assembled work proceeded on preparing a new block of 64 of the 4d.  The 4d. original block of 24 was dismantled and some of the stereos found to be in good condition were included in the new block.  Further, the two blocks got mixed up so that 1 4d. stereo was included in the assembly of the 1d. block and 1 1d. stereo was included the 4d. block.  This was the source of the color errors listed for these stamps.  Stamps printed from these blocks were delivered on March 9 and March 14.  597 4d. sheets with 1,194 color errors were delivered in the additional 76,416 stamps delivered.  The 1d. deliveries included 1,568 4d. color errors.

In April, a further printing was ordered at which time Saul Solomon & Co. corrected the color errors and replaced some damaged stereos.  These new blocks were used to print an additional 24,960 1d. stamps and 12,480 4d. stamps.  The 4d. sheets apparently only had one impression of the 64 subject block in this printing.  [See Editor's Note]

By this time a letter arrived from England and the cases with the normal stamps were removed from the warehouse ending the need for further reprintings of the 'woodblocks.'  The blocks were rearranged one more time in a block of 62 of the 1d. and 63 of the 4d.  These were placed in the Treasury vaults.  They were discovered in June, 1882.  In 1883, 195 sheets of each value were reprinted in order to comply with requests for specimens from several UPU countries.  The reprint colors are much deeper than those of the issued stamps.

The appearance of the 'woodblocks' was so primitive that, when letters bearing them arrived in England, officials of the General Post Office in London thought they were forgeries.  In November, 1861, a letter was sent to the Colonial Office asking whether there was any foundation for this suspicion.  Finally, in February, 1862, a letter from the Governor at Capetown arrived to explain the true nature of these stamps.

Posted August 9, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.  The Williams brothers' gave the count of the number of 1d. stamps in the April printing as 24,660.  This appears to have been a typographical error as it is not divisible by 128.  The number used above is based on 195 sheets and would be a typical typographical error in composing the number used by the Williams.  The number of sheets is also the same as the number of 4d. sheets printed.  Also the number of 4d. stamps is not divisible by 128 leading to the conclusion that only one impression of the 64 subject was made on each sheet.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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