Alice in Wonderland on Stamps

Visually, there are two almost immediate images that pop up in one’s mind when thinking about Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland“: the vintage illustrations of John Tenniel, and the Disney movie images. Normally people balance between the two when they think about the book. Newer images sort of strike as odd – and I have to confess I have the same feeling, unless it’s the illustrations of Yayoi Kusama – now that’s something I would like to see on stamps one day!

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Illustration by Yayoi Kusama for “Alice in Wonderland“.

But coming back for a second to the compelling images of “Alice in Wonderland“. Tenniel’s 92 “Alice” images, including the ones which were not published in the original “Alice”, are now stored as blocks of wood in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. They are the drawings that made Tenniel equally famous as Alice – although his career as an engraver went a lot further than that. They were on display only once since being housed in the Library – in the year 2003. Walt Disney actually bought film rights for Sir John Tenniel’s images before he embarked on the 5 year creative struggle to bring Alice to the screen. Of course, this happened 67 years ago, so the techniques used were far more rudimentary than the ones used today. But still – if you don’t see the immediate resemblance in images, you should know that both sets of images are interconnected.

 

Why is that important for philately? Well, because these two prevailing images are most often found on stamps. On rare occasions, someone pens new “Alice” images, but you should be the judge of the effect. I personally am not a big fan of such transgressions.


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Great Britain

By far the most prolific offer of stamps inspired by the universe from “Alice in Wonderland” comes from Great Britain. The first such stamps were issued in 1979 – Great Britain’s choice of stamps for the International Year of the Child. While many countries chose to illustrate this theme with stamps related to childhood images or even with awareness raising images for better education and healthcare for children, Great Britain put on stamps four classics of children’s literature, among which you can also find “Alice”.

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Franz Kafka on Stamps

Although the writings of Franz Kafka (1883-1924) are world-famous, his eerie personality and strange habits reported by biographers are sometimes known even better, even by people who did not go into his sometimes difficult to grasp writings. His influence is felt in many media, with comics inspired by his “Metamorphosis” being issued as early as 1953, and even a video game (Bad Mojo) in 1996. His legacy inspired also writer Haruki Murakami for his book “Kafka on the Shore” and compser Philip Glass for his opera “In the Penal Colony“.

The stamps devoted to Franz Kafka, although not numerous, are brought together by one unifying criterion – the image of the writer prevails. Only a couple of stamps are devoted to his work, otherwise his portrait is the one that takes the lead in philately.


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Germany

There are two German stamps devoted to Kafka, issued on two different occasions.

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Pictured above, a Federal German Republic stamp of 1983, issued for the 100th anniversary of birth of Franz Kafka. It features Kafka’s penned signature and the background shows the Church of Our Lady before Týn from Old Prague.

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Superman on Stamps

In 2018, Superman turns 80 years old! And still – he’s just as nimble and relentless in his pursuit of justice. Still one of the most likeable superheroes of all times, Superman made it several times to be featured on stamps.


us The United States of America

Superman was first featured on an American stamp in 1998, on one of the US Millennium sheets.

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Not only was he celebrated as one of the main actors of the 1930’s, but also this stamp was an anniversary one, since the first Superman comics saw the light of day in 1938.

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A Cartesian Error on Stamps

French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) left to us a strong legacy, including the famous saying “I think, therefore I am”  (French: “Je pense, donc je suis“). He also inspired the newly coined phrase “Cartesian anxiety,”, which represents the hope that studying the world will give us unchangeable knowledge of ourselves and the world – an awkward thing in our post-modern times.

Today we’re going to talk about an error on stamps. Stamp errors are pretty common, actually, whether they are related to a flaw of printing (wrong framing, or missing colors) or to the information provided on the body of the stamp. The story takes us back to the year 1937 – when France, for the 300th anniversary of Descartes’ “Discourse on the Method” issued a stamp. In fact, it had to issue it twice.

The full title of Descartes’ masterpiece is “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences“, and despite the long title it’s quite an interesting read, even for the minds of contemporaries who are dealing with TMI and FOMO day in day out. It’s still fresh, not at all boring, and it can provide you with hours of musing on the nature of thinking and our superman-like ability to think.

The first stamp that was issued was released on May-24, 1937. It features an engraving of the known portrait of René Descartes by Dutch painter Frans Hals with an intricate backdrop – where we can see the title page of his best known work.

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The American Millennium on Stamps

After taking a look at the British Millennium on Stamps, it’s now high time to look at another extraordinary Millennium collection, this time the one minted in the USA. The USA was one of the pioneers of Millennium stamps, starting their well-devised series as early as 1998. A total of 10 sheets, each with 15 stamps were issued between 1998-2000. Their topics were announced from the very beginning, and are present in the frame of the sheet: art, sports, historical events, technology, entertainment, science, political figures, and lifestyle. Among the many firsts of this Millennium series, I give you a hint: this was the first time the word ‘lifestyle’ made it to a stamp! Speaking of new words – each sheet also contains the new words allegedly coined during the period. Truly educational.

Generally speaking, the stamps are devoted to the American spectrum of events, however, epoch-making events from other geographies are not disregarded completely. Each sheet is devoted to one decade of the 20th century, starting chronologically from the 1900’s and ending in the 1990’s. In addition, each sheet has a title, that sums up the zeitgeist and is supposed to be found on some of the stamps of the sheets. In addition, each gummed stamp has a printed explanation on the back.


The 1900’s: The Dawn of the Twentieth Century

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Pictured above: the Tin Lizzie Ford model; Theodore Roosevelt; the movie “The Great Train Robbery“; Crayola pencils; the St. Louis World Exhibition of 1904; the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act; the Kitty Hawk plane of 1903, the Ash Can painter’s movement; the arrival of immigrants; the nature preservation work of John Muir; the creation of the legendary ‘teddy’ bear; the social activism of W.E.B. du Bois; the Gibson Girl fashion; the first World Series of baseball; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Chicago.

New words: cheerleader; filmmaker, phony, psychoanalysis.

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Marc Chagall on Stamps

I have always been of the opinion that Marc Chagall‘s early modernism can be explained by a simple phrase, namely, the one explaining his origin. He was a RussianFrench of Belarussian Jewish origin (1887-1985). He took elements of Russian and Belarussian folklore, emerging Russian and French modernism, and did not forget at even one moment to celebrate the visual memory of the Jewish shtetl.

He was born Moishe Shagal and was one of the most longliving artists, falling short of 2 years to be 100 years old. He adopted Russian, and then French citizenship, lived in both countries but also spent almost a decade in the United States, and frequently visited Israel. He experimented with painting, stained glass, tapestries and ceramics. At the same time, he lived through numerous artistic influences and always remained true to himself, to the effect that it’s rare that a Chagall can be taken for the work of someone else.

The fascination with Chagall was, of course, not only in exhibitions and museums, and was not only incorporated in architecture (such as his stained glass works), but also made its way into the world of philately. Today we are going to look at some stamps inspired by Marc Chagall.


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Armenia

Issued in 2012, this two piece set features a painting from Marc Chagall (right) from the National Gallery of Armenia.

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Belarus

Chagall’s native Belarus seemes to never have enough of his art on their stamps. It happened for the first time for their EUROPA issue in 1993. Their issue devoted to contemporary art shows Chagall at his finest.

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Pictured above the two stamps from the series.

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The Exciting Traditional Costumes of Gilbert & Ellice Islands on Stamps

The short-lived Protectorate of Gilbert & Ellice Islands existed between 1911 and 1975, when it was separated into two autonomous territories, Kiribati and Tuvalu. There are less than 250 stamps issued for this protectorate, but all of them strike by their interesting colors, relative exoticism, and straightforward celebration of local diversity.

The world of traditional costume and traditional activities was at the core of their first full-color definitive series of stamps in 1965. They were reissued and surcharged between 1965 and 1968, coinciding with the change of currency that occurred in 1966 – from the pre-decimal £ to the decimal Australian $.


The Surcharged Issue

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Top row, left to right: nighttime fishing, making a Frangipani wreath, a Gilbert Island dweller dancing, blowing a conch shell for the beginning of the feast, young Ellice Island dweller dancing, dance costume of a Gilbert Island dweller.

Middle row, left to right: young woman at the fountain, harvesting coconuts, Ellice Island dwellers in war dance, preparation of the feast.

Bottom row, left to right: sitting dance, local chopstick game, Ellice Island dwellers drumming for a dance, the coat of arms of the Islands.

 


The Nominal Issue

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For description, see above under the surcharged definitive series.


Stamps featured in post: 30; Period: modern (1965-1968); Pricing: low; Availability: very scarce.

Michel catalogue no’s (price for mint in € in brackets): Set I: MiNr: 105-119 (25€); Set II: MiNr: 130-144 (24€).

 

The British Millennium on Stamps

Numerous countries put their best on for the turn of the millennium, and Royal Mail is no exception. Millennium collections are usually large sets of stamps, separated into subsets, that approach, thematically or randomly the events of the previous millennium, from the perspective of the issuing country, or globally.

The British Millennium collection of stamps was issued between 1999-2000. Each design includes the inscription ‘Millennium’, the year of issue and a serial number. The designs for 1999 looked back over the previous millennium under 12 different themes. The designs for 2000 highlighted projects undertaken to celebrate the millennium.


 

The 1999 Issues

Set I – The Inventor’s Tale  

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Timekeeping: Greenwich Meridian and clock face | (20p) Steam Power: worker and blast furnace (26p) | Photography: photograph of leaves  | (43p) Computers: computer inside head (63p)

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Greek Traditional Costume on Stamps

We continue our series of articles devoted to the traditional costume. Next stop – Greece. Greek traditional costume is pretty well-known worldwide. However, its local variations are not just as well known. With a lot of local, Balkan influences, from Bulgarian to Turkish, and from Albanian to Serbian, the monolithic traditional “Amalia dress” (called so because it was “designed” by Amalia, consort of King Otto of Greece in the 19th century) gets lots of local variables.

In general, the Greek costume the way we know it today, has a romantic tinge – needless to say, because it was devised in the 19th century, when the need of local identity markers was quite high throughout the region. On the one hand, the wish to have something local added sartorial elements to the traditional body of dresses, fustanellas, fezes, kalpakis (toques) or stivania (boots). On the other hand, the need to diversify the traditional costume regionally meant that different resources were researched in order to pick up and revive elements that had long been out of use. Nowadays, these clichés of traditional costume persist – however, their use is of course limited to special events. The only daily appearance of traditional costume is the Presidential Guard in Athens – quite showy, I would say.


Below you will find a series of traditional Greek costume issued between 1972-1974, including 40 instances of traditional costume.

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Pictured above, left to right: Crete, Pindos, Mesolongos, Attica, Nisyros, Megara, Trikeri.

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Anne Frank on Stamps

1*U33dGSMCTRn-m48fAiO6lgAnne Frank is one of my all-time heroes. Although she needs little introduction, being one of the most known victims of the Holocaust, few people think about how important the testimony of Annelies Marie Frank (12 June 1929 – February or March 1945) is in today’s world. Her diary went all the way from banned book (as is in Lebanon), to a non-recommended book (a school committe in the US deeming the book to be “a real downer”), and up to compulsory reading.

Nowadays, Anne’s universe still elicits a lot of interest worldwide. More than 1 million people visit yearly her hiding place in Prinsengraacht 263, in Amsterdam, where she, together with her family and four other people stayed in hiding, without seeing light or going out for 2 years (between 06 July 1942 and 04 August 1944). New pages of her diary have just been discovered a couple of months ago – so the final version of her diary, known as “Anne Frank’s Diary” or “The Secret Annex” (the latter being a literal translation of the Dutch original “Het Achterhuis“), is soon going to be revised.

Revisions of her diary happened many times since the first publication of the Diary in 1947. Several fragments were added, which were considered initially extraneous to the diary, or that were considered unfit for a young audience. The Diary underwent a lot of cosmetic work until it reached what was called “the Definitive Edition”, but in the meantime, more than 35 million copies of her book were sold, in more than 60 languages.

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Memorial tomb of Anne and Margot Frank at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The inscription in Hebrew says נר הי השמת אדם (from Proverbs, 20:27, “The light of God is the soul of a person, [searching all the inward parts]”).
Anne’s message is always a peaceful and mature one, way beyond the real age she had when she was writing her diary. “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”, says one of her most repeated quotes. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” is another one, which remains a true example of Anne’s food for thought.

There were Anne Frank movies, animations, cartoons, spin-off’s, basically there’s a little bit of everything decent that carries on the message of Anne Frank. Of course, there are also numerous Anne Frank stamps, about which we are going to talk a little today.

 

 

 


Federal German Republic

The first Anne Frank to be issued was in the Federal German Republic in the year 1979.

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The stamp features the well-known school portrait of Anne Frank, while the First Day Cover has in addition her signature. The stamp on the First Day Cover also identifies the issue as a commemorative one, being issued for the 50th anniversary of birth of Anne Frank.

One detail that is often overlooked is the fact that this stamp also features a concrete date for the death of Anne Frank. The date is debatable, especially in the light of recent research and interviews with other survivors, as Anne Frank might have died any time between February and April 1945.

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