Sunday, 25 June 2017

France 1957 - Stamp Day

A felucca is a wooden sailing boat that is not only small and lightweight, but also extremely maneuverable. These characteristics make this style of boat perfect for rivers and protected waters. They are commonly found plying the waters of the Mediterranean and the Nile in Egypt. A felucca can be easily identified by its large triangular sails, which are called lateen sails. A felucca can be rigged with two or three lateen sails.

By the 18th century the popularity of this versatile craft spread to Italy and along the French Riviera. Here they were often used as passenger craft and for transporting items such as mail. By this point it was not uncommon to see feluccas fitted with up to twelve oars and a canopy at the stern to protect its passengers from the weather. There is a rather quaint mention of the use of a felucca in a mid 18th century travel book.
The most agreeable carriage from hence (Nice) to Genoa, is a felucca, or open boat, rowed by ten or twelve stout mariners. Though none of these boats belng to Nice, they are to be found every day in our harbour waiting for a fair to Genoa... A felucca is large enough to take in a post-chaise; and there is a tilt over the stern sheets where the passengers sit to protect them from the rain. Between the seats one person may lie commodiously upon a mattress, which is commonly supplied by the patron. ... I would advise every valetudinarian who travels this way, to provide his own chaise, mattress, and bed-linen, otherwise he will pass his time very uncomfortably. (Smollet, London, 1884, p 746)
Towards the end of the 18th century the popularity of feluccas had travelled even farther afield, all the way to the west coast of USA. To San Francisco to be exact. In 1884 a whole fleet of feluccas was put to work in the bay as fishing trawlers.


Over the years France has issued some stunning stamps to celebrate Stamp Day. The stamp chosen for Stamp Day 1957 was no exception. In fact, it is one of my personal Stamp Day favourites. The stamp in question was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris, and it was issued on 18 March 1957. Like other Stamp Day issues it was a semi-postal with a value of 12f + 3f. The 3f surcharge went to the French Red Cross.

The subject of the design was an 18th century feluccia, which, as mentioned above, often carried mail. Decaris had a tremendous liking for maritime engravings, a passion which is clearly evident in this design. I think it is superb. The sleek lines of the hull slciing through the water. The sails billowing as they snatch the cool breeze. And the oars, poised for another stroke...


I also have a copy of this lovely stamp in a border pair, which is sublime.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

France 1949 - United Nations in Paris

The atrocities of World War II must never again be allowed to occur! This was the basic premise to the formation of the United Nations. Without going into lots of details, the United Nations was established on 24 October 1945, a replacement to the League of Nations, which did not work as well as intended. Initially 51 member states signed up to join the UN. These days that number has risen to 193. 

The official headquarters of the UN is located in Manhattan, New York City with three further offices in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. Its objectives have outgrown its initial premise somewhat. It strives to maintain international peace and security, and it seeks to promote human rights through things like humanitarian aid during times of crisis such as famine, natural disaster, and war. The UN also works to protect our natural environment.

In order to run effectively, the UN mechanism has six main components (from Wikipedia):
  1.  General Assembly (the main deliberative assembly)
  2. Security Council (for deciding certain resolutions for peace and security)
  3. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC; for promoting international economic and social co-operation and development)
  4. Secretariat (for providing studies, information, and facilities needed by the UN)
  5. International Court of Justice (the primary judicial organ)
  6. UN Trusteeship Council (inactive since 1994)
For this blog post our main focus is the General Assembly. The first session of the UN General Assembly was convened on 10 January 1946 in the Methodist Central Hall in London and included representatives of 51 nations. But since an official headquarters had as yet been created, the next five sessions of the Assembly were held in different locations. Two such sessions were held in Paris. The first Paris session was in 1948. The second Paris session began on 6 November 1951. This session was held at the Palais de Challiot
The Palais de Challiot was built for the Exposition Internationale of 1937, on the site where the old Palais du Trocadéro had stood before being demolished. It is perhaps worth noting that Adolf Hitler was pictured on the front terrace of the palace with the Eiffel Tower in the background during his tour of Paris in 1940. This photo became an iconic image of World War II.


On 6 November 1951 France issued a set of two stamps bearing the same design for the opening of the UN General Assembly in Paris. This issue was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. The design features the Palais de Challiot in the foreground with the Eiffel Tower standing proudly in the centre background. This design was issued in two values, each with its own colour.


One thing I find interesting about this issue is the 18f red. The ink seems to be quite thick, which blurs much of the fine detail. This is reminiscent of the 1948 Luxembourg Palace 12f issue printed in carmine. In the Luxembourg Issue a lot of details are blotted out. This is perhaps a reflection of the consistency of the red pigmented ink of this vintage.  

Until next time...

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I Muse... A Cachet Solution!

In last week's blog post I considered the pros and cons of expanding my Albert Decaris collection to include First Day Cover cachets and postcards illustrated by him. Click HERE to have a look. As I said last week, undertaking such a collection would be very time-consuming and I may not know how many items are actually available to collect. I immediately fell in love with all the items I spotted, but a lot seemed more expensive, especially regarding postage. This stands to reason since envelopes are much larger to send in the mail.

So I figured the best way to make my decision was to have a really good, extended look at just what is available and get a feel for the amounts of postage people are asking. The first problem I encountered was what type of search to do. If I searched by year I would have to trawl through potentially hundreds of pages to find perhaps only one or two items. Then I tried a "Decaris" search. This yielded some results, but the items available with Decaris in the title on average were higher priced than normal. Almost as if sellers were putting a premium on it being listed as Decaris.

Then I hit upon another idea after finding one FDC really cheap. I went into his shop and browsed through that. I know this isn't exactly an earth shattering idea! I had just assumed doing it this way could be even more time consuming, and with the potential of getting side-tracked. But this time around, I hit pay-dirt. This particular seller I happened to stumble upon is currently in the process of liquidating his FDC collection. Bingo! And to top it off, he still had a good range of stock and his prices were rock-bottom. The only downside was that I probably found more stuff than my budget could safely carry without dropping to its knees and crying in pain.  

I realise that I'm not always going to stumble upon such philatelic honey-holes, but the opportunity to get the burgeoning collection up and running enabled me to make that all-important collection decision. And the decision, if you haven't already guessed, is a big YES. I am going to give expanding my Decaris collection a go. And to be totally honest, making the decision gave me quite a cool high. Isn't that what collecting is ultimately all about?

My budget will now probably be yelling at me for a few weeks, but I went ahead and got as many items as I could from the seller. Below are some images. They are poor quality, but I'll post up better scans as I sort through them. For now, these images will offer you a taste of what's to come...

Until next time...

Thursday, 1 June 2017

I Muse... On a Cachet Conundrum!

It has only just recently occurred to me, even though I've been seeing the evidence for ages, that Albert Decaris designed and drew/painted a huge number of FDC cachets for France. In philately, the term "cachet" refers to "a printed or stamped design or inscription, other than a cancellation or pre-printed postage, on an envelope, postcard, or postal card to commemorate a postal or philatelic event" (Wikipedia). In Decaris' case, all the cachets he created were beautiful illustrations directly relevant to the stamp on the envelope. And contrary to my initial thoughts, the stamps he created cachets for were not always engraved by him.

But it wasn't until a couple of days ago that I started realizing the sheer volume of cachets with his name to them. To date I only have a few of these lovely cachets. In fact, I recently wrote a blog featuring a cachet for Decaris' Television FDC issued. 16 April 1955. 

This is a great cachet, but it is only a molecule upon the tip of the iceberg! Here are just a few I found on just one - yep, one! - page of a search on Delcampe. Please note that none of these images are mine. All have been borrowed from Delcampe (if any of these images are yours and you would prefer them removed, please let me know and I will happily remove them).

Above are three very lovely examples of the artwork of Decaris. But he didn't stop there. He also did full-sized illustrations for First-Day issue postcards. And in a way, they are even more gorgeous!


So here is my dilemma. Do I simply ignore these gorgeous pieces of art? Or do I begin a sub-set within my Decaris collection to incorporate Cover Art and Postcard Art? The problems that I foresee with such an undertaking would be the massive number of items and how to store them (since covers are somewhat bigger than stamps). Added to this there were often more than one different cachet design for one particular stamp, further increasing the volume. Also, how do I know what is available to collect, particularly taking into account the last point? I have yet to find any resource available with a full list of cachets by Decaris, so I may never know if I have a full set. Unless I work out a way of creating my own catalogue, which would present its own challenges. This idea I might leave to discuss in a future blog.

So what to do??

I dunno...yet!

Until next time...