A Revolution in British Stamp Design

In 1965 Tony Benn, the new Postmaster General, announced new criteria for issuing stamps, at that time restricted to the marking of events of outstanding national and international significance, as well as Royal and postal anniversaries.

Keen to address the visual limitations imposed by the inclusion of the monarch's head on British commemorative stamps, Gentleman wrote to Benn about the possibilities of alternative approaches. In the resulting "Essays in stamp design", later known as "The Gentleman Album", two significant proposals were made.  The monarch's head should be replaced by an alternative symbol of national identity such as the Crown or Royal Cypher or words such as "Great Britain" or "UK". Gentleman also proposed new commemorative stamps on a much wider range of subjects, including birds, trees, regional landscapes, coastlines, transport, architecture, industry and famous men and women. The final revolutionary Album, consisting of 17 themes, remained highly influential on British stamp design and themes for more than 20 years.

Although the suggestion to replace the monarch's head with alternative symbols of identity was rejected, Gentleman's proposal to use a different portrait of The Queen was accepted. A variety of ideas were tried out to replace the three-quarter Dorothy Wilding portrait, resulting in a small cameo based on the coinage head by Mary Gillick.

The proposals also included a single sheet of se tenant stamps featuring each of the eighteen rulers of Britain since the Anglo Scottish Union of 1603, which David Gentleman describes as one of the most interesting subjects to design. There are 100 essays that comprise what became known as "The Gentleman Album". This early work demonstrates how David Gentleman was responsible for revolutionising the concept, format and extent of pictorial design.

Illustrations
Essay in Stamp Design: Puffin

Essay in Stamp Design: Puffin

Essay in Stamp Design: Elm Tree

Essay in Stamp Design: Elm Tree

Essay in Stamp Design: Fly Agaric

Essay in Stamp Design: Fly Agaric

Essay in Stamp Design: GB Rulers

Essay in Stamp Design: GB Rulers


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