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Which engravers / engraved stamps do you most admire?

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Michael Chambers21/12/2012 14:50:32
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I have a strong interest in and collect the work of renowned stamp engravers. In fact I've just written about 'collecting by engraver' in the current issue of Stamp Magazine. I'd really like to hear which engravers / engraved stamps other collectors most admire.

To start the ball rolling here are six stamps engraved by Rudolph Toth who engraved numerous stamps for Austria in the decades after the Second World war, often working in partnership with the designer, Adalbert Pilch. I think he is among the very best.

Rudolph Toth 1.jpegRudolph Toth 2.jpegRudolph Toth 3.jpegRudolph Toth 4.jpegRudolph Toth 5.jpegRudolph Toth 6.jpeg

Adrian21/12/2012 15:08:13
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Nice!

You'll probably like this blog post of mine as well, then. There's a Toth among those as well.

Michael Chambers21/12/2012 16:08:55
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Thanks. I really enjoyed your blog. The discussion you describe about which country produces the most beautiful stamps sounds fascinating. I'm afraid Great Britain would not be at the top of my list either although there are many wonderful British stamps. I'm not surprised that Austria and France featured so strongly. I very mich admire their stamps.

You mention the role of recess printing in your blog. It might be helpful if I say a little about why this form of printing is so important to the production of engraved stamps. For those not familiar with recess printing , it involves pouring ink into the steel plate on to which the engraver has hand cut the image so that the ink fills the recessed grooves. When the plate is forced against the paper under pressure, the ink is sucked out of the grooves and deposited on the paper. The key significance for engraved stamps is that printing in this way allows gradations from light to dark to be achieved in one line. It also allows the thickness of ink on the paper to vary (unlike lithography and topography where the layer of ink is of a uniform thickness across the paper). These are among the factors that help bring an engraved stamp alive.

Adrian21/12/2012 16:17:41
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True, if you let your fingers glide over the stamp surface, you can actually feel the design.

What I like so much about them, though, is not so much the printing side of it, but the fact that it is a proper design, it's a proper engraving and as such a real work of art. And imagine it being done in stamp size and in mirror image!

When I read your article in the magazine, I immediately wanted to take out all my recess-printed stamps and sort them by engraver, as suggested in your article. Do you actually collect them like that? And do you stick to recess only or would you also include stamps that have a combination of printing processes, such as recess with litho or recess with photogravure?

One of the better known Dutch engravers, Sem Hartz, was a purist and hated anything not done purely in recess. He went even further and claimed that the only beautiful recess-printed stamp is one printed in monochrome, stating that if with single lines only one can achieve so many different shades and depths, why bother with wanting more than one colour to print such a beautiful work of art!.

Julia Lee21/12/2012 16:24:16
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I'm inclined to agree with him. Certainly about the 'purely in recess' part. The rest of the stamp always looks a bit shoddy in comparison.

About the colour? I don't know. There are plenty of amazing bicolours at least.

In fact, Guy and I had a conversation about which stamp we used on the cover for the engraving article, and one of my points about the one we eventually used was that I felt the colour muddied the 'This is An Engraving' emphasis you get with some of the beautifully etched stuff.

Adrian21/12/2012 17:08:00
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I thin k that's a very valid point there, about the cover stamp. The other thing which makes this a slightly less attrractive stamp in my humble view is that you apparently have line engravers and dash engravers. This looks to me to be a dash engraving, which is less pleasing to they eye, I think.

Julia Lee21/12/2012 17:10:58
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It fitted the space, and that ALWAYS wins!

There were other reasons, too, but I've deleted the email with them in.

Michael Chambers21/12/2012 18:13:46
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Gosh. You both raise lots on interesting points. I'll get back in a later posting about the issue of prooducing engraved stanps in multi-colours as well as in combination with photo. However, here are a few thoughts about arranging a collection by engraver.

I do think collecting by engraver is perfectly feasible. Collectors have, after all, being doing this with Czeslaw Slania for years. I've started a collection of Austria and, as virtually all of its stamps were engraved until recently, I have been organising my collection by engraver. The vast bulk of its stamps were engraved by a limited number of engravers - Lorber, Toth, Wimmer, Nefe, Laurent, Stefferl, Pfeiler, Fischer Seidel, Leitgeb, Scmirl and a couple of others - and so it's perfectly feasible to collect in this way.

However, I'm not a purist and I recognise that non engraved stamps can have other notable visual qualities. It's also important to recognise that many engravers worked in partnership with designers and to give the designers their proper due. I there fore maintain a parallel collection of non-engraved stamps (printed by photo) by Austrian designers that I like such as Adalbert Pilch and Otto Stefferl .

Equally, a lot of modern French stamps don't do a lot for me but around a third of their stamps are currently engraved and these can be excellent - so I collect these, ordering them by engraver. The same goes for some other countries that produce a certain number of engraved stamps.

Anyway, here are three more stamps engraved by an outstanding Austrian engraver, Georg Wimmer.

.George Wimmer 3

Georg Wimmer 1.jpegGeorg Wimmer 2.jpeg

Adrian22/12/2012 09:42:23
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So, if I understand you correctly, you sort your stamps by engraver, but also by country? Do you actually mount these, or do you keep them in stockbooks or what?

Being newly inspired by you (thanks!) I'm thinking of sorting them by engraver only, but only for 1965 (year of birth) and later, or maybe 1940 (century of stamps) and later. I quite like country collections as well, you see, so if I keep the oldies together sorted by country and rearrange the later stuff by engraver, I can have two major collections to be pleased with. Maybe I'll turn this into my main philatelic New Year's resolution!

I think one of my favourite engravers is the Swiss Karl Bickel. I absolutely adore his portrait work for the many Pro Juventute stamps. This one here is an absolute gem:

22a.jpg

Michael Chambers22/12/2012 10:40:22
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I think your suggested approach sounds good. I like the stamp very much as well.

I'm still finding my way in deciding the best approach. Some engravers, of course, worked exclusively for a single country whereas others worked for numerous countries. Slania, for instance, worked for over thirty. Many of the French engravers also worked for numerous countries - all those French colonies and overseas territories as well as Monaco, Andorra, etc. I think where an engraver has worked for several countries you can either collect and display the engraver's work for each country in succession or you can display his/ her work in chronological order across all the countries that they worked for.

I mount mine in albums. As it's the aesthetics of stamps that appeal to me most I like to put them in good quality albums that show them off to best advantage.

Incidentally one Christmas present that I'm looking forward to receiving which should help a lot with appreciating these stamps - as well as sharing them with others - is a stamp microscope which links up with your computer.

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