One of the most stunning Christmas sets was based on illuminated letters from the Acts of Mary & Joseph, a medieval Italian manuscript housed in Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.

The 24p value shows the Virgin Mary looking at the baby Jesus, who has a startlingly adult face, lying in a stall in the manager with a humble beast of the field looking on through the open window.

The golden and red tones of the stamp, and the oak leaf border of the letter ‘M’ (for Maria), make this an appropriately rich and beautiful philatelic essay.

Design: David Driver.
Printing: gravure by Harrisons.