Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Stationery from a Byegone Era : The Universal Post Card!


 You may have never seen anything like this before.  At least, not in your lifetime.  Very probably, not in your parent's lifetime, either.  These were the Universal Post Cards, also known as International Message and Reply Cards. They often came pre-franked with the postage stamp printed right on the envelope, and if you were sending your card to Timbuktu, you probably needed an extra stamp or two to cover the 'round-the-world distances.  These were printed by all the countries which were members of the Universal Postal Union, or, the UPU, which governed international postal rates from the 1870s, and on into the 20th century.

I particularly liked the 3rd Republic French postal stationery!  There is something inherently "bourgeois" when it comes to what eventually evolved into industrial Art Nouveau.  It's that certain something that makes you want to write with better handwriting, and scribe with a 'dip-pen' something substantive, rather than "OMG, ROTFL!"

We all need more class in our lives.  There.  I said it.

These photos are a sneak peak into a project that I have lined up later this year for Letterpress Production. The design comes from a French Postal Cover dating to 1878.  However, I decided to incorporate a franking design (postal speak for the stamp that is printed on the cover) which pre-dates the border by twenty years, the 1858 "Ceres Head" stamp from the reign of Napoleon III, which is one of the most celebrated classics of all time.  Well....if you collect stamps, that is.  Or, if you are an admirer of Postal Ephemera.  That would classify you as a philatelist, "lover of that which is printed for collection of postage."

Most of you have already caught the German Blackletter "Postkarte".  It was common to print Universal Cards in multiple languages, and in 1870s France (which was involved at the time in the Franco-Prussian War), it was most common to make that second language German.  And the German Postkarten designs reciprocated.  I might add that to this day, French is the language of Philately, the Science and Art of collecting, evaluating and appraising Postal Ephemera.

I had to make some changes to the Ceres Head design, especially when I realized how very close to the real thing my version was starting to become.  I wanted to create a legal Postal Label, not a forgery of a stamp worth hundreds of dollars!  Thus, I altered the dimension of the design, placed my initials at the lower right (ggj) as the "sculpsit", or engraving designer, removed any mention of a country, took off the denomination and added the French Legend "Carte Postale Universelle".  There was never a Ceres Head post card.  Oh, but lots of 'em were attached to post cards, though.  The pre-printed stamps came later on, in the 1870s.  A few other differences Philatelists will also readily note is the background lines and bead count around the disc which surrounds the head, which differ very obviously from the original 1858 black Ceres Head.

Yet, it is still the Ceres Head in the original classic frame, and best of all, these cards will be printed using the very same type of press, likewise using hardwood mounted copper dies!  Who says they don't make 'em like they used to??

Ok, so what is this green stamp?  If you think it's an imperforate 1904 French Regular Postal issue, you are almost right.  This stamp has a story behind it.  Again, it's one of my own designs.  It's called a "Cinderella" because it's a stamp from a non-existent country, the Republic of Deltona, or in our local vernacular, "Republica Deltona".  The denomination is fifty centavos.  This stamp, and three dollars, with get you a Vinte-sized coffee at Starbucks.  I borrowed once again from French Philatelic Design to make these, which are actually printed from my photoprinter.  I just stuck it where it is to add to the vintage feel of this particular post card. The place where it is attached has printed "Place Stamp Here" in Bickham Script.  I just placed my 1904 Cinderella over it for the 'look'.  You would want to put a real stamp there, instead, of course.  

I might note here that under U.S. Postal Law, any United States Postage Stamp printed on, or after 1875, is legal for prepayment of postage.  I would not use the 1875 prussian blue five cent regular postal issue if I were you, however.  I would put that in a stamp album.  But regular postal issues from the 1930s and later still can be purchased mint at relatively low costs, all things considering.  That is, if you want to spend two dollars on a fifty cent stamp.  But I see this practice with Wedding Stationery all the time!!

This is a project in the works, and if it catches on,  we will develop it into a series of Classic Postal Stationery, with writing space on the other side (obverse) of the card.  We may also do some post card illustrations.

A word about the border: it's an exact replica, all the way down to the count of each of the border elements  per side. The border, along with the Ceres Head stamp/ label, were drawn by hand.  These are not simply vectorized copies.  Every line on this piece was edited at the individual pixel level, drawn out one hatch line at a time.  This is why the image is so crisp.  I might add, that what you see in these photos are digital copies, not the actual letterpress printed piece.  That will happen later this year.  Again, this is a sneak-peak into the project which is still in it's post-design, pre-press stage.  We are excited about it.  We hope you will be, too!

Stay tuned, and au revoir!

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