Home Literatuur over rasterdiepdruk Proevenboekje van Harrison and Sons (Collogravure) - verzameling V. Hugo / The Harrison sample booklet in mr Hugo's collection

Inleiding - De Nederlandsche Rotogravure Maatschappij te Leiden Introduction - early photogravure stamp printing - the NRM at Leiden

From Rembrandt's etchings to moderm photogravure printing is a long way. In the second half of the 19th century the development of photogravure along with that of photography, was speeded up enormously and discoverers were fighting to patent each new step forwards. A full history of this period should still be written by industrial historians. Otto Lilien has made an important effort in that respect to name only one person. I will mention only a few relevant data:

Sukow discovered the hardening effect of light on bi-chromate gelatine. In 1843 Fox Talbot used bi-chromate gelatine and the grid of resine powder for etchings. The Czech Karl Kliæ applied photography and bi-chromate gelatine in etching in 1878, the license went to Vienna and Munich.

It was the cotton industry that realised the possibilitiesof this new method, applied it for cotton printing and tried to improve. As cotton is rather rudely woven fine etchings didn't give flawless impressions. In trying to use fine silk instead, they accidentally, as silk was pasted on paper to protect it, discovered the good impression on paper.

Photogravure printing pressses for paper were made by Foster in 1893. In 1895 the foundation of the first photogravure printing house, Rembrandt Intaglio Ptg Co ltd, in Manchester.

The first reel-fed photogravure rotary press was constructed by Wood in 1901. The first German printing house using photogravure was F.A. Bruckmann in Munich in 1903.

For the German cotton manufacturers Siegfield in Siegburg, near Bonn, Ernst Rolffs discovered that the use of a crossed-lines screen gave a nearly perfect printing result, in 1899.

In 1906 the 'Deutsche Photogravur A.G.' was founded in Siegburg. August Nefgen introduced the pigment paper (carbon tissue) thus solving the problem how to apply the bi-chromate gelatine on the cylinders. Mulit-coloured rotary presses were developed and also the problem of echting texts was solved by Nefgen who patented his method of 'Rotogravur' in 1910. Text and illustrations could now be transferred to the cylinders in one step.

The Freiburger Zeitung had her Easter 1910 edition printed in photogravure for the illustrations and in typography for the text.

The manufacturer of printing presses, Johannisberg in Geisenheim closely worked together with A. Nefgen in building rotary photogravure pressses. Between the 'Deutsche Photogravur A.G.' and several foreign printing houses license deals were made.

Among them the deal made on February 20th, 1912 with A.W. Frenzen of Leiden, the Netherlands. Frenzen founded the 'Nederlandsche Rotogravure Maatschappij N.V.' om May 14th, 1913.

The first project of the NRM was the illustrated weekly 'Panorama'. The first copy of 'Panorama' was issued on July 7th, 1913!

Illustrated magazines in photogravure became very popular but other ways of applying the photogravure method were explored. Stamp printing was one of them. As far as we know the Bavarian stamps of 1914 were the first ever stamps printed in photogravure.

He used a crossed-lines screen and a reel-fed press constructed by John Wood. Rumanian issues of 1922 and 1926 were also printed by him. Next was Mexico, its stamp printer , after the Civil War, were very interested in modernizing its printing methods. Their version of photogravure was unscreened and was first used for the 1917 portraits and later for the 1923 and 1934 definitive issues which featured typical Mexican designs based on Aztec art.

In 1934 the Mexican State Printers acquired their first photogravure rotary press from Goebel, Darmstadt, Germany. In 1953 a Swiss recess rotary press form Winkler Fallert A.G. became a good companion to the Goebel press. Occasionally the 'old' unscreened photogravure can be found still!

Not only photogravure was important for the Mexican printers, they first applied a method of using just one printing plate for more than one colour - later to be known as the Giori method - in 1926. By an ingenious way of inking 2 or more colours could be printed from the same plate: Mexico,1926 Segundo Congresso Postal 1 Peso.

The 'Giori' method would later be used in Poland [1938] and in France [1939 onwards], to become very popular in the 1960-1980 period.

Having done justice to the Mexicans let's return to photogravure.

Württemburg stamps of 1919, Czechoslowakian stamps of 1919-1920 (State Printers, Praha), 1925 (United Czech Printers, Praha), Bulgsrian stamps of 1920 (State Printers Sofia) followed, but most influential was the French printing house Hélio Vaugirard of Paris because of their pictorial issues printed for the French Colonies:

  • 1922-1928, 1935 Maroc
  • 1925- Syria, Libanon, Saarland
  • 1927 Rumania

In 1922 Harrison and Sons were still printing stamps of the United Kingdom and of Egypt but in typography. Thanks to the NRM they got their license for 'rotogravur' and the NRM helped them to get a photogravure department started and had technicians coming over to Leiden to learn the process. Harrison and Sons were very keen on using the process for stamp printing, hoping ot attract new customers by offering a new promising printing method. Of all renown British stamp printers maybe only Waterlow and Sons mastered the method, were printing the War Savings Stamps since 1918 in photogravure but did not yet (until 1924) start printing postage stamps in that method.

In the early 1920-ies new stamp issues were in the making for both Egypt and South Africa. Harrison and Sons were submitting essays, most likely to be etched and printed as well by the NRM.

In the Netherlands the stamp printing contract of Joh. Enschedé and Sons was running out but got renewed in 1924. The same went for the stamps of the Dutch East Indies.

A few essay were made for Dutch stamps by the Royal Mint in Utrecht. And by the NRM of Leiden. Essays for the Dutch East Indies were made by the Survey Dept. Weltevreden.

The NRM essays may never have been submitted officially, the Survey Dept. essays have been and continually up to the Second World War essay were made by the Survey Dept. to prove their competence in stamp printing. For various reasons the Dutch East Indies government nor the Dutch governement wanted the DEI to become 'independent' in that respect. The German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 provided the DEI with their independence at last....

Both Harrison and Sons and the NRM had a Johannsiberg photogravure sheet-fed press 'Liti'. The two printers together with the manufacturers of the presses were working hard to get the new process promoted.

Essays or rather samples of this new processs were made by the NRM on paper supplied by Harrison and Sons and perforated by the latter as well.

Sample books containing more or less the same stamps were issued by the NRM and Harrison and Sons (who were introducing the method as 'collogravure').

All samples have either a crossed-lines or a mosiac screen . The mosaic screen was used for the 1923 King Fuad stamps of Egypt printed partly by Harrison and Sons, partly by the NRM.. As with the samples paper supply and perforation was by Harrison and Sons. Als two stamps of the 1924 Battle of Ayacucho of Peru, the 4c and the 5c, were printed in photogravure (crossed-lines screen) by the NRM.

About 1926 the NRM had developed her unscreened photogravure method that she was very proud of. Whether there is any connection at that time with the Mexican stamp printers is not known. Anyhow, the NRM method gives a much gbetter and more refined result than the Mexican one and could easily compete with recess-printing.

In the late twenties the Swiss Postal Administration wanted to try out the photogravure method for stamp printing and two Dutch printers were invited:

the Pro Juventute 30rp stamp of 1927 and of 1928, made by the NRM in unscreened photogravure

Joh. Enschedé and Sons. Haarlem
the Pro Juventute 1929 complete set in crossed-lines screen photogravure.

The 2 stamps printed by the NRM got perforated by the Swiss Mint in Bern, the JOHEZ printed stamps were also perforated in Haarlem on their own Grover perforation machine.

Only in 1930 the later so famous stamp printer Courvoisier S.A. La Chaux-des-Fonds could print their first stamps for the Swiss Post in photogravure.

One of the secrets of the unscreened photogravure was the use of slant lines to prevent the ink form running out of the recesses. The structure of the wove paper used for the Swiss stamps points to a slanted sheet lay-out as well!

Particularly interested in the unscreened method was the German manufacturer of printing presses, Goebel A.G. of Darmstadt.

They had developed a narrow cylinder (circa 30cm) rotary especially for stamp printing in recess or photogravure or both combined. The NRM was instrumental in spreading the Goebel rotaries, several essays and printing trials were made. In the period of 1928-1936 Goebel sold several rotaries to stamp printers all over the world:

  • 1928 State Printers (Instituto Poligrafico dello Stato), Rome, Italy
  • 1929 State Printers in Pretoria, South Africa
  • 1933 Post Office Printers in Kopenhague, Danmark
  • 1935 Post Office Printers in Bern, Switzerland
  • 1936 State Printers (Talleres de Impresion de Estampillas y Valores), Mexico
  • 1938 Post Office Printers in Stockholm, Sweden

The Danish and Swedish press were only for recess printing, the Swiss press for the combination of recees printing and photogravure, but was used mainly for recess printing. In the 3 other printing houses photogravure was the main thing and for quite some the uinscreened method in particular (South Africa, Mexico).

Although after some time the NRM had given up the idea of printing postage stamps, they continued photogravure printing, mainly illustrated magazines and books. In 1968 they merged with the 'Spaarnestad N.V.' of Haarlem, one of their longtime competitors, who themselves had bought their first photogravure press for illstrated magazines in 1915!

They moved out of Leiden to Haarlem, the buildings have been torn down in the 1970-ies and the NRM now doesn't like to be reminded of their early adventures. Which is a great pity and makes research even more difficult.

In 1967 mr Marcus Samuel of specimen fame contacted mr Jan Dekker about the sample stamps, stamps nearly all of them bearing the inscription 'Specimen'. Mr. Dekker in turn activated me to hve a look atthe NRM archives. Unfortunately almost everything had been destroyed but for a small packet containing essaya, trials etc. the NRM had made through the years. An already retired employee, mr Goddijn, was able to give me much background information but couldn't go deep into the philatelic questions I had.

After the merger the packet got somehow lost. The notes I made, with lacks and inaccuracies, are all that was left.

A few years later, mr Vincent Hugo had discovered the Harrison sample booklet, the Dutch Postal Museum (now the Museum of Communication in The Hague) appeared ot have the NRM sample booklet plus some more essays.

Add this to a renewed interest in the South African essays it is about the highest time to collect all material available on the matter of the NRM and related subject. Especially bearing in mind that other printing houses of photogravure fame no longer exist: Harrison and Sons, Courvoisier S.A.,......

Below, I will give some more information when commenting on the list of NRM 'stamps'. I have written letters to all printers concerned as well as to the Goebel A.G., but they either couldn't give me any information or simply refused to.

I hope that some day the philatelists may get the information they need to understand the backgrounds of the essays or trials they may have in their collection. And I would be very obliged if anyone that can give some information about the stamps I will refer to, will do so by means of e-mail or otherwise.

Notations, abbreviations etc.

  • The description of the design is very elementary, I had no opportunity to make photographs then, I do have some pictures from computer-scans now that I will use.
  • The order of the colours is inside out , unless otherwise stated.
  • Comb perforation 14 14/21 means that there are 14 teeth horizontally and 21 teeth vertically. The first 14 of course is the number of teeth per 2cm.
  • Sheet-size of 5x2 means 2 horizontal rows of 5. Of the perforated stamps it is usually not known whether this is the actual sheet size or not but flaws in the same position for all colours may make it more probable.
  • Screens are either crossed-lines (or diagonal at an angle of 45 degrees) or mosaic (could be called stochastic nowadays!). When there is no screen meant to be it's called 'unscreened'.
  • Occasionally it was possible to establish the direction of printing, denoted by /B, /R, /O and /L meaning that the ink was flowing out of the design upwards, to the rright, downwards and to the left.
  • The sources of the NRM essays and samples are denoted as follows:
    the NRM packet - now lost
    the NRM sample booklet in the Dutch Postal Museum (Museum of Communication) in The Hague.
    the Harrison sample booklet in mr Hugo's collection
    mr JCAM van Hal 's collection (now in my collection)
    mr Marcus Samuel's collection
    The Dutch Postal Museum collection [not b.]
    South African Post OfficeArchives
    HRH King Fuad's collection

Het NRM boekjes in het Postmuseum (nu Museum voor Communicatie) in Den Haag /the NRM sample booklet in the Dutch Postal Museum Museum of Communication) in The Hague

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Last updated on December 28, 2011

Home Literatuur over rasterdiepdruk Proevenboekje van Harrison and Sons (Collogravure) - verzameling V. Hugo / The Harrison sample booklet in mr Hugo's collection