The 1841 Provisional Black Printing and Repair Characteristics


Scope of the Display

The scope of this display covers the impressions of the 5 plates at press during the provisional black printing of late January to early February 1841. This was the final short emergency issue of black stamps before stamps in the new red colour, printing of which had commenced earlier in December, were ready to be issued by the authorities to the public.

A plate repair was undertaken just prior to this provisional black printing on most of these plates which resulted in a scarce printing of repaired impressions. Examples are presented together with the earlier states in black for comparison and some examples of the scarce red pre-provisional and also the post-provisional printings matching the same states in black. The principal characteristics of the repairs are described.


Following the introduction of the Penny Black on 6th May 1840 it was soon apparent that the ingenuity of the general public in being able to remove the red obliterating ink was causing concerns to the authorities. On 17th December 1840 following extensive experimentation (The Rainbow Trials) and trials of the use of black obliterating ink the authorities decided to change the colour of the stamps to red and to obliterate them with black ink and the printers Perkins Bacon (PB) were notified on 24th December of this decision.

On 30 December PB began printing the stamps in the new red colour (with plate 1b). However the authorities were initially unwilling to issue these stamps owing to the supply of the new black obliterating ink not being ready. With stocks of black stamps maintained at a low level prior to the impending colour change a further emergency printing of some 10,000 sheets in black ink was requested by the authorities. This printing is known as the Provisional black printing. The five plates at press at the time were 5, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Plate wear is considered the usual reason that plate repair was considered necessary, to restore the fine lines of the worn engraving. Plate repairs were performed by re-entry via the application of a transfer roller under high pressure over the original impression. Because repairs to certain impressions were made to all of these plates {except plate 11) after the initial printing in red had begun but before the final provisional black printing, both red (known as pre-provisional) and black stamps exist in an earlier state than those from the black provisional stamps. It should also be appreciated that since plate 11 was first printed from in red all black stamps from this plate are a consequence of the provisional printing and no prior repairs were undertaken.

Printing in red then resumed after the brief provisional black issue with stamps being in the same state as the black provisional stamps. These are referred to as post-provisional reds. With the provisional black printing extending only over a few days, and importantly noting that only those few impressions that were repaired are identifiable from the regular black printing, it can be recognised that this constitutes a very scarce issue.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. 1d Black Plate 5
  3. 1d Black Plate 5
  4. 1d Black Plate 5
  5. 1d Black Plate 5
  6. 1d Black Plate 8
  7. 1d Black Plate 8
  8. 1d Black Plate 9
  9. 1d Black Plate 9
  10. 1d Black Plate 9
  11. 1d Black Plate 9
  12. 1d Black Plate 10
  13. 1d Black Plate 10
  14. 1d Black Plate 10
  15. 1d Black Plate 10
  16. 1d Black Plate 11