King Edward VII Essays and Proofs
Introduction(Notes taken from a report by Dave Willmer on the display of this collection given to the GBPS at Worcester, 14th July 2012.)
It is no exaggeration to say that this collection is one of the finest, if not (in the opinion of many) the finest collection of this reign. Graham states that the proofs were items that he particularly enjoyed collecting; their proliferation throughout the collection is more than adequate testament to this.
A particular thread developed within the display is that the stamps of Edward VII should not be seen in isolation. Many of the designs for the low values were taken, sometimes with only little modification, from the Queen Victoria 'Jubilee' issue, although the ½d, 1d, 2½d and 6d were completely redesigned, the 4½d value dropped, and a new value (7d) introduced.
The authorities consulted Thomas De La Rue & Co. Ltd about the new issue of stamps soon after Edward VII came to the throne. In response, De La Rue produced several sets of composite, or 'paste-up', essays, in which the frames for the Jubilee set and the 1881 1d lilac were used, with Victoria's head being replaced by appropriately-coloured three-quarter (termed Type A) or quarter (Type B) face proofs of the King. So confident were they with the designs, which many people consider handsome and less austere than the eventual adopted designs, that they engraved the head.
Unfortunately, their optimism proved unfounded, as the King rejected it. The controversial decision was taken to commission the Austrian artist Emil Fuchs to redesign the head. There are a number of essays in the collection of the Fuchs design (two of which are in red, though the authorities preferred lilac), some signed by the artist. Two essays for the 1d displaying Type A and Type B heads are shown in Fig. 2. There are also later head dies, one of which is initialled by Austen Chamberlain, the then Postmaster General.
In addition to redesigning the head, Fuchs prepared the design for the ½d, 1d, 2½d and 6d values. For all of these values the same frame and head design were used, the head being a larger version of that used for the other low values. A particular problem with the initial design of the 2½d arose from the fact that its colour clashed with that of the ½d green, especially in poor light, and this at a time when the difference in value - 2d - was significant. The Post Office was not satisfied by the initially adopted purple printing on blue paper, the combination used in the Jubilee issue, and almost at the last minute changed the stamp to a blue design on white paper, destroying more than 17,000 sheets in the old colours in the process, though a few examples survived.
The other low values, in which the small Fuchs head was used together with modified Victorian frame designs are, as expected, very well represented in the collection. There is a further extensive collection of die proofs and essays for the initial designs. This includes a postal notice for the new ½d and 1s Jubilees, altered to meet UPU requirements, and Victorian colour trials for the 1s with the new approved colour.
Inasmuch as the Edward VII low values owe much in their design to the Jubilee issue, the high values from 2s 6d to £1 also mimic, to an extent, their Victorian counterparts. In fact, essays for values from 2s 6d to £5 were submitted initially but the £5 design was subsequently dropped. The designs were based upon the corresponding stamps of the issues of 1882—1884, though corner letters were omitted and the composition of all the frames was different, especially in the case of the 10s. An initial essay for the £1 in the Victorian design was aborted in favour of one which was more practical, both essays being present in the collection. Designs for a £5 value were submitted, and die proofs struck. Unfortunately, demand for a £5 stamp had rapidly declined owing to a reduction in telegraphic charges, and no Edwardian stamps of this denomination were ever issued.
In 1909, the Post Office requested monocoloured trials of the 1½d, 2d and 4d values, with a view to economy, and also a design change for the 2d. Accordingly, De La Rue submitted three designs for this value, of which the third was selected: these are displayed here. There is a lot of speculation regarding the withdrawal of this 'Tyrian Plum'. As Graham himself points out, it may have been due to a colour clash with the 6d, to a faulty die, or to a faulty plate. Whatever the reason, the death of Edward VII prompted the Inland Revenue to inform De La Rue that the issue was to be cancelled, and that the 2d stamps were to be destroyed. As is well known, only a very few examples survived.