Postage Stamps and Postal History of Great Britain - Victorian Era

Victorian Era

The Victorian age saw an explosion of experimentation. The inefficiency of using scissors to cut stamps from the sheet inspired trials with rouletting (the Archer Roulette), and then with perforation, which became standard practice in 1854. In 1847, the (octagonal) 1 shilling (£0.05) became the first of the British embossed postage stamps to be issued, followed by 10d stamps the following year, and 6d (£0.025) values in 1854.

Surface-printed stamps first appeared in the form of a 4d stamp in 1855, printed by De La Rue, and subsequently became the standard type. ½d (halfpenny) and 1½d (penny halfpenny - pronounced pennyhaypny or threehaypence) engraved stamps issued in 1870 were the last engraved types of Queen Victoria; the next would not appear until 1913. Surface-printed stamps of the 1860s and 1870s all used the same profile of Victoria, but a variety of frames, watermarks, and corner lettering.

A 5 shilling (abbreviated as 5/- or as 5s.) (£0.25) stamp first appeared in 1867, followed by 10 shilling (£0.50) and £1 values in 1878, culminating in a £5 stamp in 1882.

Meanwhile, the age of the Penny Reds had come to an end along with the Perkins Bacon printing contract. The new low values were also surface-printed: first was a penny stamp coloured Venetian red in a square frame, issued in 1880. However, the passage of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1881 necessitated new stamps valid also as revenue stamps, and so the Penny Lilac was issued in that year, inscribed "POSTAGE AND INLAND REVENUE". This stamp remained the standard letter stamp for the remainder of Victoria's reign, and vast quantities were printed. Later issues were inscribed POSTAGE & REVENUE which became the more familiar POSTAGE REVENUE.

1883 and 1884 saw experimentation with stamps using fugitive inks with the 'Lilac and Green Issue'. These were rather plain designs, low values in lilac and high values in green, because those were the only colours available. They succeeded in their purpose - relatively few of the stamps survived usage, their colours fading away when soaked from the envelope - but they were not liked by the public.

The last major issue of Victoria was the "Jubilee issue" of 1887, a set of twelve designs ranging from ½d. to 1s., most printed in two colours or on coloured paper. (Although issued during the Jubilee year, they were not issued specifically for the occasion, and are thus not commemoratives.)

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