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David Gentleman’s Stamps

David Gentleman designed his first set of stamps in 1962, for the National Productivity Year. Since then he has been the most prolific and acclaimed stamp designer in Britain, with 103 issued stamps to his name.

His subjects range from trains, boats and planes; to architecture, flora and fauna and representations of historical events, using a wide variety of styles.

In 1965 Tony Benn, the new Postmaster General, announced new criteria for issuing stamps, at that time restricted to the marking of events of outstanding national and international significance, as well as Royal and postal anniversaries.

Keen to address the visual limitations imposed by the inclusion of the monarch’s head on British commemorative stamps, David Gentleman wrote to Benn about the possibilities of alternative approaches. In the resulting “Essays in stamp design”, later known as “The Gentleman Album”, two significant proposals were made.  The monarch’s head should be replaced by an alternative symbol of national identity such as the Crown or Royal Cypher or words such as “Great Britain” or “UK”. Gentleman also proposed new commemorative stamps on a much wider range of subjects, including birds, trees, regional landscapes, coastlines, transport, architecture, industry and famous men and women.

The final revolutionary Album consisting of 17 themes, was published in the spring of 1966, and even though Tony Benn was very quickly advised that any thoughts of removing the Queen’s portrait should be abandoned immediately, the work remained highly influential on British stamp design and themes for the next 20 years, with many of Gentleman’s ideas being implemented over this period.

The examples shown above are all from the 1960’s.

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