Saturday, 17 March 2018

I Muse...On Different Styles

Due to personal issues I haven't looked very much at my stamp collection for several months now. But I have still been purchasing bits and pieces, which has led to a growing stockpile of unsorted material. A few days ago I decided to tackle the task of reorganising my Albert Decaris collection to incorporate all the new acquisitions. While poring over some of my lovely new Decaris stamps I came across a stunning airmail stamp he designed and engraved for Cameroun in 1964, depicting a black rhinoceros. This got me to thinking about the black rhinoceros Pierre Gandon engraved for the 1946 definitive series of French Equatorial Africa. Two of my favourite engravers working on the same subject. What a fantastic opportunity to make a stylistic comparison.


There are two species of rhinoceros that roam the plains of Africa, the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros. The black rhino is the smaller of the two species, but can still weigh in at an impressive 3,000 pounds. So how does one tell between a black rhino and a white rhino? If you ever dare get close enough to a black rhino, or like me, you are studying one from the comfort of your lounge room, you will notice that the black rhino has a distinguishable hooked upper lip. Sadly, according to 
"Populations of black rhino declined dramatically in the 20th century at the hands of European hunters and settlers. Between 1960 and 1995, black rhino numbers dropped by a sobering 98%, to less than 2,500. Since then, the species has made a tremendous comeback from the brink of extinction. Thanks to persistent conservation efforts across Africa, black rhino numbers have doubled from their historic low 20 years ago to between 5,042 and 5,455 today. However, the black rhino is still considered critically endangered..."

 Okay, before we get down to studying the two aforementioned rhino stamps, let me pose a few questions. Are you an admirer of the use of multiple colours on engraved stamps? Or do you rock it old school and adhere to a strictly monochrome palette? Or do you, like me, admire the virtues of both methods? I ask these questions because your answer may very well influence your preference regarding the two stamps you are about to see.


First up, let's take a look at Pierre Gandon's black rhino, issued by French Equatorial Africa in 1946 as part of a definitive series. It must be noted that this engraving was issued in three values, each with its own colour. For the purposes of this blog I have chosen to illustrate the 30c violet black stamp. I think this particular colour really enhances Gandon's artwork.

In this design, Gandon has chosen to frame his majestic black rhino in the flora and fauna of its native habitat. A particularly nice touch is the python slithering its way up the right side of the frame.  


Now we come to Albert Decaris' black rhino, issued by Cameroun 15 December 1964. This stamp was printed in three colours (really only two colours considering the third colour was used solely for the ttitles), which some engraving enthusiasts may frown upon. But I believe in this instance the extra colour serves to enhance rather than hinder this lovely work of art.

In this design Decaris has beautifully illustrated the lumbering majesty of the black rhino, printed in dark brown. The background, printed in green, depict trees and grassy plains, providing us a glimpse into the world in which this giant chooses to live.


So now that you've studied both stamps, which is your favourite? Do you prefer the classic monochrome artwork of Gandon? Or does the multi-coloured creation of Albert Decaris appeal to you more? I've personally given this a lot of thought and sat staring at each stamp alone, then together, for a long while. And to be totally honest, I can't decide. I happen to like both interpretations equally. Both artists were immensely talented, and both artists brought something unique for us to admire into their pieces of art. I have to say I really enjoyed spending time with each artist and his work.

Until next time...

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

I Muse... On Retail Therapy

My cyber-presence has been pretty limited of late due to some overwhelming personal issues. But I'm still here and will continue my blogging as much as I possibly can. 

Yesterday to take my mind off things I decided on a bit of retail-therapy and had a bit of a browse on Delcampe. I found several nice additions to my Decaris collection and I thought I'd share them here with my fellow Decaris addicts. The images are of course not mine so they aren't of the greatest quality, but they serve the purpose of a sneak peak  of what might be in store for you this year in Albert Decaris Stamps!


First up is a set from Cameroun, issued in 1964 for the Tropics Cup Games.


The next stamp is also from Cameroun and also issued n 1964. A stunning Rhino. I may at some point do a comparison between the rhino of Gandon and the rhino of Decaris. Could be fun.


Next up is a set of five from Senegal, issued in 1961, showcasing sporting competition.


My last purchase yesterday was a set of four from Ivory Coast, issued in 1961.


So what do you think? I'm personally really looking forward to adding these lovely stamps to my collection and doing some hi-res scans of them to celebrate their true majesty!

Oh, yesterday I also placed a bid on a pair of Decaris engraved airmail stamps from Dahomey, issued in 1960. Here's hoping I win this pair for the minimum bid!

Until next time (very soon, I hope)...

Sunday, 7 January 2018

France 1958 - Urbain Le Verrier

Using only mathematical calculation (celestial mechanics), this man predicted not only the existence of the planet Neptune but also its position in the solar system. This genius of celestial mechanics was Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier.

Urbain Le Verrier was born in Saint-Lô, the capital of the department  of Manche, Normandy, in France. Le Verrier began his studies at École Polytechnique in Paris. Here his initial interest was in chemistry, with a particular focus on the combinations of phosphorus and hydrogen, and phosphorus and oxygen. But it wasn't long before he discovered his true passion, celestial mechanics. At the completion of his studies he accepted a position at the Paris Observatory. It was here he found his vocational home, eventually taking the prestigious position as the institute's Director twice, the first time from 1854 to 1870 and the second from 1873 until his death on 23 September 1877. 

Le Verrier's  true claim to fame came in September of 1846. After spending months absorbed in deep calculations to try to understand the discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus, Le Verrier predicted the existence of another planet that was causing said discrepancies. Le Verrier immediately sent his predictions to Johann Galle of the Berlin Observatory. And on 23 September Le Verrier's predictions were confirmed when the planet was found by Johann Galle. It was, amazingly, found to be within just 1° of Le Verrier's predicted location. Interestingly, at the same time a man named John Couch Adams in England was doing similar calculations. In fact, to this day there is still controversy over which  man predicted first!

It is  perhaps also worth noting that Le Verrier is one of 72 people to have his name inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.


On 17 February 1958 France issued a set of four stamps celebrating famous French Scientists. Two stamps in this set were designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. Click HERE to see my blog  post  on Joseph-Louis Lagrange. The second stamp designed and engraved by Decaris features Urbain Le  Verrier. 

In this stamp, Decaris has captured the intensity and complexity of this astounding scientific mind. A  fitting engraved tribute to Le Verrier by the master, Albert Decaris.

Until next time... 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

France 1958 - Lagrange

His name is on a plague on the Eiffel Tower. A street in Paris bears his name. There is even a crater on the moon named after him! Joseph-Louis Lagrange, born Giuseppe Lodovico Lagrangia on 25 January 1736, was a mathematician and astronomer during le Siècle des Lumières, the Age of Enlightenment, an intellectual and philosophical movement in Europe during the 18th century. He was known as a kind and quiet man, who had a life-long devotion to, and passion for, science.

Lagrange was born in Turin, Italy. His father was of French descent and his mother was herself born in Turin. His father, who worked as Treasurer of the Office of Public Works and Fortifications in Turin, had decided his son was to have a career as a lawyer. Lagrange attended the University of Turin, seemingly happy with the vocation that had been chosen for him. During the course of his studies he was obliged to complete some mathematical studies, such as geometry, which he found boring (who can blame the guy!).  His favourite subject at the time was Latin.

But Lagrange's attitude towards maths did an abrupt U-turn after reading a paper by Edmund Halley, after whom a comet was later named (which I was fortunate to see as a teenager). After a year of self-study, he was hooked on maths. And at the age of just 19 (some even say 16!) he was teaching mathematics at the artillery school of Turin. During this time his work focused on 'calculus of variations', which was well received in the mathematical community.

By the time Lagrange was 25 in 1761 he was already recognised as one of the greatest living mathematicians. Not bad for a guy who initially thought maths stuff boring! Three years later in 1764 he was the recipient of a prize awarded by the French Academy of Sciences for his essay on the libration of the moon, which is basically the study of the slight wobble or oscillation of the moon, which in turn present to us on Earth a visual change of lunar features. He also worked on theories relating the the motions of the satellites 'moons' of Jupiter.

In 1766 Lagrange was offered a teaching post at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. He was invited by the king Frederick the Great, who is believed to have said that it is the wish of “the greatest king in Europe” to have “the greatest mathematician in Europe” at his court. While in Berlin he worked tirelessly on the areas such as the 'three-body problem' (which relates to Newton' law of gravity),  differential equations, prime number theory. and the mechanics and stability of the solar system, He also devoted much time to the study of algebra, culminating in a long paper published in 1770, titled: Réflexions sur la résolution algébrique des équations (Reflections on the Algebraic Resolution of Equations”).

In 1787, after the death of King Fredrick, Lagrange was invited by Louis XVI to take a position at the French Academy of Sciences, which he gladly accepted. In fact, he remained in Paris till the day he died. His move to Paris was right before the French Revolution in 1789. During this turbulent time, Lagrange was, shall we say, prodded into joining the committee working to reform the metric system. then in 1794 the École Centrale des Travaux Publics (later renamed the École Polytechnique) was opened and Lagrange took a position as a leading professor of mathematics. Here Lgrange continued his work on calculus, producing the first analytical textbooks in the area. He also continued work on new edition of his  Mécanique analytique, but Lagrange died 10 April 1813 before it was published.


On 17 February 1958, France issued a set of four stamps honouring famous scientists. Two of these stamps were designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. One of these two stamps featured Joseph-Louis Lagrange. it is a lovely design, which captures the true essence of this brilliant, kind, and gentle man.

Until next time...