A Short Note on the Design and Issue of Postage Stamps.

LAWRENCE T.E. (1918. [i.e. 1919.])


Prepared by the Survey of Egypt for His Highness Husein. Emir & Sherif of Mecca & King of the Hejaz. With a brief introduction, unsigned, but by Sir Henry MacMahon, and a long and detailed account of the technical and political history of the issue. Decorated title-page and frontispiece design incorporating a set of the postage stamp series; twelve colour plates of progressive proofs; two leaves of differently coloured proofs of the stamps loosely inserted, as issued. One of two hundred numbered copies, each with a manuscript colophon. 4to., original decorated paper boards, dust jacket. El-Qahira [Cairo], [Survey of Egypt and Government Press.]

A fine copy of one of the rarest publications relating to the Arab Revolt. The most succinct account of Lawrence's part in the production of these stamps is given by Jeremy Wilson in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition catalogue (item 96.). "After Hussein's declaration of independence Ottoman stamps could no longer be used in the Hejaz. Lawrence suggested that the issue of a new, distinctive series of stamps would be one way of publicising the emergence of a new nation". Lawrence and Ronald Storrs did the initial research on the stamp issue and, in Storrs' words "wandered . . round the museum in Cairo collecting suitable motifs in order that the design in wording, spirit and ornament, might be as far as possible representative and reminiscent of a purely Arab source of inspiration." (Storrs: Orientations. p. 220).It is clear from some of Lawrence's letters home that this was a project which fascinated him in all its aspects: "It is rather amusing because one has long had ideas as to what a stamp should look like, and how one can put them roughly into practice. The worst is they can only be little designs, not engraved, so that the finer detail is not possible. I'm going to have flavoured gum on the back, so that one may lick without unpleasantness." (Cairo. 22nd July 1916.) In the end flavoured gum was not possible: the only available paper was originally intended for the "opened by the Censor" labels, and already gummed; the ink used for the blue one piastre stamps was intended for the map work of the Survey of Egypt. The first issue of Hejaz stamps was ultimately very small, and sanctioned by the Allied governments for the duration of the war only: "They may be valuable some day, for I am not printing many, and have taken steps to prevent any dealers purchasing them in bulk. You have no idea what an enormous and profitable affair the stamps trade is." (Cairo. 16th September 1916.)The book itself is a Tour de force of book production. The quality of the design, printing, and philatelic detail would be impressive under any conditions, but is little short of remarkable given its context. The dust jacket is torn with some loss, there is some slight staining to one or two pages, but the book is generally bright and fine.Minor staining to the endpaper gutters from a glue reaction, which is also just visible on the spine of the binding, very light dust staining to the lower edge of the binding, dust jacket with a crude early repair and slightly ragged along the lower edge. In all a very good copy indeed. The manuscript colophon presents this copy to Lt. Col. W.V. Nugent, in 1918 a member of the Intelligence Branch General Staff in Cairo. Nugent (1880 - 1963) was a career soldier of great energy and ability. As an officer of the Royal Artillery he served in China, Ceylon, Malta, and Nigeria and was decorated five times for gallantry in Gallipoli and Palestine. His posting to Cairo may have been part of the establishment of the Arab Operations team led by Dawnay.

Stock Code: 225652

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