The Printing Implements

Old Period  New Rectangulars  12-Plate  Table

Fifteen carved-brass handprinting plates and dies were used in all, split between an early period (1866-1878) and a late (1878-1894). Four of the plates are called “composite,” which in this context means that two different denominations are accomodated on each. No two subjects of a given plate are exactly alike because each was carved into the metal separately by hand. Counting all these design subtypes as different, there are 45 for the early period and 101 for the new. The descriptions below simply collect the headers from the pertinent stamp pages. While no new information has been added, it might be that something accrues from having the separate stories mingling in the same room:


Old Period 1866-78

Three triplets of implements were used for the production of the Old Period: Three circular dies at Jammu, three rectangular dies at Srinagar, and three composite plates (one for Jammu, two for Srinagar). The Old Period is also thought of as the Watercolor Period, which is accurate enough but for Jammu’s use of oils in the final lap, from perhaps April 1877 into May 1878.

The ½-anna circular die is one of two brass handstamps that came into use at Jammu in March 1866. A third followed on their heels quickly, but possibly not in March itself. All were used with watercolor pigments during the 1866-1877 period and in oilcolors for the remaining time. Essays or proofs are not attested for any of the three circular dies (nor for the little Jammu plate, the fourth Jammu implement). It may be that the known die cutter of the Srinagar implements, a certain Rahat Ju, was not the engraver of the Jammu implements. That claim was made for the circular dies alone by Capt. Godfrey, who had come into possession of Rahat Ju’s workbook. The circular dies remained available for many years beyond 1878 for the unfortunate deluge of oilcolor reprints for collectors, and the dies were finally defaced in 1898, four years after the closing of the native posts. The currency symbols that appear at the center of the stamps are discussed on the Inscriptions page in the Decipherment section. Our letter code for this die is A.

The 1a is the middle partner of the triplet of circular dies that came into postal use at Jammu in the spring of 1866. Care is needed with the older literature because there was a widespread misconception that this die was meant to serve the 4-annas function, and that the third circular die was the real 1a. The matter was controversial in certain circles for more than a century. The engaging history and resolution of the matter is given in Staal’s text, pp 61-85. The Scott listing was corrected in the 1940s on account of the influence of Harrison Haverbeck and Winthrop Boggs on the American scene. The switch to the correct identifications was made in the Stanley Gibbons catalogue in the mid-1980s. Even up to recent years (perhaps even still?) Michel had the Katalog illustrations reversed though the stamp listing itself is correct—hardly the happy compromise. Our letter code for this die is B.

We do not have a date for the earliest attestation of the 4as circular die, which was to serve for the regular registration rate. It may have come onto the scene even weeks after the introduction of the two lower-denomination circulars in March 1866. Again, care is needed with the earlier literature because most early commentators took this die to be the 1-anna denomination. Our letter code for this die is C.

The first Kashmir die. The advent month of this implement is not known. Masson gives 3 Oct 1866 as an early sighting, but that cover (shown on the stamp page) is better dated to 23 September 1866. Reports of an anomalously early June 1866 advent may have been inspired from the piece displayed on Staal Plate 8, but the dating lines should read 1283 shahr-e 29 jomādi ol-avval ~ 9 October 1866, which happens now to be the earliest date cited so far of a plate black (next entry). The older literature erroneously reports the advent for the latter as occuring the following spring. The first Kashmir Die, alone of the implements disappeared early, presumably 1867, and does not figure in any of the later intrigues suffered by the others in the way of experiments or reprints. It was subject, however, to its share of forgery play. Our letter code for the first Kashmir die is D.

The first Kashmir composite plate consists of twenty half-anna subjects in the upper four rows, and a strip of five one-anna subjects along the bottom. After the initial print-runs in black for the entire plate, the ½a section was printed for many years in shades of blue and the lower 1a strip in a range of oranges. The older literature erroneously cites a spring 1867 advent (and demise) for the plate issues in black. At least three covers bearing a ½a plate-black in the October 1866 to February 1867 period have now been reported, though none yet in the 1a over this period. With the ongoing use of the ½a single-die black and the ½a circular black, we have the picture of three different half-blacks sharing postal duty over that first autumn and winter. Our letter codes for this plate are E for upper sector and F for lower strip.

The second Kashmir plate appeared in the summer of 1867, possibly as early as June. It consists of two strips of five, the upper being of ¼-anna and the lower of 2-annas. These values served for the special half-rate provision on regular and registered letters, respectively, which was accorded visiting Europeans to Srinagar, provided that such mail also carry the requisite British postage for crossing the border. The ¼a is found in black watercolor only, and is quite a common stamp unused, though rather scarce on cover. The 2as was done in shades of yellow, and is even more scarce on cover. Oil reprinting was done with the plate in both pre-repair and post-repair conditions of the plate. The repair involved driving four rivets into the plate along the central line separating the denominations. Our letter codes for this plate are G for upper strip and H for the lower.

The Jammu plate. Starting in the late summer of 1867, this composite plate became the primary production implement for Jammu, largely supplanting circulars except of course for the 4as function. The lower-left position in the block is 1a; the other three positions are ½a. As with the circulars, no essays or proofs of the Jammu plate are known; likewise the printing was done exclusively in watercolors on native paper to the summer of 1877, thenceforth in oilcolors on both native and European papers to May 1878. Stamps produced from this plate are generally scarcer in unused condition than they are in used. Reference: Tim Eames India Post 29 42 (1995). Our letter code for this plate (both denominations together) is J.

This, the second Kashmir single die, came into use in autumn 1867, quite possibly October, taking over the role of the 4as ultramarine circular at Srinagar for the registration function. No essays or proofs of this die are attested. After the first sharp printings in rare shades of green (myrtle and sage) this die had long employment in an arsenic-laced emerald-green. Reprinting in oils followed, including an odious ochre and a perfect purple. Our letter code for this die is K.

This was the third of the Kashmir single dies, and likely the last-carved of the handprinting implements. Late summer or early autumn 1867 is probably the consensus for its advent. This denomination is known postally only in a range of red watercolors. The handstamp was not found in the Pratap Singh Museum in 1981 by Messrs. Staal & Sharma, though the implement was defaced with the others in 1898. Postally used copies of this high denomination are scarcer than catalogue prices would suggest. Oilcolor reprinting was done in black, a variety of reds, and an ochre, of all things. Our letter code for this die is L.

We use tag I to represent the Iron-mine obliterator seal, which was used for the production of what the literature has oft taken to be a Jammu provisional in the late summer of 1877.


New Rectangular Period

New Rectangulars were in use from some unknown day in May 1878 to the end of the Native PO system on 1st November 1894. The geometry of the plates is shown here for orientation, and we make a few comments about each afterward.



The triplet of 3-wide plates have fractional denomination; the triplet of 4-wide plates have integral denomination. The composite 4as+8as plate, composed by a different artisan, contains a gutter row traversed by simulated perforation holes. The ⅛-anna plate was a late-comer to the party by some five years. The New Rectangular officials were done in black inks; all the plates so appear save the ⅛-anna.


It is likely that the ½-anna plate was the first carved and the first to see postal service. Séfi & Mortimer report that the earliest known example is a ½a red, rough perforated on thin wove paper. That is to say, if you look at the catalogue, not European laid paper. Our letter code for this plate is M.


A native quarter-anna would pay the matching rate on British postcards, which were introduced to the State in April 1880. That sum had also been the visitors’ half-rate for an outgoing letter from Srinagar carrying British postage. We recall the ¼a+2as Kashmir plate for the half-rate duty on regular and registered mail, but there was no analogue to this plate at Jammu in the old period. A preferential rate for Srinagar alone was bound to change. It is best to pick up the story from Staal’s account (p. 120), which was itself drawn from Garratt-Adams’ speculative reconstruction in Philatelic J. of India 51 48 (1947). It may be that Srinagar wanted in situ use of the ¼a new plate for its 1880 tourist season, and a few curious ¼ blue watercolors on bâtonné paper were evidently produced there with the plate still in its State I condition. Examples of these both used and unused can be seen in Lots 311-13 in the Sturton Sale catalogue, one of which is shown downscreen. All a bit of a fuss, however, for by the following spring all the printing implements at Jammu, old and new, were removed for good to Srinagar, so the tradition tells us, where the new plates soon assumed their State II conditions. Letter code N.


The integral values of the New Rectangular plates are four subjects wide, not the three of the fractionally-valued plates. The New Color theme for the 1-anna is green. Trying to organize a shade concordance among different lists is a bootless errand. For some of the material, the Gibbons Colour Guide is often at odds with its own catalogue. Some of the hues seemed to have changed over the many decades as well, but the old names have been retained. Our letter code is P.


As an integrally-denominated plate, this comes in the 4-wide format. The earliest dating we hear of for this is (curiously) the earliest of any New Rectangular so far, namely 10 May 1878: a pair of officials on horizontally laid paper on a registered cover Jammu to Amritsar (Lot #136 Eames Sale). Most most curious. Our letter code is Q.


The composite 4as+8as plate, being integral-valued, is of the four-wide type. The upper section contains the 4as, the bottom the 8as. The middle gutter is uncarved but for traversing spots that simulate perforation holes. The plate was clearly engraved by a different artisan. Our letter codes are R for the upper section, S for the lower.


There were no Jammu printings with this implement because this plate was not among the original set introduced in 1878. It appeared in 1883 at Srinagar to serve for the half-rate provision accorded visitors using the ¼a British India postcard. Such usage is scarce and commands a nice premium. The stamps are found more often in multiples on regular covers. The theme color was, so to speak, yellow. A unique specimen is reported in black, overprinted CANCELLED in red. This item, on thin white wove paper, can be seen on Plate 11 in Staal. A ⅛a yellow-brown gummed and clean perforate 12 on thin wove paper is sometimes mentioned, together with counterparts in the ½a orange-red and 1a greens. None of these special items is mentioned in Séfi & Mortimer. Our letter code is T.


The 12-plate

The so-called “unissued” ¼a plate of 12 subjects is traditionally included in the list. This plate, first reported in Europe in November 1886, was created for unknown reasons. The stamps occur in a broad range of paper and pigment; in fact a minor deluge of non-postal production appeared over a number of years, though some of it is scarce. Perhaps the implement entered life with high purpose (check out pp 121-22 in Staal for a couple of the theories) and then it somehow ‘went philatelic’ somewhere along the way. The plate was defaced with the other implements in 1898, a fact that has lent it some tacit legitimacy through association. In a contrary vote, we feel that these productions occupy the philatelic stature of the so-called ‘missing-die’ forgeries (a sentiment we lately discover was shared by Masson). Officials were on the track of the latter dies too for just such defacement. Both types are rumored to have successfully passed in the mails, and both types sometimes bear spurious cancels. Our letter code is U.


Summary of Printing Implements
Our TagPlate or DieDescriptionAdvent
A1st Jammu Die½a circularMar 1866
B2nd Jammu Die1a circularMar 1866
C3rd Jammu Die4as circularApr? 1866
D1st Kashmir Die½a rectangularSep? 1866
E1st Kashmir Plate½a rectangulars (20 in upper sector)Oct? 1866
F1st Kashmir Plate1a rectangulars (5 in bottom strip)Oct? 1866
G2nd Kashmir Plate¼a rectangulars (5 in top strip)Jun? 1867
H2nd Kashmir Plate2as rectangulars (5 in bottom strip)Jun? 1867
IIron-mine Sealas “½a”Sep? 1877
JJammu Plate½a+1a rectangulars (3+1)Aug? 1867
K2nd Kashmir Die4as rectangularOct? 1867
L3rd Kashmir Die8as rectangularOct? 1867
M1st New Plate½a (15 rectangulars)May 1878
N2nd New Plate¼a (15 rectangulars)May 1878
P3rd New Plate1a (20 rectangulars)May 1878
Q4th New Plate2as (20 rectangulars)May 1878
R5th New Plate4as (8 in upper sector)1879?
S5th New Plate8as (8 in lower sector)1879?
T6th New Plate⅛a (15 rectangulars)1883
U“Unissued” Plate¼a (12 rectangulars)1886?
ZPostcard¼a1883?

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