Shading: I know of no stamps that are more suitable than are those of Kashmir for either of these delightful ‘patience’ pastimes. Even the old circulars have many shades, especially in the reds and blues, as have also the early blue rectangulars. In the red old rectangulars of Jammu there are very many shades, from pale orange through orange-reds to scarlet and even cherry-red, the last being a prize.
But perhaps the stamp amonst the old rectangulars that lends itself best to shading is the 1a Srinagar: in my collection I have all shades, from the palest orange up to the darkest brown. The 4a green Srinagar stamp, too, was printed in very many shades. Coming to the 1878-83 issues there are many shades in the blue and mauve 1878 stamps, and in the red and orange stamps catalogued as of 1879. For the beginner the 1883-94 issues afford a practically unlimited field, with the great advantage that the stamps are moderately priced. Indeed the 1a green stamp, ranging from the palest yellow-green to the darkest olive, is quite a field in itself for the beginner.
Plating: There is a general impression that some knowledge of the vernacular is necessary to enable one to indulge in this pastime, as regards the stamps of Kashmir, but I hope I may be able to show that this is quite an erroneous idea. I myself have reconstructed almost every plate of Kashmir, yet I am practically ignorant of Urdu, except colloquially, and I do not know even the alphabet of the Dogra language. I have, however, found little difficulty in reconstructing the plates, by simply examining the prominent characters on each stamp, and noticing how they differ amonst themselves.
Jammu Plate: I would advise philatelists to begin with the Jammu old rectangular plate, for which at least the red stamps are moderately priced. Here the position of the 1a stamp (the lower left-hand corner one) is known, and only the three ½a stamps have to be placed.
As a rule, the margins will show the proper positions of each stamp, for a glance at the plate shows that each should have a slight margin on two edges and none on the other two. For stamps cut close on all sides, the next best test in ascertaining their proper positions on the plate is the lettering for the word ‘Kashmir,’ occupying the right upper half of the space between the oval lines. Looking at the plate from the right-hand side these characters resolve themselves into our EIUYE. In type No. 1 the I is taller than the E, and its head is bent back over the E; in type No. 2 both letters are the same height, and the I is not bent over; in type No. 4 the I is much taller than the E, and it is not only bent over the E but touches the inner oval line, while in the somewhat similar type No. 1 the character does not approach this line. From this it will be seen that the Jammu plate at least presents no difficulties.
The Srinagar plate, having more types, requires more careful examination, but here too differences will be easily detected in each type. Taking the lowest row first, which contains the five types of 1a stamp:
I would suggest the following tests. At the top of the inner oval, in each case, there is a long character across the oval, represnting ek ~ ‘one’, the three smaller characters above representing ana. The right upper limb of the former word, in the first type, points to the second Dogra letter above. In the second type it points between the first and second characters. In the third it points again to the second character, as in type No. 1, and a second test is necessary; this will be found in an inverted R near the centre of the lower edge of the rectangle, the left limb of which if prolonged would in type No. 1 pass between the star at the top of the oval and the first Dogra letter, whereas in type No. 2 it would pass through the star. In type No. 4 we have the additional test that this limb points to the third figure of 1923 (the lowest line in the oval), whereas in the third type it points between the third and fourth figures. With type No. 5 there can be no mistake, as the limb of ek points straight to the first Dogra letter.
In the tweeny types of ½a stamps similar differences can easily be found, e.g., the upper ten stamps are at once distinguised from the lower ten in the three dots at the position of 9 o’clock between the oval lines, which are in line with the Dogra letters within the oval in the former, and well above their line in the latter. I shall leave specialists to discover other differences for themselves on the various old rectangular plates.
New Rectangular Plating: To assist beginners, I will carefully examine one plate of the new rectangularssay the ½a. The first guide here is in the dots that appear within the inner oval on each stamp. The lowest line of the inscription, within this oval, reading from right to left, runs nim ana ~ half anna; the character resembling the top of a walking stick represents the former and the rest the latter. Now in the first six types on the plate three dots appear to the left, over the word ana, and the twelfth stamp also has these three dots.
Nos. 9 and 14 have only two dots in this position; Nos. 7, 8, 11 and 13 have only one dot there, and Nos. 10 and 15 have no dot at all. Here we at once have four separate varieties. The two types of dotless stamps are easily distinguished from one another, because No. 10 has two dots to the right of the walking-strick, where No. 15 has none. Coming next to the one-dot types we find that No. 11 has no dots to the right of the walking strick, while the other three have. We have now to separate Nos. 7, 8 and 13 from each other, and No. 8 at once shows two dots at the position of half-past two, where Nos. 7 and 13 have none. [...and so on. Some 50 lines of similar exciting epic is here omitted, ed.]