For reasons I cannot quite recall, we sometimes want to determine a stamp’s plate position. The item below is the best things we know for checking the 20 different plate varieties of the ½-anna portion of the first Kashmir plate. The item is the unique plate proof in watercolor, collection Hellrigl.
The bottom row of 1-anna subjects is repeated with a reprint strip. It is not really better than the preceding, but it may be informative in specific spots.
Non-postals are the best things for examining the second composite plate, the top ¼-anna row being in the form of a printer’s “proof” and the lower 2-annas row in the form of a reprint strip. Caution: the real stamps in watercolor do not have the rivet impressions in the top line.
The best thing for checking the plate positions of the Jammu plate is the following oilcolor item:
Four of the New Rectangular plates (¼a, 1a, 2a, 4a+8a) are traditionally divided into two starkly separated conditions known as “State I” and “State II,” the latter characterized by screw-head impressions in the margins of full sheets. The received story is that these appeared when the plates were rebedded after their removal from Jammu to Srinagar in 1881. The ⅛-anna plate (1883 Srinagar) never suffered such treatment, and its slightly evolving condition over time has somehow elicited little in the way of public fascination. It was meant for the visitors’ half-rate privilege on the ¼a postcard at Srinagar, but was little used. Images that can be used for plating the New Rectangular issues can be reached through these links:
This is an image taken from Masson II (Plate VI) of the ⅛a plate, the last of the issued stamps to have been engraved (in 1883 with the advent of the New Colors). As it had not been submitted to a bout of disbedding and rivet repair, it does not exhibit starkly different plate states. In any case, the turmeric-soaked impressions are seldom legible and the stamp was little used. There is an example of the complete plate, the ⅛a yellow on thin laid paper, on Staal plate 12.
We have no example of the ¼a plate in state I to show, that is, without the four screw repairs. There is an example in red on Staal Plate 12. An example in full sheet of SG112 in the laid paper is pictured in the Sturton Sale as Lot 278, and examples of sheets on medium wove were sold in Lots 295-6, all reds. Blues and blacks were not done at Jammu in this denomination.
Sometimes in heavier inkings, the empty screw-heads are filled in.
What follows are six scans that follow the history of the ½a plate. The account is more involved than that of the other (less heavily used) plates on account of a broken section along the top of the plate and by virtue of rivet impressions that come and go over the course of time.
Shown immediately below is a higher-resolution scan of State III that can be used for plating work. The older types are outlined afterward. When repairing rivets were driven into the plate, their heads evidently projected slightly above the plate surface. The ink-free annular regions around each head can be accounted for as a result of the heads depressing the paper surface during printing. Do see the discussion by G. Harell in India Post 39, 129-32 (2005).
Zeroth-order state. The ½a black aatercolor proof, perforated. We have reproduced here Séfi & Mortimer’s Plate 35, which shows what may be the earliest state of the plate. Certain rivet holes in the expected places are not wildly apparent (compare next scan).
State I. The earliest postal printing at Jammu is primarily characterized by the white crack line along the top of the plate that was evident in the preceding scan. Just above the crack line is an example of a rivet hole containing a well-executed rivet. Do keep an eye on the rivet sites at the lower-right corner, for it figures in the rest of the account.
State II. The upper segment of the plate above the erstwhile crack goes missing and so too a number of rivets, leaving holes. New rivets, not so well executed, have also been reintroduced into the four corners, evidently to re-bed the plate to a new base. These will again prove insufficient. Whether this repair work was actually done at Jammu on account of the crack problem or later at Srinagar is not obvious and the question will benefit from some fortuitous and eagle-eyed encounters with dated postal material. Séfi surmises that the missing segment at the top was removed at Jammu during the disbedding of the plate when it was being prepared for the removal to Srinagar. The four corner rivets were then added at Srinagar for the re-bedding.
State III (transitional). This state is characterized in particular by the clear rivet-presence in the lower right margin that was missing in State II and will go missing again in State III proper. This scan shows that this rivet somehow caused the paper to tear when the sheet was removed from the plate surface. Perhaps this or some other nuisance about this rivet was deemed trouble enough to warrant its forthwith removal. A number of new rivets have been added, giving it the essential State III characteristics. The quality of the work has continued to deteriorate in accord with cosmic rule.
Three views of the lower-right rivet position. The middle scan, taken from Plate 31 of Séfi & Mortimer, shows a curious example of the State III situation. It shows a printing of the ½-anna plate in tandem with a State II 1-anna plate (as indicated by the screw head impression in the floral margin). The existence of this image in Séfi & Mortimer was fortuitous, for it revealed the existence of the brief transitional condition of the plate to collectors. We do not know why those authors did not ascribe to it autonomous plate-state status. Our fifth image shows what happened next, plate-state III proper:
State III (proper). Notice that the rivet in the lower-right corner is gone (again), leaving a hole in that position, as in State II. This scan shows the condition of the plate in the late period, an impression on the thin laid paper (>1887). This plate state is by far the most commonly seen, and was printed in black on smooth, thin, white paper in large quanities in the late period. What was the advent date of this plate state? Dawson-Smythies affirm that the characteristics are seen from early 1884. Earlier appearance?
State IV. The defaced state. A black and white scan of one of the Staal-Sharma purple-ink impressions made in August 1981. This impression shows that the rivets could indeed be removed successfully, returning the margins of the plate essentially to State II conditions, apart from the four corner rivets, which are now also missing.
While we are at it, there are a couple of other curiosities of the ½a plate. On a freshly-cleaned plate one may see a style of so-called “Maltese” cross in the left margin, just beside subject 4. Though it does show up on some rather early State I sheets (and thus, visible or not, on all later states) we do not know if it is a feature from the absolute beginning of the half-anna production. Brighton forgeries of this plate, which come in ½a brown-lake and scarlet on medium wove paper, are said to show the cross very clearly—too clearly and too large in fact, all in evidence of an ill-conceived modification of the plate by the forgers. We have never seen an example.
Some authors refer to the disfiguring scratches as seen above in the left scan. Such are in variable evidence depending on the heaviness of the impression and on how well the plate had been cleaned. Shown here are early and late plate states showing the phantom scratches. In heavy inkings even the cross may not appear.
Numbers are scraped in the margin of this corner example. You will discover that an attempt to inscribe numbers with this appearance on sheets today will fail. One concludes that the operation was done at the time of printing when the ink was still wet. But no actual etching of the plate ever took place the way it had been for the cross.
We have no example in state I of the plate with border showing. There are examples in full sheet on laid paper and medium wove paper (SG106 and SG119) shown in the Sturton Sale Lots 270 and 297, respectively. Another example on the rare thick wove paper can be seen in Staal Plate 13. Again, all reds.
The Urdū bālā that occupies the rivet positions at the top of the integral-denominated sheets means just that: “top” of sheet. What follows is State II of the 1-anna plate:
State I of the 2a black on the early laid paper, 1878. It is one of three or four known in the full sheet. The original, ex Masson, can be seen on our two-annas page.
This is state II of the plate in the 2a black on thin wove paper. There is a paper-makers’ control oval embossment of the small elephant in the upper-right corner.
As to state I of the 4a+8a composite plate, only severed examples are known in reds dating from late 1879. No official black and no issues in any shade of blue are attested from this early period. State IIs are shown for both denominations in the two scans following, set rotated so as not to extend beyond the screen width.
A ¼a connected to a partial impression from the 1a plate, inverted. This topic is dealt with in ► Séfi & Mortimer. It is important to realize that the examples shown in that work are reconstructions: the twinned stamps were not actually present in full, but only partially, as in the example above (which, by the way, is a configuration not mentioned by those authors.)
One way to facilitate the New Rectangular plating is to have charts recording the
number of ‘Persian dots’ in the central oval. Families
of reasonable size are thus established within which further discriminations can be done.
For example, the figure left shows the number of such dots in the 2as-plate.
The implements were officially defaced in Feb 1898 to curtail the abuses that were obviously in store otherwise. The original proofs of defacement exist for all but the ½a Kashmir single die, and includes the 12-plate. There are also the modern Staal-Sharma restrikes of 1981, done in black and purple inks with the original implements.