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The Jammu Oil-Circulars. (1877-78)

We now approach the Jammu issues of 1877-78, which were printed in true oil-pigments as distinct from the insoluble printers’-ink of the New Rectangulars of 1878-97.

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These Jammu printings were made from the Circular dies and also from the small rectangular plate, and the whole of them were, at this point, under suspicion in consequence of the disclosures of the Simons Controversy.

As regards the Jammu oil-rectangulars, which will be dealt with in the following chapter, it may be said at once that these are, with scarcely an exception, absolutely legitimate and completely unaffected by the irregularities connected with the Circulars, and it is to the latter only what follows must be taken to apply.

As regards these oil-circulars, we are confronted with a mass of facts, some of which tend to suggest that the whole issue was fraudulent, while others point in an entirely different direction. In the face of such conflicting evidence, the only possible way of dealing with this most difficult issue is to determine, by the amount of proved use, the status of each individual stamp. A reasonable amount of proved postal service must be the crucial test; for whereas it might be inadvisable to allow specific rank, on the strength of a single authentic used copy, to an impression whose origin is known to be, or suspected of being irregular, it would be even more misleading to deny such rank to stamps which could be proved to have done a considerable and even large amount of postal duty without of word of official protest, merely because they had been produced, in the first instance, without direct official authority.

Let us, therefore, briefly recapitulate the facts which appear to have been proved.

These, so far as they detract from the merits of the oil-ciculars, are:—

1. That they were produced by the printer without specific official authority, to meet applications from collectors and others, for obsolete watercolour circulars which the printer did his best to imitate in oils.

2. That Reprints (together with the Missing-die Forgeries of much later date) were subsequently offered for sale, as...

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...genuine government Remainders, by a responsible State-Agent.

3. That there had arisen no special reason why any paper, other than the normal native variety, should have been introduced in 1877-78, whereas, on the other hand, orders from abroad had demanded a “variety of papers.”

4. That Masson was, for a time, suspicious of the issue on European laid paper; and that Evans, at one period, almost entirely disbelieved in them.

Against this, and telling in favour of the issue, we have proof—

1. That the printer was never, at any period, under such strict supervision as prevails with the great postal administrations of the present day, but had a free hand to deal with any shortages by purchasing, in the open market, any colours or papers he considered suitable, and that such shortages commonly occurred at Jammu during 1877-78.

2. That the State was completely unaware, prior to 1898, of any irregularities having occurred.

3. That compaints had, in fact, been often made as to the non-adhesive quality of stamps on native paper, so that the introduction of European laid in 1877-78 may well have been perfectly legitimate, a supposition strongly supported by the continuance of this very paper for the earlier New Rectangulars to which no suspicion of unofficial origin ever attached, and

4. That the early views held by both Masson and Evans subsequently changed greatly in favour of the issue as a whole, while much of their early condemnation can now be proved groundless.

Masson, for instance, who never removed a stamp from its cover, was, up to the time of his death, quite unaware that his collection and large accumulation of supposed “duplicates,” contained a number of covers franked with oil-printed originals of 1877-78—both Circular and Rectangular—on these very European papers which he and Evans (who was very largely...

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...influenced by Masson’s views on this question)—regarded so favourably.

Evans, indeed, changed his original opinions to such an extent that in 1902 he argued (Ph. J. Ind., vol. VI., pp. 186) that, whatever the cause of these issues, they could not have been made for collectors, but for some more legitimate reason.

In attempting to reconcile such a conflict of opinions, we must first contrast the Darbari’s statement that “reprintings” commenced in 1874 with Bacon’s classification of the reprints. Bacon listed circular “reprints” as having been made at two widely different periods—1877 and 1886 respectively. For the Reprints on native paper he assigned no particular date, while the whole of his 1886 impressions are on thin wove paper. Both of these 1886 groups are, admittedly, composed of Reprints pure and simple.

But his list of 1877 impressions is made up exclusively of those on laid paper, and these, having been produced while the stamps were in issue, cannot—whatever their demerits—possibly be classified as Reprints at all. The whole of Bacon’s group is, in our opinion, composed of such printings alluded to by the Darbari, as had not yet been found in used condition. The reason why they have not been so found is that, with these particular impressions on laid paper, it happened that the printer finished his day’s work on completion of an order from abroad, so that little or no surplus remained for addition to the normal stock. If this is granted, it has also to be admitted that any of them may still be found used and, as it is impossible to classify them as “Reprints” they must be regarded as “Stamps not known used.”

The Darbari’s statement that reprinting commenced as early as 1874 must be contested. All Reprints are in oil-colour and there was no oil-printing at Jammu until 1877. Neither Bacon nor any other writer has ever suggested a reprint of so early a period. The explanation lies, no doubt, in the fact that the Darbari had satisfied himself, in his capacity of a State Official, that the introduction of new colours in 1874 in place of, or in addition to the officially standarised red, had been irregular, and that they must therefore have been...

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“reprints.” This watercolour series was, however, duly issued and used, so that the term employed by the Darbari merely amounts to a slip in philatelic terminology.

One of the greatest obstacles in determing the status of the oil-printed impressions lies in the fact that it was not until the early “eighties” that collectors and writers commenced to make separate classifications for stamps printed in watercolours and in oils respectively. The old philatelic records are therefore misleading and useless.

We therefore give, in tabular form, an analysis of all the oil-circulars examined by us, together with the inferences which should, in our opinion, be drawn from them. The material examined has been that contained in most of the known collections of any importance, and the figures given may, therefore, be accepted as relatively true to fact. The whole of the used specimens referred to have been those on original covers only, and some allowance may be made for the fact, since the true amount of actual use would be very considerably larger than these figures suggest.

As regards the two papers employed, we give, in the table of impressions on the native variety, a list of such Reprints as occur in the colours of originals, for reasons which will appear. The greater part, at least, of these were printed long after the originals had become obsolete.

The table dealing with the European laid paper includes no reprints, since, as we have suggested, these were all printed during the course of issue.

Oil Circulars on Native Paper
DenomColourUnused Used Reprints
½-Annablack1043757
1-Annablack005
4-Annasblack1?08
½-Annared263390
1-Annared15226
4-Annasred5050
½-Annaslate-blue15230
1-Annaslate-blue1620
4-Annasslate-blue200
½-Annasage-green790
1-Annasage-green10573
4-Annassage-green20130

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Taking originals first, it is obvious that three of the ½-Anna stamps may be admitted. A very considerable amount of postal duty was done by those in red and in black, while those in sage-green are less rare in used condition. The ½-Anna slate-blue also cannot be denied full status in view of three known authentic used specimens. At the time this table was drawn up, only a single unused copy was known to exist, but in July, 1931 we discovered no fewer than 151 in the celebrated “Lincoln” stock.

The 1-Anna black should, apparently, be rejected as having never existed, and those in the remaining colours retained as originals issued and used.

The 4-Annas in all four colours should, apparently, be rejected, since no authentic used copy is known of any of them. Their rarity unused, however, makes it exceedingly unlikely that they were ever “made for collectors” and should any of them be discovered genuinely used, they could be accorded full status. For the present we shall classify these and all other impressions of similar nature as “stamps not known used.”

We should, therefore, classify the oil-circulars on native paper:—

(a)  Known used:—
½-Anna — Red  :  Black  :  Slate-blue  :  Sage green.
1-Anna — Red : Slate-blue  :  Sage green.

(b)  Not Known used:—
The 4-Annas in all four colours.

The Reprints will be fully discussed in Chapter XV. As a rule no difficulty will be found in separating these owing to their much clearer impressions and thinner, more surfaced paper.

The sage-green reprints, alone, are difficult—often exceedingly so; but the great majority of originals shew very heavy blurred impressions on unusually rough paper.

The slate-blue stamps were, apparently, never reprinted.

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Oil Circulars on Laid Papers
DenomColourUnused Used 
½-Annablack7618
1-Annablack00
4-Annasblack00
½-Annared03
1-Annared80
4-Annasred75
½-Annaslate-blue296
1-Annaslate-blue242
4-Annasslate-blue32
½-Annasage-green××
1-Annasage-green××
4-Annassage-green70
½-Annayellow(50)?1
1-Annayellow××
4-Annasyellow××

In this table, stamps marked “×” have not, as yet, been found, although there are some slight grounds for believing that they may have been printed.

The ½-Anna should certainly be admitted in the first three colours, but rejected in sage-green. This denomination in yellow may, we think, be admitted on the strength of a single and unquestionably genuinely used copy on part of the original cover in the Masson collection. Considerable numbers of unused impressions are known on two or more distinct varieties of laid paper, with none of which have we been able to identify that of the used specimen with certainty. All of them were, no doubt, primarily made for collectors, but further used examples should be discovered.

Of the 1-Anna, the stamps in black and in red should be rejected for the present. This value is so comparatively common, when unused, in slate-blue, as to leave little doubt that most of them were primarily printed for collectors; but as two authentic used copies are known, it should, perhaps, be admitted.

The 4-Annas should be admitted in red and in slate-blue, but rejected in black. Of the sage-green only seven copies are known to us—all unused; it should be treated as “not known used” until an authentic used copy can be found, in which case it should be recognized, since it could not have been made for collectors.

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Our revised lists for oil-circulars on laid paper would, therefore, be—

(a)  Known used:—
½-Anna — Red  :  Black  :  Slate-blue  :  Yellow.
1-Anna — Slate-blue
4-Annas — Red  :  Slate-blue

(b)  Not Known used:—
1-Anna — Red
4-Annas — Sage-green

It will be convenient, at this point, to insert a table shewing the chronology of the Circular stamps before proceeding to examine them in detail.


The Chronology of the Circulars
JammuKashmir
3 circulars—½, 1, 4 Annas
Black, Blue, Royal Blue, Indigo watercolours on native paper.
1866As in Jammu.
1866 (end)½-Anna circular superseded by ½-Anna single-die Rectangular.
September, 1867. The Jammu Plate—supplementing, but not superseding the circulars. A Composite ½ + 1 Anna Plate, using the same watercolours (Black or Blue) and paper as in use for the circulars.1867(a) First rectangular Plate ½+1 Anna superseding 1-Anna circulars, and ½-Anna single-die Rectangular.
(b) 2nd Composite Plate—¼+2 Annas.
1867-8Two rectangular dies — 4 and 8 Annas superseding 4-Annas circular.
No circulars used in Jammu.1868These two plates and dies continued in the Kashmir Province, without change of watercolour or native paper, till superseded in 1878 by the New Rectangulars.
Plate again supplemented by circulars—all stamps printed in red watercolours (shades). 1869
Special printings—supplementing Red:— 1874-6
(a) Circulars only:— Black : Yellow watercolours 1874-6
(b) Circulars and rectangulars in Blue watercolours (new shades):— 1874-6
Blue-black watercolour. (4-Annas)
Emerald-green watercolour
1874-6
(a) Circulars in Black : Slate-blue : Sage-green : Yellow oilcolours on various papers. 1877-8
(b) Rectangulars in Black : Slate-blue-black oilcolours on various papers. 1877-8


Masson, in his Part II. (p. 2), analysed the final period more closely than is possible to shew clearly in tabular form, and we give the results of his analysis as follows:—

(a) The ½-Anna and 1-Anna Red oil-rectangulars superseded those in watercolour early in July 1877, and were used until late in January, 1878. The variety on European paper was used throughout the same period, but by far most frequently in October, 1877.

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(b) The ½, 1 and 4-Annas black oil-circulars, on both Native and European papers, were used rarely from July, 1877, side by side with the red rectangulars: from October they were more generally used, and in January, 1878, they entirely superseded the oil-rectangulars.

(Note:—The latter month should read February. Masson, in his last paragraph, admits black oil-rectangulars about the middle of January, and those in deep slate-blue occurred still later that month. We believe that Masson based this paragraph entirely on the ½-Anna black oil-circulars on covers in his collection, and his inclusion of the two higher values in black, does not alter our opinion, that both, on whatever paper, should, for the present, be excluded from our lists.)

(c) The ½, 1 and 4-Annas red oil-circulars also appeared occasionally from July, 1877, side by side with the main issue of red oil-rectangulars. In March, 1878, they superseded the black oil-circulars, and became the only stamps used in Jammu, until the introduction, in May, 1878, of the New Rectangulars. The three values on European paper appear to have been used only in April, 1878.

Masson, with the proviso that he had been able to examine few entires, adopted the two following conclusions—

(d) The bulk of the Blue ( = slate-blue) oil-circulars were used in February, March, and April, 1878—but some were used earlier—from August, 1877.

(Note.—Masson originally wrote “Green and Blue,” but subsequently noted that green had been written in error.)

(e) “The ½-Anna and 1-Anna black oil-rectangulars I have found used only for a few days, about the middle of January, 1878, when the black circular stamps were generally used.”

(Note.—Masson does not here mention the “Blue” i.e., Steel-blue-black oil-rectangular. His oil-black entires, however, included two unrecognised copies of this rarity. The difference between this shade and black is quite distinct and constant, though not very pronounced.)

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Although we have proposed to delete a number of circulars from our lists, until, at least, information as to adequate use can be obtained, we have already suggested one addition—a watercolour circular in orange. To this must now be added the following:—

April, 1878. Oilcolour on thick brownish wove or “sugar” paper.
½-Anna—Dull red. April, 1878

This stamp, which was first catalogued by us in 1930, forms an important addition to our lists, being the only record of a wove paper having been used for a circular stamp. The wove paper here employed differs greatly from the wove, which had been used, for the first time, some six months previously, for the red oil-rectangular, being much coarser in texture and browner in tone.

No unused copy of this rare stamp is known. The few known used copies are nearly all on entires, and the two earliest, (both from the Séfi collection) were dated April 16th and 17th, respectively. Masson classified a single entire in his collection, but four more were discovered among his “duplicates.” These bore dates from April 18th to 26th—representing, with the Séfi covers, a period of no more than 10 days. Of these seven covers, four had been despatched to Lun Miani, one to Chamal, and one to Amritsar, the square black-seal being, of course, the obliteration on all the stamps.

► Chapter V continued: The Dak Zaruri.

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