The Jammu Plate

WatercolorsOilcolors on Native PaperOilcolors on European Papers

A “composite plate.” The lower-left position in the block is 1a; the other three positions are ½a. Starting in the late summer of 1867, this plate became the primary production implement for Jammu, largely supplanting circulars except of course for the 4a function. 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 is J.

Watercolors on Native Paper

The ½a + 1a grey black watercolor on native paper. August 1867 is the earliest date we have encountered in the literature for the ½a (Lot 135 Sturton Sale). We do not know a latest date, but the issue is said to have lasted only a couple of weeks or so. The detail shown left comes from an external Jammu to Amritsar cover dated 27 bhādron 1924 ~ 10 September 1867 that bears neither British postage nor evidence of a postage-due penalty. As to the 1a denomination, only some half-dozen are now likely in collectors’ hands, the example seen above from the Hellrigl collection. The range of demeanor is disconcerting, especially given the limited period of production.

Of the early Jammu rectangulars in “blues,” catalogues distinguish a number of shades, notably indigo, deep violet-blue, and deep ultramarine. Eames adds deep blue (seen on a November 1867 cover) and a deep slate violet. Hellrigl adds a light ultramarine. These shades have counterparts in circulars (usually the 4a denomination). One or another is known postally used in Kashmir.

Above: One may take a digital sampling from different places on a stamp surface to produce a kind of spectrum of its color make-up. Each color strip here was produced from the stamp shown above it. Among the few samples at our disposal, we already find a range of shades that do not fit tidily into the received naming scheme. The last specimen on the right shows a decided greenish cast in daylight, where green is also understood to be part of the indigo idea. The third item in the series above came with a certificate vouching for its deep violet-blue character, which we readily accept, but its deeper tones are like those of the second item, which we have understood to be an safe indigo.

Above left: The 1a ultramarine watercolor Jammu rectangular on native paper. There is a spectrum of shades, from the ‘deep’ of the catalogue to a rather light variety. The example above lies somewhere in the middle of that range and tending perhaps toward the Eames blue. Right: The 1a indigo watercolor on native paper. Hellrigl’s both.

The 1a deep violet-blue watercolor from a February 1868 folded letter, ex Masson, and struck with the Jammu magenta seal.

The Jammu Reds. Covers for which the Jammu rectangular in any shade of red is cancelled with the magenta seal are extremely rare, the earliest being perhaps a ½a salmon-orange on a May 1868 cover. Eames India Post 29 42 (1995) distinguishes this early shade from a salmon-red known in the 1869-70 period. What is evidently a different salmon-red is noted by Garratt-Adams in Staal (p 98) as occurring uniquely between 1874-76. Most Jammu red watercolors are indeed attested from that late period.

Of the early reds, Dawson & Smythies speak of a “sort of brown-red, unusually clearly printed, and somewhat resembling an oil-colour.” We believe the cover shown above to be a likely example. The stamps bear the Jammu circular seal in black, extant between June 1868 and the spring of 1870, when the iron-mine obliterator came into use. This item is also the earliest postal attestation of any 4a red circular (for registration), and is a nice example of the color sharing that existed throughout the years between the rectangulars and the circulars, particularly in the 4-anna denomination. The cover, Jammu to Amritsar, is dated 6 māgh 1925 ~ 17 January 1869. Collection Hellrigl.

Above: The ½a salmon-red on native paper, 1869-70. As seen here on a January 1870 cover, it has a distinctive pinkish cast in daylight. By its dating alone, the obliteration would have to be the Jammu circle in the late black. The Jammu Iron Mine seal is not supposed to appear before spring. There are unlisted circulars of very much this pinky shade, but a bit later in the year to judge by the use of the iron-mine obliterator.

The ½a orange-red and ½a orange watercolors on native paper, beauties from the Faucitt collection. A rapid evolution from reds through scarcer red-orange hybrids to a purer strain of orange by 1872 was matched with contemporaneous counterparts in the 4a circular.

Another ½a orange on cover, August 1874 mailing Jammu to Amritsar (without British postage, hence the postage due). Collection Hellrigl. Unused copies of the 1a orange may not be attested, though the item is priced in Gibbons. There are examples of the Jammu block with the 1a specifically cut away and presumbably disposed of in some way. Postally used, only a couple on cover:

The preceding is a detail from an 1872 cover (month not known), Jammu to Lahore, ex Masson, Yardley. Collection Hellrigl.

The ½a scarlet watercolor on native paper. The earliest date we have recorded for this rectangular on cover is December 1873. It is shown above in company with a ½a circular of a very similar hue and cry, but which is not known in postal use. The latter may have been a color trial for the rectangular. There are close shades for both, some more orangey. And some, curiously enough, with a vague hint of blue to them.

The late printings. The earliest of this late period (also known as the Jammu Special Printings) may be the Prussian-blue watercolor on native paper currently in the Jaiswal collection. This anomalous shade is unlisted in Gibbons and is unattested in postally used condition.

The ½a + 1a black watercolors on native paper. Postally used, the 1a stamp may be at least as rare as unused copies. The preceding used example from the Hellrigl archive shows its late dating by the Jammu square black obliteration. Were it not for that it might well seem to be an example of the early grey-black, for it is not dark as implied by the catalog’s tag ‘jet-black’.

The 1a emerald watercolor on native paper. Catalogue prices notwithstanding, the ½a unused is reported to be rarer than the 1a unused, and the 1a used is the rarest of all (Dawson-Smythies p 14). Postally used, maybe a half-dozen on cover, known for April and May 1876 only. This example, from the Hellrigl archive, is a Jammu to Lun Miani postal stationery envelope mailed 21 April 1876. Another is dated 28 April, Jammu to Amritsar.

The 1a emerald watercolor on native paper. Perhaps a half-dozen attested in unused condtion. The famous full block is shown on the back of the Dawson sale catalogue. The scan above is a gem in the Hellrigl collection. Postally used, perhaps three or four, two of them on cover.

No yellow watercolor is attested for the Jammu plate (what a thought). It had been tried with the circulars and the stamp makers had evidently learned their lesson.

On left, the ½a dull carmine-red watercolor from a railway cover dated 20 September 1875. The second item, from our own collection, is a kindred shade in a rougher demeanor, including a darker paper. It is found on an assūj 1932 ~ September 1875 cover, which is to say, separated by only days from that of the first. Eames takes the pigment of this latter type (he calls it ‘lake’) to be distinct from, but “clearly related” to the carmine-reds (India Post 29 44, 1995). Claims for an April 1874 sighting might be queried on account of the lunar versus solar calendar confusion that occurs in the first half of that month, for it does seem precisely a year early. Staal reports something in a ½a ‘gray-brown’ watercolor; its dating, status, and whether there is association with these anomalous groups is here unknown, but such a thing might indeed fit the class.

These are Masson’s famous cherry-red watercolors (ref. Hellrigl) in both denominations. Unused copies have never surfaced in either denomination, so they belong to that rarified class of super-postals. Some collectors assume that these are the same as the carmine-reds mentioned before. One problem is that the items to which Masson refers were confined to the March to June period of 1876, some six to nine months later. Of the Masson stock, there were nine used copies in the ½a, and a single used copy off cover in the 1-anna denomination (above). Séfi reports that “these were the only stamps in Masson’s collection which he had specially protected with transparent paper, but, though this suggested that he valued them highly, he did not, beyond a casual allusion to a cherry-red stamp, include them in his classified lists.” And to this day the catalogues do not attend to them; the default orange entry in SG simply won’t do. The 1a was said to be unique on cover in Dawson & Smythies (p 13) but Eames reports yet another.

The shade shown here is much more like the sort of cherries we know in our part of the world, so we privately call it “cherry-juice,” an undated watercolor on native paper. This shade also matches the ‘carmine-red’ of the SG Colour Guide rather better than the accepted variety does. Indeed, few of the color designations of the catalogue are close to the reference swatches given by the Stanley Gibbons Colour Guide. By Jove, it’s high time that something were done about this one way or the other.

Above: Another indescribable shade in the ½a from an undated cover. The range of the SEALKOTE cds, however, suggests either August 1875 or August 1876, thus overlapping the whole of the preceding story, unfortunately. In sunlight and under a glass, the stamp reveals some affinity with the chemically darkened type that begin to show up by 1876, see next image. There are hints in these of the orange-vermilion class familiar in the Kashmir 1a rectangulars:

Above: An example of chemically darkened pigment, rather early as these come, this having appeared on a railroad cover dated 29 maghar 1932 ~ December 1875.

Above: This anomalous shade is terrifically orange in daylight, and not much like these late orange-vermilions, nor yet like the early oranges either. Whenever it may have been printed, I call it an orange. Well, okay, a weird sort of orange-vermilion.

Above: Moods of the 1a, dating here unknown. The first is remarkably soluble in a water test, and the paper is inordinately polished, giving almost a gummed appearance. In demeanor and spirit it is reminiscent of some of the 1a bright blues shown next. Darker moods appear from spring 1876 with shade counterparts in the 4a circular. The third item is a deep rose hue with a winey aspect, vintage unknown.

Above: Shades of the 1a bright blue watercolors on native paper, 1876. The ½a is a rare item indeed, but it is known on cover (see next). Of course everyone asks why virtually all the stock of the lower denomination was destroyed:

An extremely rare used example of the Jammu ½a bright blue. This detail is from a cover Jammu to Amritsar (with railway sorting at Umballa) dated 22 April 1876. Gem in the Hellrigl collection.

Oilcolors on Native Paper

The key reference is Eames India Post 29 88 1995. Apart from an anomalous black attested for a few days in January 1878, Jammu plate oilcolors come in a range of reds of sharply different hue and demeanor. One notes the absence of blues, yellows, and any shade of green (a mercy). They first appear (as do the oil circulars) from the summer of 1877, and remain in service to the spring of 1878, though infrequently after January of that year, circulars being favored for reasons we do not know. The first reds may have been in a vermilion-red shade (reported by Eames for June 1877) and this shade is also seen postally used in all three denominations of the circulars.

Something of the range of the Jammu ‘reds’ on native paper. Top row, the ½-anna and the 1-anna denominations. The example in the lower right is a detail from a cover dated 31 sāvan 1934 ~ 13 August 1877.

Black oilcolors are reported for only a few days in January 1878, a time of heavy use of the oilcolor black in the ½a circular. The ½a rectangular is known on perhaps a half dozen covers, none for the 1a. Séfi & Mortimer report four covers dated 17-20 January 1878 and there is a cover in the Hellrigl collection showing a delivery at Gurdarspur on 22 January.

The ½a grey-black oilcolor on native paper. The plate was in a clogged state when these were produced over a short period of time. This example is from the Lunn collection, ex Dawson Lot 293, ex Eames. As to the 1a denomination, the stamp attested in unused condition (none in the Hellrigl archive), and only four covers are known.

The ½a black-blue oilcolor on native paper, here on a 16 January 1878 Jammu to Lun Miani cover in the Hellrigl collection. This stamp is one of the great Jammu rarities, only four known. Another is pictured in Eames’ India Post 29 88 1995. The 1a may not be attested now. The stamp would seem to be of the blacks proper (same dating, same plate clogging) but a slight adulteration of blue pigment found its way into the black.

Other European Papers

In early October 1877, experimental printings on a variety of European papers were done over perhaps a three-week period, and thereafter printings on native paper resumed. Ref: Hellrigl exhibition.

The ½a red oilcolor on medium laid paper. One of some half-dozen covers known. Postally used, numbers have to elude, but it must be on the order of a half-dozen. There is the practical difficulty of telling paper types when the stamps are on cover. The scan above, from the Hellrigl archive, is dated 6 October 1877 (with the usual perplexing date conversion in Masson’s hand that puts the despatch after the delivery date). Dawson & Smythies (p 14) report that the 1a counterpart has never been seen although it must have been printed. An unused copy of the ½a was alluded to in the Haverbeck catalogue and a copy was offered in Sturton Lot 187. We do not know if these are the same item.

The ½a in a dull red oilcolor on a thick whitish wove paper. The preceding has proved to be a bit of a puzzle piece. One sees Masson’s notation attesting to its wove nature, which someone has amended in pencil to laid. (Indeed I have an untraceable note to the effect of vertically laid paper.) We notice, however, that it the item has be re-relabelled “thick wove” in the Hellrigl archive, the result of a subsequent rethinking of the matter. (See also Staal Plate 6.) As to copies of the stamp off-cover, three or four postally-used off-cover copies are said to be bouncing around. Thick paper and an even rarer medium paper has been distinguished, the latter possibly unique. Shade types in a distinctive brown-red oilcolor (of which the preceding may be an example?) were at one time listed separately in the Scott catalogue, but again a copy of the 1a had never been seen (ref. Boggs 1941).

The ½a red oilcolor on thick white woves in both denominations are shown on Staal Plate 6. The 1a is listed in SG unpriced. There is a ½a wove on a Jammu to Lun Miani cover dated 11 October 1877 at Behra.

The ½a red oilcolor on thin laid bâtonné paper listed in SG (postally used in the ½a and unused in the 1a). Three copies on the backs of two covers are mentioned in the Haverbeck Lots 1366 and 1367.

Transitionals or Reprints?

Any reprinting that may have occured was severely restricted for reasons unknown. Indeed, following Eames’ India Post 29 90 1995, could it be that what are designated as Jammu reprints in catalogues (specifically the items known as brown-red and steel-blue shown below) might be scarce color trials produced just before the retirement of the implement in May 1878? Suggestive of such early dating is that postally-used items from that month are found in what may be identical pigments (though they are not produced in nearly the same sharp fashion) as well as in what are kindred pigments, if somewhat thinned out, among the early New Rectangulars.

But it is the very sharpness and unmottled uniformity of the Jammu blocks that convinces other authorities that these items were produced late, possibly for collectors, though there are precious few of them. Séfi & Mortimer take them to be early reprints, assigning them to 1881. After all, if such fine production were possible during the experimental year, why do we find a regression to inferior printing technique for the late postal material. These sharp printings have parallels among the circulars. The brown-red circulars are seen on large pieces of native paper (9 cm tall) and one 4a is known gummed. Perhaps we have encountered some special presentation items. Whatever their status and date, these printings do form a notable subspecies of their own, and they are scarce.

Above: Examples of intact sheets are unknown; in fact the 1a in the blue shade seems to be non-existent and they may have been purposefully destroyed. The practice of cutting out the 1a subject (very carefully) is also known with certain of the postal items from the watercolor period. Ex Ferrari, ex Haverbeck Lot 1319.

Above, the 4a brown-red and steel blue oilcolors on native paper as sharply-printed non-postal items. The blue is printed somewhat more heavily than the Jammu block; still its tones are identical in the respective light and dark portions when inspected in daylight. The color match on the brown-red is not so good, this having a touch of the wine to it. Closer matches are seen however, and it comes also in the 1a denomination in a sharper printing (pictured in the Eames’ oilcolor article cited above).

Postal ‘analogues’ in starkly inferior printing, spring 1878. These shades executed on native paper are very close indeed to those of the Jammu blocks. The ½a brown-red circular is known only in postally used condition. Tim Eames records the 1a steel-blue on a cover from 20 May 1878, which is some 10 days after the first posting of a New Rectangular. This blue shade is also known unused in the ½a. If the sharply-printed Jammu blocks had already been produced at this time, why were the postal items, especially the blue, so much inferior in execution?

New Rectangular analogues? Though these are usually recorded as ink printings, these early issues on European laid paper have pigments that seem to be simply thinned-out versions of the oil pigments. In daylight the shades match quite well with the preceding in the thicker, darker splotches, but not so well in the thin regions.

Perhaps these four disparate pairings do not belong with each other conceptually.

To top of page