Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Jeffery Matthews and the Regionals

This is more information from the articles in Gibbons Stamp Monthly about the work of Jeffery Matthews.

This story relates to the value tablet and the removal of the currency symbol “p”.

In 1993, Parliament passed the latest in a series of Welsh Language Acts. (The first law relating to language in Wales was passed in 1535, for those of you who are keeping track.) This new law specified that all public organizations providing services to the public in Wales had to treat Welsh and English on an equal basis.

Taking some time to deliberate how this would affect postage stamps, Royal Mail decided a few years later that having just a “p” for “pence” on its Welsh stamps would violate the act. (I shouldn’t imply that Royal Mail was procrastinating. Perhaps it took some time for the specifics of the law to be determined, as often happens here in the US.)

The Welsh equivalent to pence is “ceiniog,” (pronounced “kane-yog” according to Google). If the currency indicator were retained, it might have to include both a “p” and a “c”, perhaps something like “p/c”. (Comments about how this would be politically correct will be deleted.)

Instead, Royal Mail decided to eliminate the currency symbol altogether. After all, that had been done on commemoratives starting in 1989, and the mail-using public had survived.

As we all know, Jeffery Matthews developed the typeface used for the value tablet in the Machins since the mid-1980s. He also did the layout for the value tablet for all the new denominations as they were required. For example, when a 37p Machin was planned, he did the layout of “37p” and provided it to the printers. That way, the correct alignment and spacing were maintained. (He continued to do this until his retirement.)

Starting with the 1997 issues, Matthews provided a layout for the Welsh regionals that did not include a currency symbol. Pictured above is the se-tenant block of regionals from the 75th Anniversary of the BBC prestige booklet issued on September 23, 1997. The Welsh regionals are in the middle row. You can see that not only did he remove the currency symbol, he also moved the numerals slightly to the right so that they were better centered.

This format was used for all Welsh regionals issued that year, in sheets and prestige booklet panes. However, it didn’t last long. In 1999, the Machin versions of Welsh regionals were replaced with pictorials, and these were all designed without currency indicators.

There were rumors at the time that the currency symbol might be removed from all the Machins, following in the footsteps of the commemoratives. The SGM article confirms that Matthews was asked to develop layouts for the national Machins that did not include the “p”.

As we all know, that change never happened, and the original design has been retained. Perhaps that’s too bad; it might have been nice to simplify the elegant design even further.

Speaking of pictorial regionals, Matthews had some involvement with them as well. He did some initial work on developing a border for pictorial regionals. He did some layouts with the Queen’s cameo, value numerals and regional symbol along one side with space for a pictorial image as the main design element. That format was not developed further.

As the designs for the Scottish regionals were being developed, Matthews was asked in 1998 to work with Tayburn Design on the stamps that featured the Scottish Lion and the Thistle. The images were clay sculptures, and Matthews did the layouts showing how they would appear on the stamps with the Queen’s cameo and denomination. Those layouts were used to guide the photography of the sculptures.


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