COGH 1861 Triangulars Woodblocks

From Stamps of the World


  • Date of Issue : 1861
  • Engraving : C.J. Roberts
  • Printer : Saul Solomon - Cape Town
  • Printed from Stereotyped Plates
  • Paper : Laid

1d Vermilion
1d Carmine
1d Brick Red
4d Pale Milky Blue
4d Pale Grey-Blue
4d Pale Bright Blue
4d Deep Bright Blue
4d Blue

Error of Colour

1d Pale Milky Blue
1d Pale Bright Blue
4d Carmine
4d Vermilion

Retouched Right Corner

Close-Up of Retouch
4d Pale Milky Blue
4d Pale Bright Blue


Cape of Good Hope 'Woodblocks' - Part I

The first stamps of the Cape of Good Hope were printed in the shape of triangles. These stamps were in use from 1853 to 1865. They are very interesting stamps and prized by collectors. Two of the stamp varieties issued were the result of a bureaucratic mess created when some paperwork was displaced. These stamps came to be known as the 'woodblocks.'

COGH 1861 Article 01.jpg

The Postmaster-General made it a practice to have a reserve supply of stamps good for two years at the Capetown Treasury since the Cape of Good Hope was so far from the source of supply, Perkins, Bacon, & Co., in England. Early in 1860, the reserves were found to be low and, accordingly, an order for 1,200,000 1d. and 1,440,000 4d. stamps was sent to London.

On June 15 1860 the stamps arrived at the Cape. Although there were papers with the shipment, the Bill of Lading had been lost. As a result, the stamps were held by the Union Steamship Co. in the Queen's Warehouse at Capetown. Postal officials forgot all about the shipment.

Meanwhile the imminent shortage of stamps became a crisis. On February 7 1861 the Postmaster-General reported to the Government that unless something were done, he would only be able to accept money in lieu of affixing stamps which would be illegal. The Attorney-General agreed and suggested that an order for new stamps be placed with a local printer.

The Government printers, Saul Solomon & Co., were instructed to print and deliver the stamps as quickly as possible. The design was to be the same as the other triangles. Charles Julius Roberts engraved the steel dies and the printing was carried out by stereotyping as Saul Solomon & Co. had recently installed the equipment for that process.

Stereotyping involved making a mould of plaster of paris or similar material from an original die. This mould, or matrix, is filled with a thin layer of molten type-metal and allowed to harden. The cast type-metal was then glued to strawboard and then affixed to wooden bases. The entire assembly was the same depth as type so that such 'cuts' could be assembled in the printer's chase along with type. Printing was accomplished by inking the surface of the type or cut and impressing it on the paper.

The first stamps to be printed were the 4d. which were more urgently required. A 'plate' or block of 24 was assembled and sent to the press. During the process a number of the stereotypes were damaged or retouched. This gives rise to some interesting varieties. The stamps were printed on unwatermarked laid paper with the first delivery of 150 sheets on Saturday, February 23, 1861. It is believed that the stamps were put on sale that day. On the following Tuesday, an additional supply of 850 sheets was delivered for a total of 24,000 stamps. The 4d. was printed in blue which varied from a milky shade to a bright blue for the various printings.

Cape of Good Hope 'Woodblocks' - Part II

Meanwhile, work continued on the 1d. The block for this stamp was assembled in a group of 64 and printed twice on each sheet so that a full sheet comprised 128 stamps. A small supply was delivered February 27. By March 7, 100,352 stamps in 789 sheets had been delivered. The 1d. was printed in red ranging in shade from vermilion to carmine.

COGH 1861 Article 02.jpg

During the time the 1d. block was being assembled work proceeded on preparing a new block of 64 of the 4d. The 4d. original block of 24 was dismantled and some of the stereos found to be in good condition were included in the new block.

Further, the two blocks got mixed up so that one 4d. stereo was included in the assembly of the 1d. block and one 1d. stereo was included in the 4d. block. This was the source of the color errors listed for these stamps. Stamps printed from these blocks were delivered on March 9 and March 14. 597 4d. sheets with 1,194 color errors were delivered in the additional 76,416 stamps delivered. The 1d. deliveries included 1,568 4d. color errors.

In April, a further printing was ordered at which time Saul Solomon & Co. corrected the color errors and replaced some damaged stereos. These new blocks were used to print an additional 24,960 1d. stamps and 12,480 4d. stamps. The 4d. sheets apparently only had one impression of the 64 subject block in this printing.

By this time a letter arrived from England and the cases with the normal stamps were removed from the warehouse ending the need for further reprintings of the 'woodblocks.' The blocks were rearranged one more time in a block of 62 of the 1d. and 63 of the 4d. These were placed in the Treasury vaults. They were discovered in June, 1882. In 1883, 195 sheets of each value were reprinted in order to comply with requests for specimens from several UPU countries. The reprint colors are much deeper than those of the issued stamps.

The appearance of the 'woodblocks' was so primitive that, when letters bearing them arrived in England, officials of the General Post Office in London thought they were forgeries. In November, 1861, a letter was sent to the Colonial Office asking whether there was any foundation for this suspicion. Finally, in February, 1862, a letter from the Governor at Capetown arrived to explain the true nature of these stamps.

Article Source : (excerpted by Jim Watson from the work of the Williams brothers.)