Saturday, 25 June 2016

Marie-Noelle Goffin

Marie-Noelle Goffin began her training at the age of 19 at the School of Fine Arts in Rouen. She spent four years there from 1954-1958. After this she continued her studies, deciding to specialise in engraving. In 1962 she received a National Engraving Diploma, which earned her a scholarship to study for a year at the School of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. Marie-Noelle then went on to teach at the school of Fine Arts in Lilie for 26 years as a Professor of drawing and engraving. She has also worked for the French Post since 1976. Marie-Noelle is also vice-president of the World Academy of Philately.

On 11 October 1976 the first Marie-Noelle Goffin stamp was issued in France. The subject of the stamp was Theirs, a commune in the Puy-de-Dôme department in Auvergne in central France. As mentioned above the stamp was designed by Goffin, and it was engraved by Eugène Lacaque.  The design is fantastic.


In 1977 Goffin designed and engraved her first stamp for France, showcasing the Collegiate Dorat. It was part of a set of six tourism stamps.


Over the years Goffin has engraved some 70 odd stamps for France and several for the French Colonies. Her engravings are bright, crisp, and full of life. It is really nice to see engravers such as Goffin prolonging the life of the declining art of stamp engraving. She is continuing to delight engraved stamp collectors in a style that well fits the modern era of philately.

France 1955 - Saint-Simon

Louis de Rouvroy, also known as Duke of Saint-Simon, was a French soldier, diplomat and a noted diarist. He was born 16 January 1675. Saint-Simon began his career in the military, but this was not where his heart lie. After serving in the military for some ten years, he retired in 1702 his commission against his father's wishes, and he ensconced himself into the intrigues of court life. 

Saint-Simon now spent his time writing, recording as much of the juicy gossip around him as he could manage to put to paper. Apparently he was incredibly prolific in his note-taking. It is worth noting that during his lifetime, Saint-Simon's writing did not achieve much notoriety. But posthumously he has achieved great literary fame. Critics over time have discovered he had great narrative skill and he was very talented in building quite complex characters. His work has been compared to the historical writings of Tacitus and Livy. Additionally, he can be credited for turning the word 'intellectual' into a noun, and he is possibly the creator of words such as 'patriot' and 'publicity'. Saint-Simon died 2 March 1755.


On 7 February 1955, France issued a stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint-Simon. This stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.

I particularly like the colour choice of of this striking portrait. The dark background serves to highlight the intricate detail of Saint-Simon's hair. The clothing has also been superbly rendered. In conclusion, an excellent portrait of a truly fascinating character.

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

I Muse...On Display Conundrums

As my new France stamp sets slowly trickle in, I am faced with an ever increasing conundrum. The thing that perplexes me is this: how do I sort and display my engraved stamps?

As regular readers of my blogs will know, I am an avid collector of all things Albert Decaris. In fact, it was in the course of building my Decaris collection that I became more and more aware of many other supremely talented French stamp engravers out there. By simply collecting Decaris I didn't have any display conundrums rattling about in my brain. But, now that I have expanded my engraver collection to include all French engravers, I am unsure how to proceed.

As I see it I have two options:-
  1. Display my French stamps by date of issue/year, thus mixing a bunch of engravers on one hagner page.
  2. Display my stamps chronologically by engraver. 
Both options have pros and cons, hence the dilemma. If I were to choose option 1 I would need to dismantle my Decaris collection in order to insert stamps in their relative positions. It would also probably, over time, minimise the number of hagners required to house the collection.

Option 2 has, in my mind, several pros. One of which is that, by having all the stamps by one particular engraver set out in chronological order, I may then be able to study the changes and/or improvements in the engraver's style. This is something I really like to do. Also, perhaps a bit less importantly, this option would actually enable me to keep all my Decaris stamps as they are. Additionally, not all French stamps are engraved, especially as the years tick on. Therefore, the French year sets would actually not be full year sets. This is also, I guess, a consideration.

So what to do? In all honesty I have not found a solution yet. At present I have all my new stamps in their relevant years and I have left my Decaris collection as is for now. Ultimately, I guess whatever choice I make is not exactly irreversible, but I'd definitely prefer to choose the best solution for me the first time round - if possible.

How do you display your engraved stamps?

Until next time...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

I Received...Another Engraved Cover

I mentioned in a previous blog that I have started buying up French year sets where possible to flesh out my French engravers collection. Well, another set arrived in the mail the other day, locked inside a rather cool cover with two engraved stamps affixed. Just ignore the hideous third stamp (hideous to me, anyway).

Here is a closer look at the stamps.

The stamp on the left was issued by France on 8 December 1980. It is a semi-postal with a Red Cross surcharge. It was designed and engraved by Michel Monvoison. The stamp depicts filling the granaries of the Cathedral of Amiens. 

The stamp on the right was issued by France on 14 December 1970. It is also a semi-postal with a Red Cross surcharge. This stamp was designed and engraved by the prolific Pierre Gandon. It depicts a fresco at Chateau of Dissay (I think) in Dissay, a town in the department of Vienna, France. I haven't fully researched this stamp yet, so the details may be wrong.

Until next time...

Sunday, 19 June 2016

France 1974 - TGV Turbo train

The TGV 001 (Train Grande Vitesse 001) was an experimental high-speed railway train built in France. This train was the very first TGV prototype. The prototype was commissioned in 1969, and testing of the train began in 1972.

The TGV 001 was part of a vast research program studying high speed rail technology. The program covered all technical aspects of the train, such as traction, behaviour of the vehicle on the tracks, braking, aerodynamics, and signalling. The initial plan was to construct two TGV's , but in the end only one was produced. According to Wikipedia, "The second was to be a tilting train equipped with an active tilting system, but was abandoned owing to technical difficulties".

The TGV 001 was unique, design-wise. It utilised an experimental gas turbine-electric locomotive. This system proved very effective. It managed to break the land speed record for a railed vehicle, achieving 318 kilometres per hour. It fact, it broke the 300 kilometre per hour barrier some 175 times! 

After the oil crisis of 1973, the cost of oil skyrocketed. This increase made gas-powered trains - like the TGV - no longer economically feasible. Testing on the TGV officially concluded on 19 July 1978.


On 2 September 1974, France issued a stamp commemorating the TGV 001 experimental train. The stamp was designed and engraved by Claude Haley. It was printed in Rotary Intaglio in three colours.

I'm not usually much of a fan of trains on stamps, but I really like the way Haley has conveyed a sense of speed in this image. The curved lines of air whoosing over the locomotive and the slightly blurred features on the nose of the train combine to create a sense of power and speed. Overall, a great design.

Until next time...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

France 1974 - Sea Rescue

The National Society for Sea Rescue (Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer) or SNSM, is a French voluntary organisation that was created in 1967. The purpose of this organisation is to provide a sea rescue service encompassing the entire French coast. The service also extends to the French territories. 


On 29 April 1974 France issued a stamp to commemorate the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. The stamp was designed by Roger Chapelet, and it was engraved by Claude Durrens.

This stunning design brings to life the inherent dangers faced by a sea rescue crew. The rescue vessel has been vividly captured ploughing through rough seas perhaps returning home after rescuing stranded sailors from a ship (top left) that is badly listing, perhaps about to sink. I love the urgent energy conveyed in this stamp. Additionally, I think the waves have been beautifully rendered by Durrens.

Until next time...

Thursday, 16 June 2016

France 1954 - Metric System

The origins of the metric system can be traced back to 1799 during the French Revolution. Fed up with the existing units of measurement, the French Republic implemented a new decimal system based on the kilogram and the metre. Initially, the system didn't last. France reverted back to their old system in 1812. But then in 1837 it was once again adopted by France, and this time it stuck.

In order to maintain this system internationally, three controlling bodies were set up in 1875 in France:-
  1. The International Committee for Weights and Measures (French: Comité international des poids et mesures- CIPM). 
  2. International Bureau of Weights and Measures (French: Bureau international des poids et mesures - BIPM). 
  3. The General Conference on Weights and Measures (French: Conférence générale des poids et mesures - CGPM)
On 6 October 1954 France issued a stamp to commemorate the 10th General Conference on Weights and Measures (number 3 on the list above). The stamp was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.

This beautiful stamp depicts the Angel of the French Republic measuring a meridian arc across the earth. Decaris has captured the far-reaching impact of the metric system in a profound way. Stunning!

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

France 1973 - Moliere

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his stage name Molière, was born in Paris on 15 January 1622. Moliere was a French playwright and actor. In fact, he can be considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. Some of his best known works are The MisanthropeThe School for WivesTartuffeThe MiserThe Imaginary Invalid, and The Bourgeois Gentleman. Moliere died on 17 February 1673.


On 22 October 1973 France issued a stamp to commemorate 300th Anniversary of the death of Moliere. The stamp was designed and engraved by Jacques Derrey.

This fun and frisky stamp depicts Moliere dressed in costume as Sganarelle. Sganarelle was a character from a Moliere play entitled, The Imaginary Cuckold (Sganarelle, ou Le Cocu Imaginaire). 

Until next time...

Saturday, 11 June 2016

France 1974 - The Pfister house in Colmar

In 1974, the 47th Congress of the Federation of French philatelic societies was held in Colmar, the third-largest commune of the Alsace region in north-eastern France. The city is home to some amazing architecture, an example of which will be seen in a moment. The city is also on the Alsatian Wine Route, and it is considered to be the "capital of Alsatian wine".

To celebrate the Congress of the Federation of French philatelic societies, France issued a truly stunning stamp on 3 June 1974. First Day Covers were produced with a 1 June date. The stamp was designed and engraved by Eugene Lacque. And what an incredible result he achieved! 

The stamp depicts Pfister house. The detail in this stamp is exquisite. The architectural details are clear and crisp, and the addition of people meandering on the street adds a sense of life to the overall composition.

Pfister house was built in 1537 for Ludwig Scherer. Scherer was a successful money trader, in it was in this capacity that he managed to become very wealthy. Wealthy enough to have commissioned such a beautiful house.

The house is a lovely example of renaissance architecture, drawing upon medieval styles. The foremost corner of the building that can be seen in the above image is known as a corner oriel. The building also features an octagonal turret to the left on the image, and a beautiful wooden gallery (verandah). The name, Pfiser house, comes from the family who lived in the building from 1841 to 1892 and in that time, they lovingly restored it to what we see today.

Until next time... 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

France 1953 - Publishing & Bookbinding

On 6 May 1954 France issued a set of five stamps to celebrate French artistic industry. One of the stamps really captures my imagination. It is the 30f value stamp, which pays homage to publishing and bookbinding. This stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon. And it is fabulous.

There are two focal points to this stamp. Standing in the shadows in the background is the Institute de France, which was established on 25 October 1795 by the French Government. In the foreground we see a pile of nicely bound books. One book is open, revealing a lovely illumination within. Below is a close-up of the open book.

The combination of the dark, enigmatic building brooding in the background and the stack of books packed with mysteries of their own, sitting and waiting to be read, to reveal their secrets, makes this stamp both charming and loaded with intrigue. This is a definite favourite in my burgeoning collection of books and printing on stamps.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

**I Muse...On Year Sets

What is the most cost effective way to get started on a collection of French engravers? Especially when you consider the sheer volume of stamps within said collection, since we are not only talking about the stamps of France but also her many colonies. This is the question I started pondering a few weeks ago when I made the decision to build a French stamp engravers collection. 

Obviously there's no easy answer to this. Building such a large collection is an immense challenge, and a very rewarding one. So back to the question: where does one start? The answer to this depends very much on the collector. My personal preference is to opt for year sets. My reason for doing it this way is threefold. Firstly, it is often a cheaper method, especially if you collect your stamps through a bidding site or a dealer to whom you have to add postage to the cost. Postage costs can add a lot of extra money to your purchases. Secondly, a lot of France year sets, especially in the years before litho took centre stage, were predominantly engraved stamps, so value for money is excellent. Lastly (but by no means least), it's quite frankly loads of fun to get a large batch of stamps in the mail to sort through. And that's what this whole collecting caper is for me. Fun!

With the primary method for building my collection sorted, I then considered where to start. Truthfully, the answer to this came rather spontaneously. I happened to spot an engraved stamp issued in 1974 that I quite liked, so I searched for 1974 year sets on ebay. I found a seller who had many different year sets available, all for around $10-15. I quickly grabbed the first three sets I saw. 1974, 1978, and 1979.

I got all three sets for just over $30. There are roughly 40 stamps per year, which works out at about 0.25c a stamp! Not a bad deal. This is why I go for year sets as often as I am able.

These three year sets just arrived in the mail. So the next few days will be spent - very happily - sorting them. And planning future blog posts for them. How much more value can one get?

Until next time...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

I Received...A Nice Engraved Combo

I have to confess that when it comes to covers I receive in the mail, I'm a bit of a hoarder. I tend to keep everything, whether I'm interested in the stamps or not. Consequently, I end up with large stacks of covers that, from time to time, need to be sorted into keepers and discards. Last night I decided to go through one of my stacks and I was pleasantly surprised to find a few covers from France with engraved stamps affixed. So I thought I'd share some of the stamps I've found in a few blogs. 

The stamps below have been cut away from the rather large and ugly cover so I can store them more easily.

The stamp on the left is from a set of four Red Cross stamps celebrating the four seasons issued in France on 30 November 1974. It was engraved by Cecilie Guillame, a female engraver who engraved 37 stamps for France. The stamp on the right is from the 2009 Marianne definitive series issued in France on 28 February. It was designed and engraved by Yves Beaujard.


Let's take a closer look at the Red Cross stamp without the postmark. The subject of this delightful stamp is Ete, which is French for Summer. It features children playing on a beach, while in the distance a sail boat rides the waves. I love the colour choices in this stamp.

Until next time...

Monaco 1944 - Saint Devota

Sometime around 283 AD, a girl was born at Mariana in Corsica.The girl's name was Devota. Devota grew up as an ordinary girl, working as a servant in the household of senator Eutychius. Her only desire in life was to devote herself totally to the service of God. As part of her service to God, Devota decided to remain a virgin. Then in 303 AD her life was thrown into chaos when Emperor Diocletian launched the most severe Christian Persecution the Roman Empire had ever seen.  

Devota's death warrant arrived by ship in the form of a man named Barbarus. Barbarus led a fleet of ships to Corsica, and upon landing set about purging the land of Christians. Of course, it didn't take long for Barbarus to discover that a prominent senator had one of those hated Christians in his service. Barbarus demanded that Devota be handed over to him. But to his credit, Eutychius refused. Outraged by Eutychius' defiance, Barabarus arranged to have him poisoned. 

Devota was promptly taken into custody. She was imprisoned and tortured. Horrendous things were done to her. Her mouth was crushed and then she was dragged over rocky, brambles before eventually being stoned to death. The cruelty of these acts and Devota's bravery made her a martyr to her people. The local governor was horrified by this so he sought to have her body burned before it could be further venerated. 

In what must have been a daring and clandestine mission, the Christians managed to secret Devota's body away, saving it from the flames. Hidden in a boat bound for Africa, her body was escorted by three men: the boat's pilot Gratianus (Graziano); a priest, Benedict (Benenato); and his deacon, Apollinaris. These brave men hoped that Devota would receive a proper Christian burial in Africa. Unfortunately, Devota's woes did not end with her death. A terrible storm overtook the boat, threatening to consign it to the cold depths of the ocean. Then a dove suddenly appeared and guided the boat to safety to present-day Les Gaumates, a principality of Monaco. After this Devota became known as Saint Devota. So says the legend, anyway!


On 7 December 1944, Monaco issued a set of nine semi-postal stamps commemorating Saint Devota. This blog will focus on the high value stamp, featuring the legend of the ocean journey of Devota's body. The stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon.

The stamp is a true masterpiece, packed with details of the legend. First, we see the boat battling against the high seas of a terrible storm. Inside the boat, the three men who escorted her body are working to keep the boat under control. Interestingly, there are also two women on the boat. Perhaps they were the ones who stole the body? And above the boat, we flies the miracle dove, guiding the body of Saint Devota and her brave rescuers to safety.

Until next time...

France 1953 - French Theatre

Over the course of five months in 1953, France issued a stunning set of stamps celebrating French Literature and Theatre. The set is also a celebration of three highly talented French engravers. In this set we not only see the beauty of each engraver's subject, but the different interpretations of the art of engraving.


The fantastic creative adventure began on the 27 May with the giant, Gargantua. The stamp was designed and engraved by Henry Cheffer. 

Written in the 16th century by the talented author, François Rabelais, The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel, was a set of five novels, chronicling the adventures of two giants, Gargantua and his son Pantagruel. Those of you who are readers of my Decaris Crazy blog may recall that I did a post studying France's 1950 François Rabelais stamp, designed and engraved by Albert Decaris. If you  have not already read it or would like to take another look, click HERE 


On 8 June the second stamp in the series was issued. The focus of this stamp is the play Hermani by Victor Hugo. The stamp was designed and engraved by Robert Cami.

Hermani is a drama set in a fictitious version of the Spanish court of 1519. Romance and intrigue abound in this classic love triangle story.  Three men, all in love with the same woman, vie for her attentions. One can easily imagine the chaos that ensued. On the 25 February 1830, the play opened in Paris. The play is probably now best remembered for the fights and demonstrations that erupted on the night of its première. On  a positive note, the play inspired Verdi to create his opera, Ernani.


Issued on 21 September was a stunning stamp focusing on Moliere's The Misanthrope. The stamp was engraved by René Cottet. It was designed by Robert Cami. This collaboration resulted in a visually sumptuous stamp. Just look at the detail in the costume!

The Misanthrope or Cantankerous Lover was written in the 17th Century by Molière. The play was a comedy of manners written  in verse. It premièred on 4 June 1666 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, Paris. It was performed by the King's Players. The play ridicules the hypocritical nature of French aristocratic society, but on a deeper level, it also suggests that all humans in one way or another possess similar character flaws. Interestingly, the play was somewhat of a box office flop at the time, but it now considered Molière's best known work.


Also issued 21 September was a charming stamp focusing on The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais. This stamp is the second stamp in this set engraved by Henry Cheffer. It was designed by Andrew Spitz.

The Marriage of Figaro was written in 1778 by Pierre Beaumarchais. Structured as a comedy in five acts, the play is the second in the Figaro trilogy. It was preceded by The Barber of Seville and followed by The Guilty Mother. The play featured another one of those classic love triangles. In this story we have a girl, a rich baron, and a barber (Figaro). The play premièred at the Théâtre Français on 27 April 1784. From its opening night it was a huge success. It continued to run for 68 consecutive performances, and it became the biggest box office hit of the 18th Century. Apparently the theatre was so crowded on opening night three people were crushed to death.

Until next time...

France 1982 - Jules Verne

“The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the Living Infinite. ”
― Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

On 8 February 1828 one of the greatest science-fiction writers ever to put ink to parchment was born. His name was Jules Gabriel Verne. He was born on a small artificial island called Île Feydeau within the town of Nantes on the Loire River. His father, Pierre Verne, was a lawyer and he expected his son to follow in his footsteps. But it became very clear early in Verne's life that he had little interest in such a vocation. While studying to be a lawyer in Paris, Verne frequently indulged in his passion for writing and theatre by composing several plays. Even though he spent a great deal of time writing plays, poems, and stories, Jules Verne graduated from his law studies in 1851.

It was in the same year, 1851, that Jules Verne met a fellow writer from his home town of Nantes, Pierre-Michel-François Chevalier. Chevalier was the editor-in-chief of the magazine Musée des familles (The Family Museum). He was a great admirer of Verne's research skills and attention to detail. Inspired by Chevalier's interest in his work, Verne wrote and submitted a short historical adventure story The First Ships of the Mexican Navy. It was published in July 1851. A second short story A Voyage in a balloon was published in the next month's August issue. This second story was later described by Verne as...
"...the first indication of the line of novel that I was destined to follow."
As far as writing goes, destiny was very kind to Jules Verne. He wrote over 70 novels and numerous stories, poems and plays. And he is the second-most translated author on the planet behind Agatha Christie. 


On 22 November 1982 France issued a beautiful set of two semi-postal Red Cross stamps celebrating the amazing stories of Jules Verne. Both stamps were designed and engraved by Pierre Becquet.

The first stamp has a 1,60f face value with a 0,30f surcharge. It features the novel Five Weeks in a Balloon.

Five Weeks in a Balloon was first published in 1863. The novel follows Dr. Samuel Ferguson, a scholar and explorer, who, accompanied by his manservant Joe, and his friend, professional hunter, Richard "Dick" Kennedy, sets out in a balloon filled with hydrogen on a journey across the African continent, which at that point was still in parts unexplored.


The second stamp has a 1,80f face value with a 0,40f surcharge.  It features the novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was originally serialised from March 1869 through June 1870 in the magazine Magasin d’Éducation et de Récréation. The story features Captain Nemo, which is Latin for 'Nobody', and his steam-powered submarine Nautilus. 

Until next time...

Friday, 3 June 2016

France 1954 - Abbey of Saint Philibert

Created in 1953, the International Centre for Romance Studies (Le Centre International d'Etudes Romanes) is located in Tournus, Burgundy, France. It is commonly known by the acronym CIER. The aim of the centre is to promote the study of Romanesque Art through exhibitions, study tours, and conferences and other activities. It is also dedicated to the preservation of the local monuments of Tournus, such as the Abbey of Saint Philibert, and the St. Lawrence church.


On 20 June 1954, France issued a stamp to commemorate the establishment of the CIER. The stamp has a value of 30f. It was designed and engraved by Albert Decaris.

This stamp is beautifully designed. It features a Romanesque column in the foreground, while in the background stands the lovely Abbey of Saint Philibert. This striking church was once a Benedictine Abbey. It was founded in 875 by Benedictine monks who were fleeing Viking raids on the community on Noirmoutier. They carried with them holy relics of Saint Philibert of Jumièges.. The building that survives today was designed in the Romanesque style of Burgundy.

Until next time...

Stay Decaris Crazy!