In early January we refreshed our stamp artwork frames in the permanent exhibition, this time focusing on stamp depictions of music.

Within the museum we exchange items on display not only to preserve material and prevent light damage but also to exhibit more gems from the collection. This January we changed our 4 stamp artwork frames from designs looking at the sky and sea to stamps celebrating music. Explore below some of the pieces on display.


The Sounds of Britain stamp issue was produced in 2006, depicting an eclectic range of instruments being played by individuals from different cultural groups. The designs show the musicians in near silhouette against a white background with dancers moving to the rhythm of the music.

42p, Sounds of Britain.
50p, Sounds of Britain.
72p, Sounds of Britain.
£1.19, Sounds of Britain.

Instruments were also central to the 1976 stamp issue British Cultural Traditions. These adopted (chosen for the final stamp) pieces of artwork by Marjorie Saynor show how the designs are built up in layers. The illustration sits underneath a plastic overlay with the printed value and caption.

Stamp artwork of a bagpipe player and a harpist with a value and caption.

11p & 13p, Stamp artwork by Majorie Saynor for British Cultural Traditions.


To celebrate 150 years since the birth of Arthur Sullivan a set of stamps was issued to commemorate the comic operas he produced with writer W.S. Gilbert. The below unadopted (not chosen for the final stamp) artwork of the opera The Gondoliers by Paul Cox depicts the actors on stage as people watch from the boxes and musicians play in the orchestra pit.

Stamp artwork of two figures on stage in a gondolier with people to the left and right in the theatre boxes and musicians in the ochestra pit.

26p The Gondoliers, Stamp Artwork by Paul Cox.

The issued designs were instead produced by Lynda Gray and feature images of characters from five operas: The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers, The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe.

5 stamps from the Gilbert and Sullivan stamp issue depicting characters from their operas.

Gilbert and Sullivan, Issued Stamps, 1992.


Two designs for stamps featuring singers. On the left men sing with a boars head and on the right a man and children sing with a lanturn.

Stamp Artwork by Faith Jaques for Christmas 1978.

Christmas is a time for music and song, in 1978 a stamp issue was produced depicting this activity. The above designs by Faith Jaques illustrate how people celebrated Christmas with music through the centuries. The 18th century carollers on the right wear contemporary dress holding aloft a lantern in mid song.

9p, Christmas 1978.
11p, Christmas 1978.
13p, Christmas 1978.

Christmas stamps often feature religious or biblical themes. Angels have been depicted playing musical instruments, as you can see here in Marco Ventura’s illustration of an angel captioned ‘Peace’ playing the trumpet.

Painting of an angel in a blue dress playing the trumpet. The word 'Peace' appears in front of the angel on a scroll.

Stamp artwork of Angel captioned ‘Peace’ by Marco Ventura.

Contemporary Music

In recent years Royal Mail have produced stamp issues that have celebrated British musicians or bands. The designs are produced digitally featuring images of recognisable albums, memorabilia and concerts. The below unadopted artwork for a set of stamps of The Beatles shows how memorabilia could have been used over a set of stamps.

Digital image of Beatles memorabilia across a set of stamps.

Unadopted artwork for The Beatles stamp set.

Classic album covers of British bands were later celebrated in 2010 exhibiting 10 separate designs. For this issue the perforations of the stamps were adapted to cut around the vinyl as it emerges from the sleeve.

Three stamps from the Classic Album Cover stamp sheet, featuring The Clash, Mike Oldfield and Led Zeppelin.

Snippet of Classic Album Covers Stamp Sheet, 2010.

We have many thousands of examples of stamp artwork in our collection. These designs offer a huge variety of themes to choose from and we hope to tell different stories by updating our stamp artwork frames regularly and showing highlights here on the blog. You can explore more of our stamp artwork online, by searching our online catalogue.

– Georgina Tomlinson (Deputy Curator Philately)

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