Illustrations bring stories and characters to life, and some of the best become stamps. Assistant Curator Georgina chooses her favourites...

Illustration is a visual representation of the written word. They are in their own right fine pieces of art and many original book illustrations sell well at auction. Over the years these original images has been used in numerous stamp designs to appreciate the skill of the individuals behind them.

‘The Railway Series’ was a set of stories produced by Reverend Wilbert Awdry for his son based on their love of the railway. In total he wrote 26 short stories between 1945 and 1972 documenting the lives of these little engines. His stories were illustrated by numerous artists though the below miniature sheet from 2011 looks at the work of C.Reginal Dalby and John T.Kenny. Awdry produced models for the illustrators to use to help produce accurate engines.

A miniature sheet depicting four stamps with illustrations from the original Thomas the Tank Engine Books.

Thomas the Tank Engine, Miniature Sheet, 2011

Quentin Blake the illustrator behind Road Dahl’s books has appeared on many stamp issues. To me his images are what I think of when talking about Dahl’s books. The presentation pack below looks at some of his most well known stories such as; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. Quentin admits to working on the most difficult part of a piece first, such as an expression, rather than producing numerous complete images until he’s happy. His lasting contribution to Children’s illustration led him to be awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 2002.

Roald Dahl, Presentation Pack, 2012 beside 19 & 30p, 150th anniversary of ‘A Christmas Carole’, 1993

Winnie-the-Pooh is the story of Christopher Robin’s teddy bear and friends. The original story was published in 1926 followed by The House of Pooh Corner in 1928. Both of these stories were illustrated by E.H.Shepard whose work is depicted on the stamps below. Shepard donated 300 of his preliminary sketches to the Victoria and Albert Museum many of which were exhibited at their show in 1969. He was also known for his illustrations of Kenneth Grahame’s story ‘The Wind and the Willows’.

Children’s Books – Winnie The Pooh, Stamp Set, 2010

Some of the most recent stamps to have been released by Royal Mail are a set celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter. Potter is one of the most recognisable children’s books authors who also illustrated her stories. She wrote over 20 children’s tales beginning with The Tale of Peter Rabbit one of her most iconic characters. Many of her images were based on or took inspiration from real animals and those she kept as pets. Her characters are true to life whilst still radiating human emotions.

Beatrix Potter, Stamp Set, 2016

The stories of Paddington Bear were written by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. Starting in 1958 there have been over 20 stories of the adventures of Paddington and his love of marmalade. The below smiler sheet depicts Peggy Fortnum’s images of a bear doing human things. Fortnum was also known to answer fan mail with a small sketch of the famous bear.

A smiler sheet depicting illustrations of Paddington Bear by Peggy Fortnum in colour and without.

Animal Tales, Paddington Bear Smiler Sheet, 2006

The below miniature sheet from the 2012 Charles Dickens stamp issue depicts the illustrations of Habort Knight Brown, better know as Phiz. Phiz illustrated 10 of Dickens books over 23 years. Due to their collaborative work Phiz and Dickens became good friends and even traveled together. He produced his images by etching into steel plates rather than copper which allowed for sharper line and a greater yield of reproductions.

A miniature sheet depicting four illustrations by Harbot Knight Brown of Charles Dickens stories.

Charles Dickens, Miniature Sheet, 2012

2004 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. The stamps issued depict illustrations of locations in the book interestingly designed by Tolkien himself, except the map which was designed by his son Christopher. Tolkien used illustrations to help him capture scenes into words. He also used maps to track where his characters were within his world at a given time.

A First Day Cover with ten stamps depicting illustrations of locations in the fiction story The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien, First Day Cover, 2004

Through these illustrations stories are brought to life and we begin to see characters. The skillful craftsmanship behind these images must be recognised as well as the stories they tell. For many of these stories narrative and illustration go hand in hand. I hope to see more stamps in the future display some of our best loved stories.

-Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)