The Maltese Cross

     The design for a cancellation stamp, commony refered to as the Maltese Cross, was only introduced after a number of preliminary experiments.

Use of the Maltese Cross cancellation

     The use of the Maltese cross cancelation commenced with the introduction of the Penny Black and Two Pence Blue in May 1840. In most reference sources it is stated that the cancellation is found on the early plates numbered 1 to 45, (Plates 1 to 11 being used for the Penny Black), and that the later of these plates, (40 - 45), are rare. Whilst this is correct and the presence of the Maltese cross is a good indication that the plate was put to press before 1845, there are as always exceptions to the rule and there are known examples from later plates.

     The ingredients for the cancelling ink were .....

     1 lb of printers red ink
     1 pint of linseed oil
     1/2 pint of the droppings of sweet oil
     All to be well mixed.

     From this it is obvious that the componants used would vary in quantity. The human element in mixing would provide additional variety and the age of the mixture would add further to the diversity. Climatic conditions, (particularly damp), cause further variations.

     Another aspect which the collector must not overlook is the mistake of the clerk stricking the wrong pad. Black was normally used for the date stamp applied to the cover. When this was struck in error then used on the correct colour after we get shades of reddish-black. (A brownish colour of confused hue).

     The use in red continued in use upto February 1841 when black ink was introduced. Occasionally red cancellations are found after this date probably due to error on the part of the clerk or the absence of black ink.

     Black ink was used experimentally in the London District Post from the 31st August 1840 until the end of November and these can only be identified on dated covers. Impresions are also known struck in black in error during 1840 and those known are as follows ...

Black Impressions struck in error

  1. Aberdeen .. September 1840
  2. Canterbury .. September 1840
  3. Chester .. October 1840
  4. Chesterfield .. July 1840
  5. Glasgow .. July 1840
  6. Jersey .. November 1840
  7. Leamington .. January 1841
  8. Leek .. December 1840
  9. Minehead .. October 1840
  10. Perth .. October 1840
  11. Pitlochrie (Port Patrick - Scotland) .. October 1840

     A travelling salesman in Scotland was responcible for the acquisition, (by local postmasters), of coloured ink pads from which the various shades of magenta and violet impresions were made. Some of these are listed below but this is but no means a complette listing...

Scottish distinctive shades

  1. Aberdeen .. ruby
  2. Aberdeen .. brilliant magenta
  3. Fintry .. brilliant magenta
  4. Glasgow .. purple
  5. Newton - Stewart .. purple - maroon
  6. Stonehaven .. violet

     Other abnornal colours, (or the use of the date stamp colours), are due to the continuance in use of old ink mixtures. Again the more prominant ones are listed ..

Other Impressions struck in error

  1. Epsom .. maroon
  2. Horsham .. yellow
  3. Kensington .. brown
  4. Lancaster .. blue
  5. Liverpool .. bright - orange
  6. Manchester .. vivid red - brown
  7. Mullingar .. blue
  8. Ormskirk .. pink
  9. Preston .. blue
  10. St. Columb .. green
  11. Truro .. blue
  12. Wadebridge .. magenta

Red Impressions struck on Red Stamps

     The use of the red cancellation on the Penny Red stamps is rare. The largest known multiple of this usage is a strip of four.

For first time users we would recommend reading the sections in the order presented

  1. The four basic types of cross
  2. Scotland distinctive crosses
  3. Ireland distinctive crosses
  4. England distinctive crosses
  5. London distinctive crosses

For further reference see also

  1. The Tallan collection of Penny Black postage stamps
  2. The Tallan collection of Two Pence Blue postage stamps
  3. The I T Pickering collection of Maltese Cross postmarks
  4. The Penny Black illustraded guide
  5. The Two Pence Blue illustrated guide
  6. The VR official Penny Black illustrated guide
  7. The numbered maltese crosses of the London chief office

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