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 ...
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...
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 ..
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 further reference see also
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