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By the late 1960's Special Issues stamps tended to be printed on the reel fed
Thrissell or Woods presses, or sheet fed on the Rembrandt press. In 1969 the
first Special Issues to be printed in offset litho were produced with the printing
being carried out by De La Rue using their patented Delacryl process.
This was a Reel fed press with five gravure print units plus a flexography
attachment used for applying phosphors bands (if the five gravure units
were used for the colours). It could take full width cylinders and so
produce double pane printings of 2x120 special issue stamps. In the
case of double pane printings, these would typically be engraved side
by side. The primary print unit would have produced the punched out
perforation guide holes. In the case of special issues, the press produced
sheeted output for the period in question. Usage examples :-
This was a four colour Offset Litho Sheet fed press with two printing
units. Each printing unit took two printing plates for different colours
set-off on two blanket cylinders which, in turn, used a common impression
The press was installed at De La Rue's Gateshead printing works circa
This was a manually Sheet fed perforator typically perforating some
five sheets at a time. It could be configured to take various comb blocks.
The simplest being a single row - single pane width comb to the two
row - double pane width comb. Two feed methods were available :-
Sheets were placed onto the feed table engaging the pinning points
via the set of large perforation guide holes in the sheet side margins.
The feed table was then manually advanced to the perforating unit
where delivery grippers took over and so releasing the feed table
for the next batch of sheets. The batch of sheets was then automatically
stepped through the perforating comb.
Sheets were placed onto the feed table with the sidelay edge of the
sheet abutting the fed edge. The feed table was then manually advanced
to the perforating unit where delivery grippers held the batch of
sheets while they were automatically stepped through the perforating
This type of perforator was the main stay for perforation during the
1960's - Harrison operated many of these - a room full. While providing
a good quality of perforation they were slow and labour intensive -
contemporary photos show each machine was operated by two (sometimes
Autotron scanning marks were used by all the reel fed presses in use
by Harrison. Each print unit had a Autotron scanning head that controlled
the colour to colour registration with ajoining print units. If loss of
registration was detected the print unit would temporally disengage ,
typically this would occur for two to three rows/columns and is one reason
for missing colours. The Autotron Scanners were on movable bars allowing
them to be positioned to meet the requirement of any configuration.
In the early sixties they tend to be stippled lines, however, the solid
bar is the standard form, they can appear in the horizontal margins side
by side (top or bottom margin of sheets) or in the vertical margins one
below the other (left, middle or right margin of sheets) .
Colour registration marks consist of hairline crosses (one axis being
elongated) superimposed for each colour. In the cases where two passes
through the press were required, these will probably occur in two sets.
They tend to be located in the four corners of the sheet - typically in
the top and bottom margins for sheet fed printings while they occur in
the left and right margins for reel fed printings. In the 4d Flowers block
below, two sets of Colour Registration Marks occur above and below columns
1 and 2 (left side) and also columns 5 and 6 (right side).
Coloured Crosses are a feature that are found on sheet fed printing,
each colour is represented by a separate side by side colour cross. They
appear on the margin edge and so part of the cross will be trimmed off.
One group will appear at the top of the sheet and one at the bottom. In
the 4d Flowers block below, the Colour Crosses occur above and below columns
3 and 4 (centrally) . Note the difference between these and the Colour
Registration Marks (see the larger block of 4d Flowers above).
Harrison had a room full of perforators - mainly manufactured by Grover
, in order to handle the volume of the postage stamps being printing.
The 1960's saw the advent of the trading stamp and a boom in there usage.
To address this volume requirement the 'Lawnmower' was developed which
was fine for the trading stamp but was not giving the quality needed
for security stamp products. It wasn't until the late 1960's that the
'Lawnmower' had been sufficiently refined to be used for postage stamps.
Two feed types of perforator were employed :-
Some five sheets at a time were manually placed onto the perforators
lay table engaging pinning points by way of the perforation guide
holes. The lay table was then advanced to the perforating unit
where delivery grippers took over and so released the feed table
for the next batch of sheets. Note - this is why its possible
to find extraneous perf holes the fed margin which should normally
clean - imperf margin. The majority of these types of perforators
at Harrison were manufactured by Grover.
Some five sheets were manually placed up against a lay edge on
the perforators feed table. The table was then pushed forward for
grippers to hold the paper while being stepped though the perforating
comb head. Again, these were Grover perforators.
Both the Thrissell and Woods presses did not have integral perforators and
so they would have used a sheeter attachment after printing to produce
imperforated cut sheets. In order to achieve perforation register one of the
print units on the printing press (the key colour cylinder) would have
produced punched out perforation guide holes. These were subsequently
used for 'pinning points' when placed on the perforators feed table.
Single Pane printings horizontal bottom fed - in both the left and
right side margins (typically adjacent to rows 14/15 for sheets of 120)
examples : 1963 Red Cross 1/3 and 1/6
Double Pane printings - in the left hand margin of the 'no dot' sheet
and right hand margin of the 'dot' sheet side margins (typically adjacent
to rows 14/15) examples : 1968 Anniversaries 4d TUC.
All the Harrison reel fed printing presses had security sheet numbering
units. They were crashed stamped in black as the web passed through the
press and were a function of the printing press with individual characteristics.
There were two units per press, when set up correctly the same number
would have been printed by both units for a given pane. They do not appear
in a set position in the side margins, although having said this, they
will generally appear in a consistent position for a given print run.
These have tended to be ignored, but they are an important source of information
, indeed they can be used to directly tie specific printings to a press.
This press could use full width cylinders - double panes producing
side by side sheets - size 2x120 special issue stamps. Typically, the
sheet serial numbers appear in the left hand margin of the 'no dot'
sheet and the right hand margin of the 'dot' sheet. In the case of single
pane printings they appear in the opposite margins e.g 1967 4d British
Inventions. Note - the sheet numbers 'read down' in both the left and
right hand margins (with Inverted printings this is reversed - sheet
numbers 'read up' as is the case below).
This press used full size double height cylinders - double pane sheets
were arranged one above another - an example is 2x120 special issue
stamps but various sizes were used. Typically, the sheet serial numbers
appear in both the left and the right hand margins of the each sheet.
e.g 1970 5d Anniversaries below. Note - the left hand margin number
'reads up' while the right hand margin number 'reads down' .
All special issues were Harrison printed in photogravure unless stated otherwise.
A key is provided at the bottom of document explaining the column information
and abbreviations used in the following tables.