Book Review by David Wilson (published in the BWISC Bulletin)
Jointly published by The Royal Philatelic Society London and the BWISC (2017). ISBN 978-0-900631-83-6
In previous years, many collectors of Bahamas issues - like me - turned to Harold Gisburn’s definitive volume (The Postage Stamps and Postal History of the Bahamas) to identify and research the contents of their collection. Gisburn however suffered from two significant disadvantages, namely that his colour plates were converted to black-and-white images in the printed book, and the book’s publication in 1950 preceded most of the major writings on Bahamas varieties, errors and forgeries.
The publication of Peter Fernbank’s book serves to bring the body of learning up to date with the major bonus of including spectacular colour plates of every significant issue and its varieties. The advantages of colour are evident immediately in the extensive treatment of the QV Chalon Heads, contributed by Chris Harman, where the different shades of the 1d, 4d and 6d – as listed in Gibbons plus unlisted others – are set out together to allow the collector a compare-and-contrast analysis.
Here and elsewhere, Peter’s own research among the De La Rue and Crown Agents’ records allows the reader to consider the printing dates and quantities as a further identification aid. The book benefits from the integration of elements from many specialist collections and auction offerings to show the development of issues from essays to proof materials and colour trials.
The Queens Staircase chapters are especially comprehensive and satisfying, exploring the design history and describing the changes which took place in the Vignette and Duty Plates during the numerous printings. Building on the earlier works of Morris Ludington, the book shows many examples of the scratches and retouches that allow us to position the stamps from the printing of the early vignette plates.
The War Tax chapter incorporates the latest learning regarding the forgeries of supposed overprint errors, which has developed from papers published over the last 10 years. Peter includes major sections on sheet numbering across the Bahamas issues, identifying fonts and sizings to assist the identification process.
Much has been written over the years on the Landfall of Columbus overprints and the unique characteristics of the overprint at each position on the sheet. As contributed by Roger West, these varieties are all illustrated in enlarged colour to allow a complete analysis of any individual stamp. The book concludes with chapters covering all the remaining issues up to 1970, plus Bahamas Postal Stationery contributed by Keith Hanman.
As to omissions, Peter’s focus on the stamps of the Bahamas means that there is no description of the early pre-adhesive handstamps and postal markings. And for anyone who might retain an interest in Bahamas’ ill-fated Undersea Sea Floor Post Office, they may wish to keep a copy of Gisburn on their shelves.
In all other respects, Peter’s book is an unqualified success in providing the complete reference guide to everything a Bahamas collector will encounter.