Report of the Meeting, November 3, 2012
PRESENT: Fifteen members and one visitor were present; apologies for absence were received from four members.

Members were treated to a very special display by Keith Pogson (ESC 130), who magically turned the Third Issue of 1872-75, which is absolutely acknowledged as Egypt's worst-produced issue of stamps, into a glittering exhibition of research treasures. In something over 200 sheets, masterfully handled by his wife Kay, he managed to explain the intricacies of the printing, the reasons for such a poor performance by the printers, the infinite number of varieties and flaws that made the daunting task of plating the panes rather easier than it might otherwise have been - and topped it all off with a section of Third Issue postal history items that led to more delight and discussion than in many a long year at our meetings.

Keith opened his talk by apologising that he was dealing with only seven stamps - and Egypt's worst production, at that, described by Dr Byam as "a very inferior semi reproduction of the superseded Second Issue". But he quickly explained that when the typography equipment at the National Press in Boulac proved inadequate to print sufficient quantities, the lithography process was pressed into service to supplement production of the 20-para and 1-piastre stamps initially. And with two systems running side by side, the pattern was set for something akin to chaos.

Not only that, but the printers soon found that certain pigments, and particularly the vermilion used for the 1pi, reacted with the copper printing face, damaging the design. This resulted in many of the stereos having to be taken apart for cleaning - and not always put back the right way up, resulting in many examples of tęte-bęche settings.

As well as printing flaws, there were several other faults: dampening the paper to ensure a secure impression resulted in distortions when it dried unevenly; the two single-line perforation machines required careful handling if double-perfs, or imperf columns, were to be avoided. They weren't. And sometimes the same perforator was used both horizontally and vertically, leading, for instance, to the first printing of the high-value 5-piastre being 13 1/3 all round. On top of that, broken teeth brought even more varieties.

Letter from Port Said to London, May 5 1877, with tęte-bęche pair of the typograph 10 paras (12 ˝ X 13 ?) of the 1874 issue and 1pi of the 1875 issue making the 1pi 20pa foreign letter rate from July 1 1875. Tęte-bęche stamps are found only in setting B. Ex Fikry

The meeting heard of major research carried out by our former chairman, Major E L G "Mac" Macarthur, in the wake of Byam, Boulad, Chaftar, Gougas and Smith among others, in plating the 20-para, and Keith paid full tribute to Mac's work and explained the honour he felt in being able to continue and expand it. But it was Mac who completed the plating, leading to the intriguing concept of "married couples", that is, identical flaws on both typographed and lithographed stamps because the lithographic stones were copied from transfers taken from the typo formes before they were used to print the typo stamps.

Even more astonishingly, Mac ended up with 201 different images for his 200-stamp pane. It was six years before the explanation was realised - that the original stereo for position 117 had a badly blown frame and eventually had to be replaced. Hence, two stamps for position 117.

Keith showed several examples of the 5-para and 10-para provisional surcharges, brought about not by a lack of stamps at those values but because the new 1875 UPU regulations deprived the 2 ˝ piastre value of its use. The surcharge was the last printing at Boulac: the Fourth Issue went to De La Rue in London, and stamp printing did not return to Egypt until 1925.

He also showed an imperforate block of four of the 1 piastre second printing from the unique sheet of 200, originally bought by George V and sold recently when the Queen sold items from the Royal Collection to fund the purchase of the unique first day cover with ten Penny Blacks. With 8.5 million of the 1pi stamps printed, there was plenty of opportunity for Dr Byam to research the flaws! But just before this stamp became available in 1875 there was a shortage, leading to permission to bisect the 2-piastre in April 1875.

The postal history section opened with a remarkable cover bearing no fewer than five of the seven values, and moved on to illustrate pre-UPU rates, including newspapers franked at 5pa and 10pa, and two covers to the US, one franked at 4pi 35pa (the correct rate), the next with a single 5pi stamp (5pa overpaid, but much easier to deal with!). Very soon after, the UPU agreement reduced the rate to 1pi 20pa.

Bisected 2pi on cover from Gedda dated 13 Apr (1875 - the day the Suez mailboat sailed). All seven recorded covers have the same date. Gedda CDS in blue without year-indicator is known only in April 1875. Ex Danson

Two highlights of the display are illustrated here: the 1877 cover to London with a tęte-bęche pair of the 10para on the previous page, and the staggeringly rare example of the 2pi bisect used from Gedda on April 13, 1875. As an adjunct to the display, Brian Sedgley showed an astonishingly wide range of the postmarks borne on the stamps of the issue, including several not otherwise recognised.

This mini-report falls well short of describing the range and breadth of the display, which really opened members' eyes to the amount of research that has been carried out on this forlorn and short-lived issue of stamps. But it is hoped that all members will have the chance to view it for themselves, for Keith has generously offered to allow it to be scanned and in the near future we hope to be able to place the scans on our website.

Members were delighted with Keith's presentation, and applause rang out loud and long, the Chairman summing up our pleasure in a few short words: "I don't need to say much, merely to stress the obvious: that this has been a most magnificent display!"

Earlier in the meeting the Chairman wished those present - and those not present - Season's Greetings and a Happy New Year, and Peter Grech announced the publication of the first volume (pre-1876) of his new book, The French Post Offices in Egypt. Those copies in the room were quickly snapped up.

The Secretary announced the programme of meetings for 2013, including two exploratory dates in different rooms at the Royal Philatelic Society, and one new member was elected - welcome to Thomas Rehkop of Fenton, St Louis. The Treasurer, Brian Sedgley, reminded members that subscriptions for 2013 were due on January 1 [see the green sheet that will accompany the December QC] and that members who had not paid up by the date of the AGM on February 25 would face being lapsed from membership.

The Librarian, John Davis, apologised to members who have ordered back copies of the QC from him. Injuries sustained in a recent accident at home have prevented him - temporarily - from reaching the back issues, which are stored in the loft. We all hope he will be better soon.

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