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Louis Braille (continued)
Machins for Visually Impaired and Disabled

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Braille                Machins for Disabled

The UK Disabilty Discrimination Act 1995 which came into force last year [i.e. 2002] imposed obligations on suppliers of services to take account of the special needs of people with disabilities of one kind or another.  In line with this Royal Mail made various changes to their books of self-adhesive Machin definitives issued from 5 June last year [2002].  These changes were designed to help the visually impaired and those with arthritic hands who found it difficult to extract stamps from books.  The most important changes were:

1)  Books containing 1st- and 2nd- class Non Value Indicators (NVIs) had either one or two notches cut into the cover at the right.  

2)  The folding crease was placed off centre making the cover overlap at the back, i.e., the front was shorter than the back. In conjunction with the notch(es) this enabled people to orientate the book correctly. 

  • Great Britain 2002.  Booklets of 1st and 2nd class Non Value Indicators with 1 and 2 notches respectively in order to "feel" which value one has in hand.  The folding crease is placed off center, leaving the "notched right side" of the booklet free.

3)  The self-adhesive stamps were kiss diecut (like a pastry or cookie cutter) and the waste surround, known as a matrix by RM, was removed before issue. This made the stamps stand proud of the backing sheet (which did double duty as the cover). This in turn made it easy to feel for the stamps, how to tell how many were left and when it was time to buy a new book. The raised stamps were also easier to peel off than when the matrix was present.  

4)  The printing on the front of the cover used very large figures for the NVI or value (books of 6 x 42p and 6 x 68p for overseas mail were issued on 4 July 2002) and the number of stamps in a full book. 

  • Great Britain 2002.  Open booklet of twelve 1st class stamps, showing clearly how stamps stand proud of the backing.

As part of their planning, RM also considered a major alteration to the design of the Machin stamps. This involved a very small head of The Queen at the top left and facing right (the monarch's head has never faced this way since 1840 except for some of the QE2 stamps with Castles designs).  The only other element of the design was a very large figure 1, without the letters ST. Self-adhesive trial books of 6 of these stamps were made up and sent to interested organisations such as The Royal National Institute for the Blind and The Arthritic Society for their comments.  In the end RM decided not to go ahead with this design and all the trial books were supposed to have been returned. However, one must have been left behind and used for ordinary postage because I have recently acquired a large piece of a business envelope with one of these stamps on it posted on 1 August 2002. As far as I know, this is the only example to have survived but I suppose that there must be at least another 5 somewhere.  You may find one in GB kiloware if you keep your eyes peeled (or even half closed, the appearance is so unlike any issued stamp).  If you do, I would appreciate hearing of it."

The 12 x 1st was printed by Walsall Security Print Ltd. from colour cylinder W1 and phosphor cylinder W2.

The 12 x 2nd was printed by The House of Questa (now owned by De La Rue) from colour cylinder Q1 and phosphor cylinder Q1.  One will need a UV lamp to see the phosphor numbers.  

Both books were printed in gravure from EME (Electro-Mechanically Engraved) cylinders.  These have a computer controlled engraving tool; diamond stylus for Walsall and laser for Questa.

These are one of the better designs of this type of stamps that I have seen, since it includes usage by both visually impaired and those with arthritic hands.  Chapeau to Royal Mail. 

To conclude these pages I cannot resist showing you some wonderful paintings and etchings, all related to The Blind Man's World, and all made by Renaissance artists. 

"The Parable of the Blind" by the Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569), painted 1568 and issued by Belgium in 1976 for the Association for Language Promotion!  Click here, or on the stamp, to see it large version.  The link will open in a new window. 

A wonderful expression of black humour in the Dark Ages, maybe inspired by St. Matthew:  "If the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch"  (Matthew 15:14). 

  •  Belgium 1976.  Pieter Bruegel the Elder:  Parable of the Blind.  

Jacques Callot (1592-1635), was a French engraver and etcher, and an important innovator in both the technique and subject matter of printmaking. As a court printmaker for the Medici in Florence from 1612 to 1621, he developed a new etching medium (a varnish of linseed oil and mastic), the hardness of which made possible greater fineness and detail. This innovation facilitated the work of the great etchers of the 1600s, such as Rembrandt. Callot, in works such as the monumental Fair at Impruneta (1620), was one of the first artists to depict a complete cross section of society. 

Returning to his native Lorraine in 1621, he adapted a more realistic, less courtly style. 

His masterpieces are the two series, each entitled Miseries of War (both 1633), in which he stripped war of its glory and romance, showing with a merciless eye the distress of the common people. 

Click on either of the stamps to see a large version.  

  • France 1957.  Two etchings by J. Callot, both issued for the benefit of French Red Cross, and part of the series "Miseries of War", showing

    • "The Blind and the Beggar" [L'Aveugle et le Mendiant], both persons with canes, and a small guide (?)-dog at the front

    • "The beggar and the One-Eyed Woman" [La Mendiante et la Borgnesse].  The beggar with crutches to the left, and the one-eyed woman, walking with a cane, to the right.  

Braille                Machins for Disabled 

An extensive, but not complete, checklist that includes also blind personalities and guide-dogs, is available upon request.  The checklist is compiled by Ken Stuckey and Gunilla Stenberg Stuckey (Sweden). 

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Many thanks to Mr. Douglas G. Myall (also known as Deegam), Great Britain, for the extensive information about Machins for Visually Impaired and Disabled. 


Revised 31 jul 2007 
Copyright © by Ann Mette Heindorff
All Rights Reserved 

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