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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 15, pp2-3 (March 1982)

Copyright notice

Andorran "Essays"

By Roy Dehn

It is remarkable how few Andorran "essays" there are. When Italy was unified in 1861 several printers both in and outside Italy hastened to submit suggestions. It is surprising therefore that the Co-Princes were not offered several speculative essays at the end of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth. Whilst it is true that chances of any of the essays being accepted were remote, there might have been a good philatelic market for the rejected stock.

The best known essays probably fall into this category. They are described in W. A. Jacques "Andorra - Andorre" at p.22. Although there does not appear to be any evidence that the essays produced for Plácido Ramón de Torres were officially submitted, Spanish catalogues give them a kind of status by listing them. There is no doubt that de Torres was dishonest and a distributor of forgeries, particularly of Spanish stamps produced for him by Miguel Rodriguez. He was arrested in Germany and in the United States on selling trips. He was concerned in the production of a series of phantoms associated with a Moroccan revolt in 1895 against the Spaniards at Melilla. Soldiers letters were handled free, but de Torres managed with the help of associates to persuade some soldiers to use the de Torres "stickers" as well. This gave them a deceptive appearance of authenticity. It seems to me that anyone willing to put himself to the trouble of persuading fighting soldiers to use his labels might very well, on an earlier or later occasion, have at least submitted his "essays" to one of the Co-Princes.

Torres essays
The Torres essays

The most distinguished essays are those produced by H. Douchet, a Belgian designer. Since they are works of considerable craftmanship and do not appear ever to have been offered generally on the philatelic market, we are entitled to consider them to have been serious speculative essays. They were illustrated in an attractive souvenir sheet prepared in November, 1978 by the Vegueria Episcopal in Andorra la Vella. The souvenir sheet dates these essays in 1910. The Belgian writer A. de Haene (Etude sur les Faux Timbres d'Europe p.44) dates them from 1895, but since he does not describe the stamps it is uncertain which Douchet essays are meant.

I have the progressive proofs of the 30c and 40c values and it may interest members to have a description of these. As readers of Andorra - Andorre will be aware the design incorporates a coat of arms framed in a circle carrying the legend PRINCIPAT SOBERA DE ANDORRA. Below the circle are three panels with the value inscribed and in the corners above are the curved heads of the episcopal staff. The progressive proofs of both values are similar, though with changes of colour, so the description of the 30c can be applied also to the 40c. The printing method is letterpress.

Proof numberDescription
Blue background to circle and to part of thin outside frame. Dotted background to area between arms and circle and to part of outside frame (a)
2 Purple dotted background to arms, panels with episcopal staffs, and value panels (b)
3a + b
4 Green dotted background to circle and green outline to all details in the design including lettering in the circle, but not including the arms (c)
5a + b + c
6Outline of arms in olive grey (d)
7a + b + c + d
8Value (CENTIMS 30 CENTIMS) in dark olive grey (e)
9Final essay a + b + c + d + e

Four of these proofs are illustrated here.

Four of the progressive proofs

Another Douchet design shows a map of Andorra in a frame. I have black and white progressive proofs of this, but do not have a proof of the complete design. There are four separate proofs of the map. The last of these includes many place names and a small crest. The earlier ones show roads (?), roads plus some indication of peaks, roads plus some indication of gradient (?). There are thirteen value panels varying from 2c to 10p. which give the value in words and figures. Three proofs are provided of the outer frame. It would appear that as in the other essays the frame was to be built up in three stages - two separate colours partially superimposed followed by a final very detailed line block of the frame and legend. The outer frame measures 22mm x 27mm. Finally there are two proofs apparently to provide overall shading to the map.

Proofs of the frame Proofs of the shading
Proofs of values and map detail

Finally I have an attractive series of twenty, all of a single design but printed in varying colours on different coloured paper. Some of the shades are very similar. The Vegueria Episcopal has selected Eighteen of these for reproduction in a souvenir sheet.

It has been suggested that these are also by H. Douchet. They came into my possession on the same group of album pages which contained what are certainly Douchet essays and which have been described above. However the design is by no means as detailed and these essays are basically an assembly of printers fleurons made interesting by variations in the colour of the paper and the ink. They appear to be printed letterpress. The outside frame is a greek fret. In the centre is what might be a carpet composed of Fleurons. In the band between the "carpet" and the outer frame appears at top and bottom the legend PRINCIPAT/D'ANDORRA. At either side of the centre appear the figures of value (5); there is no indication in what currency. The remaining space between the central carpet and the frame is taken up by what appear to be olive branches. The design measures 23.5mm by 27mm. I am not aware that these essays, colour trials or whatever they may be, have ever been offered on the philatelic market. They may be serious speculative essays prepared by an author who hoped to interest one of the Co-Princes; they may simply be the work of a stamp-collecting printer's apprentice enjoying himself. Together they form a colourful assembly.

The 'printers fleurons' essay

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