The Early Scott Catalogues* and Their Illustrations. Discovering a Spanish Forger’s Footprints
by Gerhard Lang-Valchs
(published: Collectors Club Philatelist, Vol. 96 No. 6 November–December 2017)
When I paged some months ago for the first time through some old American stamp catalogues, the impression I got was the same I had experienced when I first flipped through the European catalogues during my research on Spanish forger Plácido Ramón de Torres (1847–1910) some time ago. Mostly all catalogues seemed to depict the same values of the different issues. The attempt of verifying this spontaneous impression led at that time not only to the discovery that it really was correct, but also that those illustrations were all the work of the same author Torres. That the engraver of some thousands of stamp illustrations published in the European catalogues and in the philatelic reviews between 1864 and 1900 remained undiscovered until our days, is, indeed, astonishing. However, it probably finds its explanation in another surprising and related fact. After making and distributing the illustrations to his clients, Torres used his lithographic stones to produce his own copies and sold those forgeries mixed up with other genuine stamps in stamp packages. As most forged samples represented low values, if discovered, they were noted but seemed to cause little excitement.
Taking this into account, a closer look at the American catalogues seemed to be necessary. First, I learned that there are three types of illustrated catalogues in the United States between 1870 and 1900, before photographic techniques were used to reproduce the stamp illustrations. Some catalogues used the same lithographic illustrations we know from the European continent, others used what I now call “American illustrations” and the only one I found that used its own ones, was the Halsey catalogue (1896) [Figures 1-3]. The illustrations of the latter one can easily be distinguished by the poor pictorial quality of their images.
In the Seebeck (1882), Handford(1882) or Collin (1885) catalogues, for example, we find up to 90 percent of the same illustrations that the Europeans like Moens, Roussin or Gibbons show. The majority of catalogues like Scott, Calder, Mekeel and others belong to the third type and share up to 90 percent of their illustrations. Most of those illustrations, about 60–70 percent, show images different from the European ones.
John Walter Scott (1845–1919) was not only the editor of the first American stamp catalogue, until our days the leading one in the United States, but also the editor of the American Journal of Philately [AJP], and he is known as well as “The Father of American Philately.” This study will focus on J. W. Scott’s early catalogues and his philatelic review, because both were among the first of its gender on the American continent. We have, nevertheless, to take in account the other catalogues.
The present study will not only show that most of the stamp illustrations used in both Scott’s publications are the same, which seems to be quite obvious. It will demonstrate, as well, that the stamps depicted in the other catalogues of the same type are not only all the same, but identical copies produced by Torres, copies taken from the same original stone. A second step will be dedicated to prove that the same conclusions have to be applied to the “American illustrations” of the stamps of Spain and probably to all others as well. Adding some complementary proofs, the documentary evidence should be unquestionable and convincing.
In March 1868, Scott started the publication of the American Journal of Philately. The first issue did not contain any illustrations. The following numbers included two illustrations each, which later appeared together with a fifth one adorning the front pages of the following years’ editions [Figure 4]. Up to 90 percent of the illustrations of the first years of the review had been published, normally a month before, in European magazines like the Belgian Le Timbre Poste, edited by the European “Father of Philately,” Jean–Baptiste Moens, or the British Stamp Collector’s Magazine, furnished by Torres.
However, are they really the same? Or used Scott copies howsoever taken from the originals or his European colleagues’ samples or clichés? Where did they come from?
We are speaking of a time when photographic techniques were not yet sufficiently developed to be used for reproducing stamps or stamp illustrations in reviews and catalogues. It is only in the 1890s when photos were included for the first time in some catalogues and reviews. There are consequently five possibilities of how Scott and other American editors that did not publish in cooperation with Scott, could get their lithographic illustrations:
1. The editors used handmade copies from the original stamps ordered at one of various European (or American) engravers.
2. The editors used handmade copies taken from the illustrations published in the European reviews and catalogues.
3. The editors used handmade copies taken from the illustrations published previously by Scott in the AJP.
4. Some editors exchanged their clichés/plates or made new transfer copies.
5. The copies used to make the printing clichés for the American magazines and catalogues came as transfer copies from the same engraver who had made those of the European magazines.
In order to see which of those possibilities is correct, we should first take a look at the implications each of those possibilities carries. If our illustrations (case 1) were handmade copies of the original stamps made by an American engraver, logically they would be different from the copies in the European catalogues. Two different copies of the same original stamp, even when made by the same author, as we can see in the case of many stamp forgeries, show inevitable differences that even allow us in some cases to determinate their author [Figures 5-6]. At first glance we can only find those differences on some of the “American illustrations.”
So, as later will be shown in detail, all others do not show significant differences, except for some minor ones, due to the particularities of the lithographic printing.
If we were treating with handmade copies taken from the European magazines (case 2) or from the AJP illustrations (case 3) and not from the originals, the final results we would expect were the same as in the first case. We would even find quite a lot of further differences on the illustration copies depicted in the American catalogues and reviews. This is not the case. As far as the “American illustrations” are concerned, we can’t nd signi cant differences in the catalogues. The physiognomy and facial expression, always the most difficult part to imitate, seems to be identical on all samples.
As far as Europe is concerned, it is nearly impossible to find anything pointing to the exchange theory (case 4). The strong business competition among the dealers and the mutual critical comments about the rivals in their magazines hardly could constitute a basis for such a suggested cordial and friendly exchange. And how to achieve and manage this? The dealers themselves could not do it. Only the printing companies might have disposed of the knowledge and necessary devices to undertake this work. It seems unlikely that the situation in the United States should have been different.
The fifth possibility supposes that the transfer copies used to make the printing clichés of the same values were all taken from the same stone. That means, at one hand that there won’t be significant differences between the illustration’s original and all further copies. On the other hand we should be able to detect coincidences in common differences, defects, particularities or treats among all copies not existing on the genuine stamp. Defects due to the handling of the transfer copy during their shipping, unpacking and transferring could sometimes occur, others due to different quality or quantity of ink should be taken into account.
This merely theoretical approach to the problem already indicates that, if our observations are really true, only the last case can be right. But without a comparative and detailed analysis, our supposition can’t be definitely validated [Figures 7-10].
The differences between the genuine stamp and our illustrations are numerous. The most important and eye catching is the different number of background lines at the central disk: 46 at the left/41 at the right of the bust at the genuine and 41/34 at all illustrations. The number of entire lines at the lateral frames or columns, partly covered by the disk, are five at each of the genuine, but 3/5/7/5 at the others. The final dot at the value inscription is missing, the frame of the lower left triangle is broken and the line at its left is a double line on the original. The number of lines above the head is three on the original and only two at the others. We should mention as well the different facial expressions of both versions, most clearly visible at the nose and the ear.
All our illustrations show those common differences and some other common treats. Let us start with a look at the perforation pattern of the illustrations. It does not pretend to imitate the original perforation, but shows an “idealized” pattern that only indicated in the European catalogues that the stamps were perforated. The number and distribution pattern of the holes around the samples is different from stamp to stamp even if they represent samples of the same issue.
The number of holes at our sample is 11/11 ½ /9 ½ /12. This coinciding odd number can be found on all illustrations; the distribution of the holes is exactly the same as well. The peaks of the frames/columns are at a different height, coinciding at all samples with the same background lines. The borderline of the head is broken at the left side three times: at the height of the lobe, the eyebrow and line #5/6. Various frame lines of the corner adornments, especially on the right side, are broken, a common feature on all our illustrations.
All samples analysed show the same differences with the original. At the same time we have to state numerous coincidences even in minor details among all of them. The same detailed analysis was made in the cases of the other four front–page illustrations as well, producing coinciding results. That means that they are all identical copies taken from their correspondent original stone.
Limited space does not allow me to present all the cases. The reader may verify on his own the assertions made here. A comparison of the remaining and all other APJ stamp illustrations of the first years with their European brethren in the Stamp Collector’s Magazine is easy to achieve, because both publications are available on the internet in a fairly good resolution. At the same site you have access to other (European and) American catalogues as well.
A look at the first years’ Scott catalogues reveals an annually increasing use of Torres illustrations, previously published in the European reviews and the APJ. The 1869 catalogue had started with only 11 illustrations, including, ironically enough, 2 fakes: the Torres forgery/illustration of a Paraguayan fantasy stamp and the 12 reales Ecuador fantasy stamp, a not existing value [Figures 11–12].
On the front page of the bound–together APJ issues of 1869 appears an interesting Russian local stamp (zemstvo) and on page 82 two others. All three illustrations, previously published by J.B. Moens and later included in a book about the zemstvo, are the work of Torres as a recent article in a German review of philatelic studies shows [Figures 13–16, Table 1]. All three show clearly so– called Torres jokes, deliberately introduced errors or faults, mostly part of the inscriptions, difficult to discover in this case, because most collectors do not know the Cyrillic alphabet.
The 1870 catalogue puts about 130 illustrations together on several separate lithographic sheets. Only the samples of the American Locals and Carriers and the envelope stamps can’t be directly linked to Torres. See particularly the work of Calvet M. Hahn published in the Collectors Club Philatelist in the period 1992–95, and Larry Lyons published in the Collectors Club Philatelist and The Penny Post in the period 2000–present for discussions of these stamps.The articles of 2000 were dedicated to (closely) related aspects of the forgeries of those stamps.
In the course of the year 1874 Scott experienced serious problems with the delivery of the illustrations of the recently issued stamps for his magazine, coinciding with the problems Torres had in Italy with his former patron that obliged him to leave Italy. We cannot (almost) find any newly issued stamp depicted. During those months, however, an unusually high number of American Local and Carrier stamp illustrations was published in the APJ. Once Torres resumed business from Barcelona in 1875, the APJ published 20 illustrations of Spanish stamps on only one page in order to promote a study contest about those stamps up to that date [Figure 17].
Five of those illustrations can be clearly identi ed as made by Torres, because they were published later in his 1879 Álbum … [#1, 13, 14, 15, 20].10 One is a fudged illus- tration [# 2], where the original value letters of the upper inscription (DOS) were cut off and had been replaced by a rectangle with the letters DOCE [Figures 18 and 19].
The other 14 stamp illustrations are new and had never been published before: the European catalogues show for those issues other values.
Did Torres really resume his deliveries or had Scott found another engraver for his review and catalogue? Let’s analyse one of those new illustrations to make sure that the other catalogues depict exactly the same.
Scott 31 (A8): A8 [Figures 20, 21, 22]
The illustration can be distinguished from the genuine because of the presence of background lines in the central disk, not existing in the authentic. The number of pearls around the central disk differ: 28 entire pearls at the genuine, 29 at the left /28 at the right on the illustrations. The differences can be better appreciated counting the pearls that are partially covered by the frame. The original shows one semicovered pearl at each end of the ring plus one ¾ –covered one at the upper ends, whereas the illustrations have only one semi- or ¾ –covered at each end of the ring of pearls. The number and distribution of the strands of the hair is nearly perfectly imitated. Only the length of some strands differs a bit. The second twist of the bun, however, can’t be distinguished on the copy. All available copies of the different catalogues show the same differences and coincidences with the original. That means, they are all identical copies of the same stone as the AJP illustration. The critical reader can easily verify that a comparison of the other stamps of this page with the different (American) catalogues produces the same results.
It is now clear that the “American illustrations” of the different catalogues are all the same origin as well. Although there seems this moment not to exist a direct way to prove that Torres was their author, the sum of different following indicators should be deciding. The Torres deliveries to Scott continued. We find in other parts of the later Scott catalogues illustrations of newly issued stamps that are clearly the work of the Spaniard as former research has revealed.
Scott 143 (A27):
The “Vicdoria”stamp illustration (830) is another example for the jokes Torres pulled on his clients and collectors. It is, however, as far as I know, one of the very few cases that was publicly denounced. Although most catalogues show a retouched and corrected version of this illustration, we find astonishingly the fake version in the Scott catalogue [Figures 23–25].
Scott 10 (A2):
This illustration of a stamp of the second Antigua issue from 1879 shows a very particular physiognomy of Queen Victoria. Various other European catalogues like the French Maury, a good client of Torres, depict it. Torres used his original stone, after a logical retouching of the inscription, to make fantasy stamps of Ireland and Brunei with the same design [Figures 26–30].
Scott 21 (A5):
One of the illustrations not yet depicted in the 1877 Scott catalogue is the Madrid city post stamp with the bear and the strawberry tree. It can be easily detected as an “American illustration,” because it contains as well a joke in its upper inscription. The “E” of the first word (CORREOS) is converted into a third “R” (CORRROS) [Figure 31 and 32].
Scott 198 (A27) [Figures 33 and 34]:
Here we even find accumulated “errors”. The “S” and the “Ñ” of “ESPAÑA” are affected. The first of them is represented by its mirror image [ᴤ], the second one shows instead of the typical Spanish dieresis ( ̃) only a centered dot. Another two “errors” occur at the left inscription of the inner disk. The last two “C”s of COMUNICACIONES are converted into “G” and a nearly closed “O”. The second gure shows a similar “European” version of the 10c value of the same issue. We find two mirror images: the “S” of ESPAÑA and the last “N” of COMUNICACIOИES. At the right inscription of the disk ,we find an “O” instead of a “D.”
All this should be evidence enough to assure the presence of Torres illustrations in the early Scott and other later American catalogues. This first insight gives rise to a lot of questions. Do Scott forgeries really exist, as some experts assert, or are those forgeries in reality the work of Torres as it occurs with the (Torres–) il- lustrations published in the Moens catalogues, a fact demonstrated for some supposed Moens–forgeries of Newfoundland. Are the “American illustrations” limited to the stamps of Spain? Were original stones of the “American illustrations” used as well to produce forgeries? Three of the Philippine stamp illustrations of the 1877 Scott catalogue represent (identical copies of) described and documented forgeries [Figures 35- 37].
What about the illustrations of American Locals and Carriers in Scott? Are they made by an American engraver or are we treating with a “second product line” of the Spaniard? What about the stamps of the Spanish Carlist War? Some of them are clearly different from both their originals and their European illustrations. At the same time they resemble other creations and known forgeries of Torres [Figures 38-43].
To what extent did the presence of Torres–illustrations in the Scott catalogues continue into the following decades? We know the “early” Torres forgeries, because he published most of them in his own stamp album and catalogue. But this book was edited in 1879. Did Torres keep on forging until 1899, when Moens, his oldest client, closed his review? Until 1905 some of his jokes on illustrations of newly issued stamps could be detected in later French catalogues.
* Scott Catalogue is the trademark of Scott Publishing Co., a unit of Amos Media, of Sidney, OH. Scott has from its inception used the ‘catalogue’ spelling, which will be used in this paper for consistency.
2. In this and all other cases of counting we start at the upper left and continue clockwise.3. The corner holes, when centered, as it is here the case, are counted as “half holes.”
5. Le Timbre Poste, April 1868, n. 64: 26; Stamp Collector’s Magazine, May 1868: 72; Jean– Baptiste Moens: Catalogue prix-courant…, 1877, sheet 33, #2151.
6. Olga Frey, GLV: „Moens, Torres und die Zemstvo-Marken,“ Deutsche Zeitschrift für Russland- Philatelie, Nr. 105, January 2017: 19–26.
7. About the Torres–jokes in general the British magazine Stamp Lover will publish (probably in October) an article titled: “The Torres stamp fun factory.”
8. GLV: “Il conte Giulio Cesare Bonasi accusato di frode,” Qui Filatelia, 85. Sett. 2016: 8–13.
9. APJ, vol. IX, September. 1875: 129.
10. We count from left to right downwards. Plácido Ramón de Torres: Album ilustrado para sellos de correo…, Barcelona 1879: 9–17.Continued on page ___
354 November–December 2017 Collectors Club Philatelist, Vol. 96, No. 6
Figure 38. Figure 39. Figure 40.
11. The French Maury catalogue of 1870 shows a similar, but failed procedure, applied to the inscription of the lower part trying to change the 1864 stamp into a 1866 one that had, except for the lower inscription, an identical design. The rectangle of the transfer copy was not correctly xed and it had to be nally left out.
12. GLV: Newfoundland Discovery: 1866 Torres forgeries that correct those misidenti ed Moens fakes, Newfoundland Standard Stamp Catalogue, 10th edition, 2016: 675–679.
13. http://www.nigelgooding.co.uk: forgeries #10F3, 21F7; 44F5; Scott: The Postage Stamp Catalogue, New York, 1877: 31 or 32, depending on the type of edition. We only present one of the referred samples, where it is relatively easy to see the differences between the genuine and the others. The background network of the spandrels, the lateral aornments and the number of (retouched) pearls/points surrounding the central disk are different from the original but coincide on the forgery and the Scott illustration.