By: Rosemary Adcock
The majestical elegance of the swan, coupled with a touching constancy to its mate, gives the bird an intensely romantic appeal. Its graceful, strange beauty has long inspired admiration, and artists of many nations have attempted to capture its unique splendour. It has appeared on stamps ranging from Europe to the
Swan with Two Nicks:- In England swans have been owned by the Crown since the 12th century, although royal licences were granted to wealthy landowners, companies and guilds, who each gave their own swans an identification mark on the bill or foot. During reign of
Every one interested in the history of mail coaches will be familiar with the swan with Two Necks, the tavern which formed the
Snorts, Hisses and Rattles:- The Mute swan with orange bill is the type most commonly seen in
Another issue which delighted bird theme collectors was the
Far less common in the
In china the swan is regarded as the embodiment of loftiness, purity and beauty, and is under State protection as a rare bird. A very attractive set of 1983 stamps (3283/6) presents the three species found in the country. The Mute is shown on two 8f. values, four Whistling swans (they have a musical, high pitched call) swim on the 10f. while six whoopers fly across the 80f.
Painting by Edward Lear:- Bewick’s swan is the slightly smaller European counterpart of the Whistling swan and was named after the Northumbrian engraver Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), an accomplished illustrator of birds. It visits
The Linnean Society produced a first day cover bearing a lithograph of this swan, and there is also a very attractive picture of two of the birds on the covers issued by the Wildfowl Trust, some of which were postmarked at
Another organization which uses a swan as its logo is the Royal Shakespeare Company. For many swans have graced the River Avon at
According to legend, it was Richard I who first introduced Mute swans to
The Swan Knight:- Nevertheless, despite its appearance on the dinner table, the swan retained an aura of grandeur and dignity, and was adopted as a badge or crest by number of prominent families in
The powerful De Bohun family chose a swan as their badge and when Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) married Mary de Bohun, he took the bird as an emblem of his own. Visitors to the exquisite
These Royal Beasts, and others besides, made a philatelic appearance in 1978 on an omnibus issue of several Commonwealth countries to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Each participating country issued three stamps: one with a Peter Grugeon portrait of the Queen, one showing a statue of a Royal Beast and one displaying a local beast in simulated stonework. A 45c. of
As it happens,
Black Swan:- The seven swans a-swimming appear in a neat row above the eight milkmaids on one of the 7p values (1046). On the corresponding stamp for
In fact the black swan made its philatelic debut over 100 years earlier when it was featured as the regular motif on stamps of
When the colony’s first stamps were issued in August 1854, they bore its emblems of a Black swan, a design which continued to be used until 1901. Early specimens are very expensive, but those dating from 1861, when perforations were adopted, are easier to acquire.
A famous philatelic error which emanates from this series is the inverted swan on the 1854 4d. During the lithographic printing process, the frame transfer was inadvertently placed upside down on the stone, or plate. Approximately 12 of these “mistakes” are known to exist.
The centenary of
A Barrel of Treacle:- The most curious looking of all swans is the Black necked variety. With a pure white body but black head and neck, it looks for all the world as if it has thrust its head into a barrel of treacle. It is found in several South American countries, including
Six years later, in 1944, the 2d. was used for the Falkland Islands Dependencies of Graham Land, South Georgia,
A magnificent set of 15 stamps showing birds native to the islands was issued by the
Another species found in the
There is a delightful portrayal of one of these birds on
The designer, William Oliver, has shown the swan standing in shallow water, amongst reeds, with its black wing feathers clearly visible. The Coscoroba is part of the captive breeding programme initiated by Geald Durrell, founder of the zoo.
This is by no means an exhaustive survey of swan stamps available to collectors. There is a rich field to be mined and the variety of species portrayed makes this theme a particularly engaging one.