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The Postage Stamps of Great Britain
In 1840, Great Britain was the first country in the world to introduce postage stamps, although there were, of course, posts and mails for a long time before that. However, unlike other countries, there's nothing on British stamps to say where they come from: that's identified by the head of the monarch, a sort of logo which appears on each stamp. For a long time, until 1924 in fact, British stamps were there simply to pay for a leter's way through the post. These "definitive" issues were always dominated by the head of the reigning monarch, and still are. However, since 1924, when the British postal authorities woke up to the idea of issuing "commemoratives" - stamps marking certain events or celebrating famous people and organisations - the postage stamp issues of Great Britain have produced a colourful panorama of beautiful and interesting issues. These commemoratives have become much more varied since 1965, when the then Postmaster-General, Anthony Wedgwood-Benn, decreed that in future, British stamps would cease to be "royal" or "Establishment" orientated and would instead celebrate the people, the life , the literature and the culture of the country. This summer, for instance, a new set of five stamps, "Magical Worlds" was issued marking the birth centenary of the writer C.S. Lewis and the death centenary of Lewis Carroll, the creator of "Alice in Wonderland", but featuring the work of other children's fantasy authors as well. If you would like to purchase these and future new issues of Great Britain, the first place to go is a stamp dealer in your own town. If you have no luck there, try contacting The British Philatelic Bureau, 20 Brandon Street, Edinburgh EH3 5TT, United Kingdom. Telephone: 01144-131-550 8989 or Fax: 01144-550 8501 (only for dialling from the USA and Canada). For the dialling codes you need when telephoning or faxing from other countries, consult your Directory Enquiries for the right prefixes for the United Kingdom.

Magical Worlds
Issued by the Royal Mail on 21 July 1998

University professors and lecturers would seem to be the last people to become successful writers of children's fantasy fiction. But three of them, Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), all of whom taught at Oxford University, have given the lie to that idea and three stamps from Britain's colourful stamp set issued on 21 July celebrates their work. Not only was their fiction remarkably successful world-wide, but their books have become classics, with a big appeal for generations beyond those for whom they originally wrote.

J.R.R. Tolkein was a professor of Anglo-Saxon and English. His great fictional creation was the fantasy world of Middle Earth, beginning with "The Hobbitt" published in 1937. On Britain's stamp issue of 21 July, the first, 20 pence, stamp depicts the characters Bilbo Baggins and Smaug the Dragon from "The Hobbitt" which was a forerunner of Tolkien's most famous book "The Lord of the Rings". The next, 26 pence, stamp shows Mr. Tumnus the faun, Lucy and Aslan the inspirational lion from C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" published in 1950. This was the first in Lewis' series "The Chronicles of Narnia", written while he was a Professor of Philosophy at Oxford.

The next, 37 pence, stamp in the "Magical Worlds" set borrows from another famous book by a renowned children's writer, E. Nesbit (1858-1924), a remarkable woman who after her husband's death wrote books to support her own family and also his children by other women. The Nesbit book chosen for illustration by the Royal Mail is "The Phoenix and the Carpet" published in 1904 and shows the Prosser children, Anthea, Cyril, Jane and Robert. Pod and Arrietty, the tiny folk from "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton, published in 1952, are pictured on the 43 pence issue and the last, 63 pence, stamp shows Alice and the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll's perenially popular "Through the Looking-Glass" published in 1871. Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) whose real name was Charles Dodgson, was a mathematics lecturer at Oxford and wrote his books for Alice Liddell and her sisters, the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church. After Shakespeare, Carroll is said to be the most quoted writer in the English language.

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