Shahrázád in Art 3

David Coster, 1729

David Coster, 1729

One source[1] has this illustration as being the earliest Arabian Nights illustration but this copy is from a 1729 edition of Galland’s Mille et Une Nuit.  The illustration is by David Coster, a Dutch engraver.  It is was included in a pirated version of Galland’s Mille et Une Nuit.  The earliest editions of Galland were not illustrated[2].  The similarities of this illustration to the 1707 Bell illustration[3] are striking.  The setting, location of the actors, even the hand gesture that the Sultan is making and that Shahrázád is making have been reproduced.  I would contend that this is a copy of the earlier 1707 Bell illustration. The female figures are much more feminine appearing but also more western as they wear dresses with plenty of cleavage showing.  I very much doubt that the Arabs of the time depicted slept in four-poster canopied beds.

Interestingly, what Coster has added is the surrounding panels.  They illustrate scenes from some of the stories Shahrázád is telling.  Clockwise from the top right panel we have: “The Third Kalandar’s Tale,” “The Tale of the Grecian King and the Physician Douban,” “The Merchant and the Genie,” “The Fisherman and the Genie,” and “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad.” All of the tales, except “The Third Kalandar’s Tale” appear in volume 1.  “The Third Kalandar’s Tale” is a nested tale, part of “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad”.  That frame story is broken between 2 volumes.  “The Third Kalandar’s Tale” is in volume 2.

The central panel, showing the frame story of Shahrázád, has all of the elements that will typically be seen in depictions of the frame story: the sultan Shahryar, Shahrázád, and Dunyázád.  They are usually arranged around some sort of couch or bed, and, despite what the frame story says, Shahrázád is inevitably shown as telling her story to Shahryar instead of Dunyázád.  Some sort of Eastern or “Oriental” decorations, objects, scenes will be present to give the scene an exotic look.  It was not until the mid-1800’s that artists actually began accurately depicting what an Arab household bedchamber could look like.



[1]  Irwin, Robert. Visions of the Jinn. Geneva: Arcadian Library, 2010, p.

[2] Marzolph, Ulrich & Richard van Leeuwen. The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Vol. 1, p. 30.

[3] For more information on the 1707 Bell illustration, see the following post.

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Stamps of the Arabian Nights, Part 23

I do not normally collect Disney related Arabian Nights ephemera.  As a result of their movie Aladdin, the market is saturated with the Disney Aladdin merchandise.  So it comes as no surprise that there is a Disney Aladdin theme stamp.  There are, in fact, quite a few Disney Aladdin stamps, from quite a few countries.  I have identified 15 countries that have issued Disney Aladdin stamp(s), in singles, groups, souvenir sheets and first-day-covers.

US FDC Disney Aladdin

US FDC Disney Aladdin

The following is one of the FDCs issued with the US version of an Aladdin stamp.  It turns out that this is a Fleetwood FDC.  Fleetwood, now part of the Mystic Stamp Company, is one of the companies that mass produces cacheted FDCs. There are at least six different US Disney Aladdin FDCs that I have come across.  The reason I obtained this one is because of the accompanying illustration.  The FDC indicates that they obtained the illustration courtesy of the Library of Congress. What I know about it is that it is from a late 19th century Burlesque poster. The stamp itself is rather dull.  The accompanying illustration is much more interesting.

Here’s what the full image looks like:

Burlesque Arabian Nights Poster

Burlesque Arabian Nights Poster

There are a few of these types of posters still in existence.  I would absolutely love to get one for my collection.

Here are a few other Arabian Nights/Aladdin burlesque advertising posters, all probably from around the same time.

bpu-126308-stage-theatre-flyer-arabian-nights-02 bpu-126309-stage-theatre-flyer-arabian-nights-03

Burlesque Poster

Burlesque Poster

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Frank Packard and Sexton Blake

Halfpenny Marvel Dec, 1893

Halfpenny Marvel Dec, 1893

The first Sexton Blake story appeared on 13 December 1893 in issue 6 of The Halfpenny Marvel.[1]  From these modest beginnings, “The Missing Millionaire” by Hal Meredeth (in actuality Harold Blyth), spawned a character that would endure for more than a century. The story, by all accounts, is nigh on unreadable for the modern reader.

That same December, in 1893, is when Sherlock Holmes took his swan dive over the Reichenbach Falls, never to return as far as his author was concerned. By the end of 1904 Blake had truly arrived.  Nearly 60 Sexton Blake stories had been published and Sexton took up lodgings in Baker Street. Mr. Holmes had reappeared in 1903.  Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes never met in their time.

There are literally thousands of Sexton Blake stories.  One source[2] reports that over 175 authors have written Sexton Blake stories.  The Union Jack published 1535 stories.  The Sexton Blake Library (series 1, 2, & 3) produced an aggregate 1653 stories.  Between the two publications, that’s over 3000 stories, and this doesn’t even count the other publications that printed Sexton Blake stories (Detective Weekly, The Penny Pictorial, The Marvel Library, The Boys’ Friend, The Boys’ Realm, to name just a few.)  The Sexton Blake Library was a weekly publication which began in 1915 and continued through to 1963.  Sexton Blake stories also appeared in French, Italian, Spanish and German.


Union Jack, 28 July 1923

Union Jack, 28 July 1923

Sexton Blake travelled widely.  His adventures took him around the world.  The 28 July 1923 issue of Union Jack (No. 1033) Blake was on holiday in Paris.  Elsewhere in Union Jack, a new serial story started, The Wire Devils, by Frank L. Packard.  The Wire Devils first appeared in The Popular Magazine in 6 parts, 20 March-7 June, 1917.  In 1918 the book appeared, published by George Doran, with Canadian (Copp, Clark) and British (Hodder & Stoughton) editions following right along.  The Wire Devils is Packard’s only full length railroad novel. While not as good as his railroad short stories, Packard was at his very best with stories of the railroads, it is still an entertaining tale of mystery and mayhem along the rails of the US west coast.  The Union Jack serial reprint appeared weekly for 29 issues, ending on 9 February, 1924 (No. 1061).  The first installment was fairly substantial, but subsequent installments could filled only a single page of the magazine.  The Union Jack was only composed of 28 pages, some of which were given over to a Detective Magazine supplement and the bulk of pages devoted to a Sexton Blake story.  For those following the serial, they got a bit of a taste each week.  If I can ever obtain enough copies of those Union Jack issues, I’ll do a comparison between them and the book version.  There are some variations between the Doran book version and the Popular Magazine serial version. My previous review of The Wire Devils is here.

In these issues of The Union Jack is as close as Sexton Blake came to meeting any of Frank Packard’s characters.  It would have been interesting to see what Blake could have done with the gentleman outlaw Jimmie Dale.  Sexton Blake did have a few run-in’s with Raffles[3].  I don’t know how those turned out.

I particularly like the cover art for the start of The Wire Devils serial.  It is uncredited. As a side note, the Sexton Blake story in this issue is “The Hyena of Paris” by G.H. Teed.  It turns out that Teed is also a Canadian, born around 1886 at Woodstock, New Brunswick.  Teed would write over 300 Sexton Blake stories and has been considered to be “one of the best writers to chronicle the adventures of Sexton Blake, if not the best.”[2] The Wire Devils is currently the only Frank Packard book in print.  The University of Minnesota Press recently produced a reprint of that novel.



Hodder & Stoughton, 1930s

Hodder & Stoughton, 1930s

University of Minnesota, 2013

University of Minnesota, 2013










[1]    Hodder, Mark. Blakiania: The Sexton Blake Resource. n.d. Web. 31 July 2014.
[2]    Holland, Steve. G.H. Teed: A Life of Adventure. Norman Wright: Oxford, n.d. Print.
[3]    see Perowne, Barry “Raffles vs Sexton Blake”,No. 577, and “Raffles’ Crime in Gibraltar”, No. 601.  The Sexton Blake Library, series 1. 1937 for some examples.

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Stamps of the Arabian Nights, Part 22



Kosovo is a disputed area.  Serbia claims that it (the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija) is still under its sovereignty.  In 2008 the region declared its independence.  Serbia does not recognise this and maintains an administrative bureaucracy for the area.  107 countries have recognised Kosovo’s independence.

This stamp(s) was purchased from a seller in Croatia.  My interest is in the depiction of Aladdin.  Of course, there was no flying carpet in the story of Aladdin but as I have mentioned previously, the flying carpet is a key symbol associated with the Arabian Nights.  Without the caption though, there would be no way of knowing that Aladdin was being referenced.  On a side note, the other caption “kameni cvet” is Serbian for “stone flower”

In researching this item, I could not find any reference to it, on-line or in Scott’s catalogue. Is it from Kosovo or from Serbia?  It is unclear if this is supposed to be a single stamp or two stamps.  Neither of the stamps is perforated, which is what one would expect in a souvenir sheet like this. The sheet does appear to have the official Europa logo of the time on it, but not on the stamps themselves.

The two images each have a 2 euro mark on them, so I’m suspecting that it was intended to be two separate stamps. Other Serbian stamps do not use the euro mark.  The price is stated as just a number.

Aladdin detail

Aladdin detail

The pixilated view is not just bad scanning on my part.  It is what the souvenir sheet looks like.  The euro mark looks to be a crude cut-and-past job.  The Post of Kosova web site, on 24 May 2009 posted a notice that Kosovo postage stamps are being sold from locations in Serbia (and on eBay).  These are considered to be forged stamps by the Post of Kosovo.  They go on to state that “Forged postage stamps are easily distinguished from the originals, as the forged ones have no serrated stamp edge.”  So, what I believe I now have is a poorly made souvenir sheet, probably made in Serbia, that has no postal significance at all.

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The Yellow Circle by Pearl Foley

F-00367-djFoley, Pearl. The Yellow Circle. Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Ltd., 1937, pp. 315.

Felix Bank cahier Stanley Melton is found dead at the bank one morning.  He has been shot.  Shortly thereafter, news is received that Major Reginald Batts has been killed.   He was in India where he procured rare and valuable art objects for Matthew Craig.  Craig is the vice-president of the Felix bank.  He has the poor manners to get himself shot while a guest at the house of Cynthia and Jara Richmond.  This seriously ruins the weekend party.

Enter Richard North with Bradley Manning, New York’s commissioner of police in tow. North’s relationship to Manning is somewhat unclear.  He, North, does not work for the New York police department but Manning will, under protest of how much paper work he has to do, drop it all and follow North about.  Manning is North’s Watson.

There are dire going’s on.  Mr. North warns of a fiendishly cleaver schemer behind Craigs murder.  The Bengar rubies are missing and so also is the sacred spoon of Bijapur.  Sergeant Steele, our pudding brained and belligerent policeman is all for slapping the Maharaja Reval Sapru into irons and applying a bit of third degree to get some answers.  Sapru was a guest at Mrs. Richmon’s party and is her neighbour.  Grenville Pease, president of the Felix Bank and another guest are similarly inclined when it comes to Reval Sapru.  North, on the other hand, has no bone to pick with Sapru and permits him to leave and move about freely, unsupervised.

Then someone takes a pot shot at Captain Philip Gilbert, guest of the Richmond’s and director of the Felix Bank.  The plot certainly thickens and Richard North is doing something.  Unfortunately, the reader is not informed as to just what it is that North is doing.  He claims to be making progress but the reader does not get to share in his insights, his plans or even in the information he may have obtained.  It leaves the reader somewhat adrift as to just what is happening.  There are lots of questions: Who or what is The Yellow Turban?  Is the fact that Reval Sapru has one significant?  What role does the Felix Bank play in the assorted murders?  How are they, or are they, connected?
The solution is, to my thinking, something of a cheat.  Too much new information is introduced right at the end for this to be a completely satisfying mystery.  Who-done-it is a surprise but then the reader never had enough information to make any kind of educated guess as to the killer or their motives.

Miss. Charlotte Beatrix Foley reportedly worked as an accountant in a Toronto department store.  She also once worked for the Ontario Municipal Board.  She attended the Ontario College of Art and the University of Toronto. Miss. Foley is said to have received inspiration for her plots from her dreams.  Four novels are credited to her, the first under the pen name of Paul de Mar. As an aside, this first novel, The Gnome Mine Mystery, is the first in which Richard North appears.  Miss. Foley also wrote short stories, but I have yet to find any of those.  The Yellow Circle was her final novel.  It was said to have been inspired by tales of her father’s soldering in India.

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Running Special by Frank L. Packard

Running Special by Frank Packard

Running Special by Frank Packard

Packard, Frank L. Running Special. Toronto: The Copp, Clark Co., Limited. 1925, pp. 304.

This is Packard’s 17th book and the 4th and final collection of railroad stories.  It contains 10 stories of which only 4 are new.  The previous 6 had been published in On the Iron at Big Cloud.  All of the stories first appeared in the pulps.

1. The Builder. reprint from On the Iron at Big Cloud.

2. The Guardian of the Devil’s Slide. reprint from On the Iron at Big Cloud.

3. Corrigan’s Best.  Popular Magazine 1913 Feb 1
The one-legged engineer Corrigan is hated by Smithers, the marshal.  During a fight Corrigan makes a great personal sacrifice to keep Smithers from being killed.

4. The Hobo. Popular Magazine 1915 Feb 7
Bert Prouth, the hobo, tries to make good and put his past behind him but is persecuted by a brutish Joe Scharff.

5. Shanley’s Luck. reprint from On the Iron at Big Cloud.

6. Marley. reprint from On the Iron at Big Cloud.

7. “It Doesn’t Matter”. People’s Favourite Magazine 1919 Sept
Spud MacGallaghan has the same shiftless, slack attitude that his father has.  He gets a chance to show his worth, if he can prevent a train wreck.

8. Spitzer. reprint from On the Iron at Big Cloud.

9. The Man Who Confessed. Magazine printing unknown. c1920
Bartholomew “Barth” McClung is trying to make a go of it.  Everyone but Dawes likes him.  Dawes works towards Barth’s destruction and finds something in his past that will do it.  Riley, the trainmaster and a re-occurring character, dies in a train wreck.  Probably the last railroad story that Packard wrote.

10. The Blood of Kings. reprint from On the Iron at Big Cloud.

The Hobo, Popular Magazine 7 Feb. 1915

The Hobo, Popular Magazine 7 Feb. 1915

Hill Division is still a dangerous place.  The bad make good and die for it, their conscience clean.  The good who appear to be bad escape with only serious injuries.  The shiftless get a chance to shift themselves.  Everyone seems to be poor and ground down by hard work.  If you get sick or injured you don’t work.  If you don’t work you don’t get paid and now you also have to pay the doctor, on top of everything else.

Inexpensive copies of the various editions are available on line for purchase.  No online text version has been found.  POD versions are also absent.  I guess because no one else has produced an electronic version that they can swipe.

Most of Packard’s railroad short stories were reprinted in his three story collections: On the Iron at Big Cloud, The Night Operator and Running Special.  Some of the Hill Division stories remain uncollected, available only in hard to find pulp magazines. 29 railroad short stories have been collected into books.  There were at least 34 published in the pulps. (The exact number is unclear as some were reprinted under different names and I haven’t actually seen all of the magazines.)

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Stamps of the Arabian Nights, Part 21

Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (21 August 1872 – 16 March 1898) was an English fin de siecle illustrator well known for his black-and-white illustrations.  During his very short artistic carrier, a mere 6 years, he became a major figure in Art Nouveau and in the Aesthetic movement.  His work was influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts but he emphasized the grotesque, the decadent and the erotic.  He died at age 25 of tuberculosis.

Ali Baba

Ali Baba, 2013

Beardsley’s depiction of Ali Baba reflects his decadent proclivities.  This Ali Baba is a grotesquely fat man, dripping with jewels.  He reeks of dissipation afforded by wealth.  From Beardsley we do not see the poor, humble woodcutter who stumbles into adventure and wealth.  Instead, we have an Ali Baba decades after acquiring the entire wealth of the forty robbers.  This is Ali Baba many years after the “lived happily ever after.”  Ali Baba has been living very happily indeed.  Nothing remains of the hard working woodcutter.

St. Vincent & The Grenadines is a small island state in the Lesser Antilles (south of St. Lucia and West of Barbados.)  St. Vincent has a long French and British colonial past.  In 1979 it gained its final independence from Briton.  The islands are subject to occasional volcanic eruptions and frequent hurricanes.

As a British colony, St Vincent and the Grenadines began producing stamps in 1861.  In 1988 the country became a client of the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation, turning over its stamp production to them.  The IGPC is a philatelic company that represents over 70 different countries in the design, production and marketing of stamps.  The IGPC is not a government department or organization. It is actually a private, for profit business.  This can be seen in the staggering shipping and handling costs it charges to collectors wishing to acquire stamps produced by them. The countries using its services are its customers.

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The Night Operator by Frank L. Packard

The Night Operator

The Night Operator

Packard, Frank L. The Night Operator. Toronto: The Copp, Clark Co., Limited. 1919, pp. 320.

Packard’s 9th published book and his second of four railroad books.  The Night Operator is a collection of 10 short stories, all dealing with the Hill Division, that were previously published in The Popular Magazine.  The Hill Division was that section of track connecting the East to the West through the Rocky mountains.  Big Cloud was its centre.  Big Cloud was a rough town as if formed the hub for the labour that went into carving the track through the mountains and it continued to be the hub from which the construction camps and bridge gangs were provisioned.  Permanent trestles were being built to replace the temporary ones.  Cuts through the mountains were being trimmed and cleaned up, approaches and grades were being straightened and lessened all to make the route through the mountains safer and faster.  The town was a haven of dives, gambling halls, and bars. Mention of prostitution is curiously absent from the stories but I think we can all safely assume that it was present.

It is the world of Big Cloud that I find the most interesting.  It’s a hard world.  The men do tough work for not a lot of pay.  If you were single you lived in a boarding house.  Meals would then be prepared by the house keeper and eaten communally.  Laundry would be sent out.  The married men would live with their wives and children, if any.  To make ends meet the women would take in laundry or clothes to mend.  There were no other real options for them.  The men worked long hours at back-breaking labour for small wages.  If you got sick you didn’t get payed.  If you were injured you lost your job.  Most everyone seems to be perilously close to destitution.  And all of this was prior to the great depression of the 1930’s.  It was a world that very much seemed to be a “Life’s a bitch, then you die” sort of place.

1.  The Night Operator. Unknown, c1912.
An injured Toddles, a newsboy who desperately wants to be a railroad man, prevents two trains from colliding.

2. Owsley and the 1601. The Popular Magazine 1914 Jan
Explores a mystical connection between man and machine.  This is a frequently reprinted story with the most recent reprint being in Classic Trains magazine, 2002.

3. The Apotheosis of Sammy Durgan. Unknown, c1912
Durgan’s carelessness is always getting him fired.  On one occasion his carelessness prevents a train disaster.

4. The Wrecking Boss. The Popular Magazine 1912 Dec 15
A brutal and brutish man descends further into drinking until redeemed by a train wreck. “The Wrecking Boss” as made into the film “The Crash” by First National Pictures.  When the film was released it was found to have very little in common with the original story.  Packard’s agent and publisher sued the movie company but were unsuccessful with the suit.

5. The Man Who Squealed. The Popular Magazine 1913 Dec 15 (as The Squealer)
An old crook tries to turn it around.

6. The Age Limit.    The Popular Magazine 1914 Nov 7
MacCaffery is forced to retire because of his age.  How will he provide for his wife without a job?

7. “The Devil and All His Works”. The Popular Magazine 1913 Oct 15
A rather useless young man, Noodles, grows to hate Regan.  Noodles finally shows some sense during a station fire.  My least favourite tale.  It is overly sentimental and predictable.  Noodles is a trouble maker and his father is a rather useless old man getting by on the kindness of others.  Noodles tries to seriously hurt, or even kill, Regan.  Noodles saving of Regan from the fire would not have been necessary if he hadn’t been trying to injure him previously.

8. On the Night Wire. The Popular Magazine 1913 Dec 1
Dan McGrew’s past catches up with him.  He only keeps his job by the grace of Charlie Keene, the kid, who hates him.

9. The Other Fellow’s Job. The Popular Magazine 1913 Feb 15
A train wreck cures Jimmy Beezer of his envy of the other fellow’s job.

10. The Rat River Special. The Popular Magazine 1914 Apr 1
Martin Brodley falls from the straight and narrow.  He gets a chance to redeem himself and prevents a wreck.

Railroad Stories, July 1934

Railroad Stories, July 1934

Railroad Stories from July 1934, reprint’s the story “The Age Limit” from The Popular Magazine, Nov. 7, 1914 as
“Sixty Years, and Out.”

Most of the railroad stories are about individuals who, when the time comes show the true strength of their character.  They may have been shiftless, useless buggers or they may have been crooks but when the emergency arises they rise to the challenge.  The stories are generally moral and hopeful.  They are full of second chances and individuals grabbing those second chances and making the best of them.  It’s all about doing the right thing when it counts.

This is the tested in battle approach to life.  How can one’s worth be known until it is tested? It was a common view in Packard’s stories and a not uncommon view at the time. The world was at war in Europe and men were literally being tested in battle.  Those who broke were seen as having week characters.

There are many problems with this kind of philosophy.  If no emergency arises then the untested remain shiftless, useless or criminal.  The testing process, figuratively at war or literally at war is a pretty rough one.  In the context of Packard’s stories there is an assumption of the inevitability of train crashes.  When the crash happens, who will rise to the occasion. It’s pretty grim that people die and property is destroyed almost so that the metal of individuals could be tested.

After the emergency is dealt with the story ends so there is no real knowledge that the individuals have actually changed their ways.  They may well return to being useless buggers, now riding on the coat-tails of the one valid thing they have ever done.

The Night Operator was published by George H. Doran Co., New York and Copp Clark Co., Toronto for the Canadian edition.  Hodder & Stoughton printed the UK version.  A.L. Burt produced the reprint version for the North American market.  None of the North American publishers included edition information, so first editions are tough to determine.  Doran firsts may include the initials “GHD” on the copyright page, but they were not consistent with this.  I know of no way to determine a Copp. Clark first.

Doran first edition initials

Doran first edition initials

Inexpensive copies of The Night Operator are readily available on-line.  For those who don’t mind reading from a screen, the Internet Archive has a copy here.

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Stamps of the Arabian Nights, Part 20

In 1993 the Royal Mail produced a series of 10 Greeting Stamps featuring popular and well know characters with the theme of giving. Characters included Long John Silver and his parrot, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Mole and Toad, Peter and Mrs. Rabbit and, among others, Aladdin and the Genie.

Aladdin and the Genie

Aladdin and the Genie

I find the stamp to be rather dull, although some of the others in the series are quite interesting. I especially like the Tweedledee & Tweedledum, Mole & Toad and Peter Rabbit stamps.

There are a large variety of First Day of Issue covers. A couple of the Aladdin & Genie FDC’s are more interesting than the stamp.

Aladdin and the Genie (Edmund Dulac, 1911)

Aladdin and the Genie (Edmund Dulac, 1911)

Supplementing the stamp is an illustration by Edmund Dulac of the genie first appearing to Aladdin. Edmund Dulac received his first big break in illustration from Arthur Rackham. It was Rackham who recommended Dulac to Hodder & Stoughton to do the illustrations for Laurence Houseman’s Stories from the Arabian Nights (London, 1911). Dulac produced 50 illustrations for the book. The book ended up being extremely popular and was reprinted for many years, although later versions did not contain the full suite of illustrations. (In fact, as far as I am aware, it is only the first editions of the book that contain all 50 of the illustrations. All subsequent reprints have only a subset.) Some of the illustrations themselves continue to appear in new versions of the Arabian Nights and on various other items, like stamp FDC’s, post cards, coffee mugs, etc.

The H&S Stories from the Arabian Nights may have been the first version of the Arabian Nights to use colour for its illustrations.[1] Dulac’s illustrations have a gem-like quality to them. He was also well aware of the techniques used in Arab miniature painting and used them in his own work. Housman’s Arabian Nights is an important work in the history of the Arabian Nights so it is fitting that one of Dulac’s illustrations is used to spruce up the rather drab Royal Mail stamp.

"Old lamps for new" (Monro S. Orr, 1913)

“Old lamps for new” (Monro S. Orr, 1913)

This next FDC is much scarcer than the Dulac one. The associated illustration is by Monro S. Orr. It is from Stories from the Arabian Nights. Based on a translation by Edward William Lane. Selected, edited and arranged for young people by Frances Jenkins Olcott. With illustrations by Monro S. Orr. London: G. G. Harrap & Co., 1913.

I don’t understand why this particular illustration would have been chosen. Orr is a serviceable but not especially important illustrator. The illustration in question lacks both the Genie and Aladdin as the subject matter. Additionally, it has little to do with the theme of Giving. Yes, the illustration is of the “new lamps for old” scene. The old man is trading new lamps for old ones. So that is a sort of giving, but he is the original magician’s brother and is attempting to recover Aladdin’s magic lamp for his own use. He plans to revenge himself on Aladdin. Not the sort of giving that should be encouraged.


[1] As far as I can tell, Walter Crane’s Aladdin illustrations first appeared in The Frog Prince and Other Stories (London: George Routledge, 1874.) The illustrations were in colour. Crane’s book was a collection of fairy tales, with Aladdin being the only story from the Arabian Nights. I believe that Aladdin was later released as a stand-alone book, Aladdin’s Picture Book, in 1876. Housman’s Tales of the Arabian Nights is one of the first, if not the first book devoted exclusively to tales from the Arabian Nights that has colour illustrations.

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Stamps of the Arabian Nights, Part 19

The Pantomime has been a part of the British Christmas and New Year’s tradition for some time now.  It is a performance that remains very British.  Many English traditions have been transplanted around the world.  The Christmas pantomime is one that has not really gotten off of the islands.  It certainly never became part of the Christmas traditions of Canada, USA, Australia or New Zealand.  I am not aware of any part of the Commonwealth outside of England, where the pantomime has taken root.  While performances of pantomime may be performed in other countries, it remains a British phenomenon.

Aladdin (1958/9) Streatham Hill Theatre

Aladdin (1958/9) Streatham Hill Theatre

The pantomime is a manner of presenting a story on stage.  Each show, despite the different subject matter, presents a stock set of characters: the Principle Boy (played by a girl), the Principal Boy’s lover/sweetheart (also played by a girl), the Pantomime Dame (played by a man), the Pantomime Villain, an animal character, a pair of labour characters.  The shows themselves are chosen from a set of about 20 stories.  The plot is basically thus: “The girl dressed as a boy who is the son of a man dressed as a woman, will win the other girl (surprisingly dressed as a girl), with the assistance of a person(s) dressed in an animal skin.”[2]

Ali Baba (1916) Hippodrome

Ali Baba (1916) Hippodrome

Three of the “standard” pantomime stories have there source in The Arabian Nights.  These are Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad with Aladdin being one of the most popular.  There is a record of a performance of Aladdin in 1788.  It continues to be performed through to this day.  In 2004 there were 15 productions of Aladdin by professional companies in theatres around the UK.[3]

Sinbad (1892/3) Gaiety Theatre

Sinbad (1892/3) Gaiety Theatre

The Royal Mail has seen fit to recognise the pantomime with stamps a couple of times.  In 1985 a series of five stamps, commemorating the stock characters of the pantomime were issued.  Among them was the Genie from Aladdin.

Genie from Aladdin, 1985

Genie from Aladdin, 1985

In 2008 the pantomime was again recognised with Aladdin’s Genie again getting the nod.

Genie from Aladdin, 2008

Genie from Aladdin, 2008

While the Royal Mail does produce some very exciting and interesting stamps, I find these issues to be rather boring in their execution.

[1] Playbill’s from “Its Behind You, The Magic of Pantomime”  Its Behind You.

[2] “The History of British Pantomime,” Limelight Scripts, 2005,

[3] Sabbagh, Karl. “The Arabian Nights in British Pantomime” Scheherazade’s Children: Global Encounters with the Arabian Nights. New York: New York University Press, 2013, pp.266.

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