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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