September 20, 2013


If you progress beyond plain and simple ‘one of each’ stamp collecting to maybe a slightly more advanced level, you experience a steep learning curve when it comes to philatelic terms. There’s so much to learn about printing processes such as intaglio, photogravure and lithography. Persevere long enough, though, and there will probably come a time that you’re familiar with the majority of philatelic terms. 

Bahamas 1879 bromide proof of 1d interinsular postage in unadopted design
But I found that there’s a few which remain a mystery to me. And no matter how hard I try and find explanations, the true meaning keeps eluding me. Bromides is one of those terms which baffle me.

Bahamas 1879 bromide proof of trial, Chalon portrait set within engine turned frame with blank labels

I usually stay clear of them, but I recently received an auction catalogue full of them. They come from the Perkins Bacon archives of British Empire and are absolutely stunning! So now, more than ever, I feel an urgent need to know what they are exactly. I could probably come up with: 'it’s a photographic plate proof', but that just sounds like a meaningless phrase to me.

Ceylon 1879 bromide proof of frame with Chalon portrait of Victoria showing extensive lathe work surround

The bromides in the catalogue, of which you see a handful here on this blog, are all from engraved and recess-printed plates. So what role do bromides play here? It can’t be (in as far as that is possible anyway) that these are photogravure printings of engraved plates, because the photogravure process only came into vogue in the 1930s.

Grenada 1879

So are bromides therefore just photographs of die and plate proofs? And if so, why were they made? The only thing I can think of is for record keeping maybe? But could they not have used the actual die and plate proofs for that purpose? Why make the extra effort of photographing them?

Natal 1879 bromide of original submitted design of the 1d chalon with marginal notations 'colour to be like the English penny brick - approved PSJ'

It’s a puzzlement!

Tasmania 1879 bromide of initial essay of Chalon portrait within ornate frame

But anyway, I presume you agree with me that these are wonderful items. I’ve concentrated here on the bromides depicting the famous Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria. They would form an amazing addition to any classic British Empire collection and come at prices which are probably more affordable than die proofs or even the finished stamps themselves!

Tasmania 1879 bromide of the portrait submitted for use on postage stamps

If only I knew more about them, I might even have had a go at the auction, but as it stands, I’d rather wait for the explanations you will hopefully now offer me! 

See yous later

All images courtesy of Philangles Ltd, reproduced with their kind permission.


  1. I love the word "interinsular". It's new to me.

  2. Nice collection of old & rare stamps! If I want to sell or buy old stamps, then how could I find the right place for that?