|Joseph Osmond Barnard (1816-1865)|
|Joseph Osmond Barnard, the engraver of the "Post Office" stamps|
Joseph Osmond Barnard was born in Portsmouth, England in 1816. He arrived in Mauritius in 1838. A year later he married a young woman of Dutch origin. An advertisement in a local newspaper Le Cernéen of March 9, 1839 described Barnard as a miniature painter and engraver.
Although he had little experience in engraving miniature portraits, his attempts to engrave the Queen's head were surprisingly successful. The one penny orange-red and the deep blue two pence, "Post Office" stamps engraved on copper plate by Barnard were put for sale on September 22, 1847.
Barnard died in 1865 at his Sugar Estate, purchased in 1862 near Grand Port.
Ruins of Vieux Grand Port Archeological Site
The description of Barnard as a watchmaker and jeweler persisted without
question in philatelic literature from 1880 onwards - from The Stamp
Collector by W.J. Hardy and E.D. Bacon London 1899 p 108, to Modern
Stamp Collecting by Fred J. Melville London 1940 p 106, to ‘Post Office’
Mauritius, 1847 by Michael Harrison London 1947 p 27 to Stamps of Fame
London 1949 p 23. E.B. Evans, though not infallible, and the editors
of the official list of the Royal
Philatelic Society London, were considered to be sufficiently careful
in checking statements to be relied on as authorities.
When conducting some research into certain Post Office Mauritius in
1977 I was in communication with P.J. Barnwell, a nonagenarian, sometime
of the Royal
College in Mauritius and longtime contributor to the Dictionary
of Mauritian Biography. He wrote to me:
Another widely published statement about Barnard is that he was half-blind.
It would be unjust to deduce from his engravings alone that his eyesight
was anything but perfect, particularly having regard to the minuscule
letters ‘J.B.’ engraved on the truncation of the neck of the effigy.
However, there is substantial evidence that his sight was not all that
he could have wished.
Although he had described himself in an advertisement in Le Cernéen
the local newspaper, for 9 March 1839 as a Miniature Painter and Engraver
it seems that he had but little experience of engraving portraits, at
any rate, miniature portraits; his attempts to copy the noble lines
of the Heath's engraving of the Queen's head were crude. Nevertheless,
there is about the design a simple charm which has perhaps in no small
measure contributed to the popularity of the Post Office Mauritius with
The argument against the 'error' theory is based on the equivalent
of the legal maxim omnia praesumuntur rite et solemniter esse acta donec
probetur in contrarium, which is that all things are presumed to have
been done properly and with due formalities until it be proved to the
contrary. The contra-errorists, of which I have been one for as long
as I can recall having had an opinion on the subject, point first to
the existence of postal markings inscribed POST OFFICE MAURITIUS or
MAURITIUS POST OFFICE in use in the colony for many years before adhesive
postage stamps were ever thought of there or, indeed long before they
were brought into use in England. The first marking within an oval frame
and reading COL/POST OFFICE /MAUIRITIUS came into use in 1834, but some
eight years previously an unframed MAURITIUS/POST OFFICE had been used,
and at least two other similarly worded markings were brought into use
in 1832 and 1838.
Champion was a French dealer who had a remarkable collection of great
rarities. He engaged Dr. Brunel to write the story of the Mauritius
stamps. Of course, Dr. Brunel was aware of at least some of the earlier
writings and, certainly, any he lacked and wished to refer to would
have been provided. However, he seized the opportunity of adding glamour
to the round unvarnished tale of the earlier writers imagined error.
It makes a readable story as presented in Bulletin Mensuel de la Maison
Theodore Champion et Co for June and July 1920 and translated and abstracted
by, W. Renouf in The Philatelic Journal of India, vol 25 pp 80-83, June
1921 from which I shall cite.
He sits to work. As he is really a jeweler and not an engraver, the
result must not be criticized too severely. It is passable. He inscribes
the word ‘Postage’ at the top in burly letters, the value at the foot,
and Mauritius to the right. Only one side remains blank, but here he
experiences a tragic lapse of memory. His sketch gives no assistance,
and for the life of him he cannot recall the words which he has to engrave.
He sets out to find the Postmaster Brownrigg, to ask him to refresh
his memory. Arriving at the door of the Post Office he sees the words
Post Office before his eyes. It is born upon him that these are the
missing words. Delighted, he rubs his hands together, he does a right
about turn, and finishes his engraving forthwith. And incidentally he
perpetrates the most colossal and the most famous error in philately.
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