I suppose, ultimately, that any commemoration surrounding William Shakespeare is going to be about the written word but I still can't help feeling disappointed by the designs of Royal Mail's new issue to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the great writer's death which consist of nothing but the written word apart from the Queen's Head and the value of the stamp.
The set of 10 stamps depicts, in various forms of print or calligraphy, 10 quotations from Shakespeare's work though how one can select 10 from the volumes of memorable quotations escapes me. How much more exciting an issue depicting great actors who have given memorable performances of the characters whom Shakespeare created would have been and which would also have been a good way of cashing in on the modern love of celebrity.
Or perhaps just artistic renditions of great scenes from his plays (there have been enormous numbers of great paintings of Shakespeare's works over the years and many are so old that copyright no longer applies!).
Or perhaps we could have had posters of cinematic versions of some of Shakespeare's plays - as happened with the "Carry On" and Hammer Films anniversaries stamps - a great opportunity to bring us history (Henry V, Richard III and so on) coupled with actors and actresses (Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, Ian McKellan, Emma Thomson) or old theatre posters (an opportunity to depict even more great British actors and actresses as well as art).
The form of the designs must have seemed a good idea at the time but they seem to me like a missed opportunity as after all, above everything else, stamps are a visual, preferably pictorial, medium.
No doubt many would disagree with me and will like the designer's approach to the subject, after all "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" or as Shakespeare put it in "Love's Labours Lost" in 1588, "Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye, not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues".
The set of 2 se-tenant strips of 5 x 1st class stamps will be issued on 2 April 2016. Rating:- *.
New Zealand Post will issue 10 stamps in various formats on 6 April 2016 as the third part of its commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War and New Zealand's involvement in it. The issue is made up of 6 x 80c values (issued as part of a miniature sheet of 10 stamps, a se-tenant block of the 6 stamps, a miniature sheet of the 6 different values and in a $39.90 "Commemorative book" which contains 12 miniature sheets including one each for individual stamp) and 2 x $2 and 2 x $2.50 stamps (all issued in the miniature sheet of 10, in a miniature sheet of these 4 higher values and in the above mentioned "Commemorative book".
The theme of the issue is "Courage and Commitment" and features subjects which include Solomon Isaacs who served in the 3rd Maori Reinforcements. Solomon had been born in Tautu on Aitutaki in The Cook Islands and signed up in the NZEF as a 19 year old labourer living in Auckland. He served in the war for almost 3 years and eventually returned to Auckland and then between 1920 to 1922 returned home to Tauto. It's good to see New Zealand Post recalling the contribution of young men from its dependent territories - one fears that Cook Island's own philatelic agents will be much more interested in producing philatelic items aimed at milking the WWF stamp market or the Royal Family stamp market or the Chinese New Year stamp market rather than honouring the role of Cook Islanders in the First World War.
Other subjects featured in the issue include the introduction of conscription in New Zealand, the Battle of Jutland (HMS New Zealand was one of the 151 British vessels involved in the battle), the Maori Pioneer Battalion, the first ANZAC Day, the role of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, the Home Front, New Zealanders on leave in London and the terrible Battle of The Somme in which 15000 NZEF troops were killed or injured.
This excellent issue was designed by Strategy Design and Advertising and lithographed by Southern Colour Print. Perforated 14.5. Rating:- *****.
Sri Lanka Department of Posts issued a single stamp on 26 February 2016 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the birth of DR Wijewardena, founder of Lake House newspaers and an important participant for the independence of Ceylon. The stamp was designed by Sanath Rohana Wikramasinghe and printed in lithography. Rating:- **.
India Post issued a single stamp on 4 March 2016 to commemorate the Goan industrialist and philanthropist Vasantrao Srinivassa Sinai Dempo. Rating:- *.
India Post will also issue a se-tenant pair of stamps (1 x Rs5 and 1 x Rs25) on 8 March 2016 which is a joint issue with the United Nations Postal Administration on the subject "He For She" (gender equality), a campaign which urges men to defend the rights of their female relatives. The designs are interesting and match well the 6 UN stamps (2 each for the in New York, the Palais Des Nations, Geneva and the Vienna International Centre) Rating:- ***.