Book reviews: The Sower, A Common Little French Stamp

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09 February 2013
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imports_CCGB_thesower_43415.jpg The Sower
We review a new guide to the French 'Sower' stamps, which have been in use in France since 1903 ...
THE SOWER, A COMMON LITTLE FRENCH STAMP
by Ashley Lawrence

The Sower design, or La Semeuse, as any former schoolboy collector will know, has been in use in France since 1903, and has as strong a following of collectors as say the Standing Helvetia of Switzerland, the Post-Horn of Norway or the Numeral designs of Denmark.

There are some 25 different value and colour combinations of the ‘lined’ design, and 47 of the cameo series; not counting overprints for use outside France.

In this book the author traces the development of the two designs, the various dies that were used, and chapter by chapter takes each value, or group of values, in chronological order of issue, followed by the postal stationery, the money stamps, the overprinted issues and other collectables. He provides a lively commentary, numerous tables, plenty of illustrations, not only of the stamps, but of covers, labels and vignettes, even cartoons and cards.

There is an excellent chapter on the so-called Porte-Timbres Vignettes, popular from 1906 and during World War One, but often criticised for the contentious nature of the surrounding text, within which the stamp paying the postage was mounted.

There are five appendixes, the most important being a fully cross referenced (Yvert-Gibbons-Scott) catalogue identification guide which itemises the various sheet stamps, coils and booklet items, pre-cancelled items, surcharges, together with issue and usage dates. A second coloured illustrated index takes the reader value by value to the relevant page in the book. The author also provides a good article on the papers and printing methods used for the various issues.

This is a fine 256-page A4 paperback in full colour throughout and should be on the bookshelf of any serious collector of French stamps.
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