About the history of the printing of the A1 Yellow Rayons.
With none of the great experts and researchers of the Durheim editions I had a closer written contact than with Werner Städeli. Over the years this has certainly resulted in dozens of letters. Even more than with Dr. V. Streiff. The most intensive personal contact however I had with Willy Bryner, as I met him on countless Saturdays to discuss the Rayons. The contact with all three was a formative one for me and I owe them a lot.
While searching for an old record, I happened to come across a letter from Werner Städeli to me dated October 14, 1972, from which I would like to quote a few passages, because they provide answers to questions about the color varieties of the first printing stone of the Yellow Rayon, the A1 stone, and could therefore still be of current interest today. Städeli wrote:
"Durheim had begun printing the A1 stone stamps a few months prior to their date of issue (Oct. 1, 1850). He undoubtedly searched for the most given yellow colour for the R II and tried all possible yellow colours and mixtures. He then seems to have found it, because alongside stone A2 the dozens of colour variations, as they were found for A1s, have suddenly disappeared. Of course there are, as in every stone, color varieties in the A2 issue as well. My collection consists not only of pieces by printing stones, but mainly of colour variations all stemming from one printing stone. I own a whole volume of only Rayon II A1 and invite you to a tour when you come to Zurich".
And further from his letter: "Durheim, asked by philatelist Schulze at the beginning of the nineties (shortly before Durheim's death), testified: I hadn't been so concerned with the frank notes. Photography was my passion at the time. It was a lot of testing and experimenting at the time, until it matched the expectations of Federal Minister Näff (Post Minister)."
Städeli continues: "There was a fear of forgeries - at that time of course only those that caused damage to the post, which is why 40 different types were created. Let us not forget that multicolour printing was new territory for Durheim at the time. There was still no multicolour printing in postage stamp lithography in the whole world.
At the end of the 1940s I travelled all over Western Europe, from Spain to England to Norway, and in addition to the better printing stones, I mainly searched for colour varieties within the individual printing stones. Abroad there wasn't anyone who knew about the Rayon printing stones anyway and in Switzerland there were at that time at most five specialists, each one of them with different abilities, who began to collect this area. I bought what I could and brought it home to Dr. Munk to take pictures.
The A1 stone must be regarded as a single test work by Durheim. There are those yellow prints among these pieces, which I consider to be much rarer than the so-called tobacco brown ones. But this can only be seen by a specialist who excels in this specific field."
So much of the excerpts from Werner Städeli's letter.
Carl Durheim was a lithographer in Bern. His passion however was not so much the (lithographic) printing of postage stamps than photography - daguerreotypes. Portraits at first, then landscapes. He ran a photo studio in Bern.
The German Dr. Herbert Munk (1875 - 1953) can undoubtedly be called the first researcher of the Durheim stamps. He was one of the greatest stamp experts of his time and worked on the large Kohl handbook of postage stamps, in which all postal areas known at that time were to be covered in alphabetical order. He had finished letters "A" to "I" when he had to leave Germany in 1936 and emigrated to Switzerland. The Swiss Philatelic Association asked him to take care of the Durheim editions, which in the following years gave him access to most of the large collections. The deterioration of his health forced him to stop working in 1951. Ernst Müller from Basel was able to take these over, alongside around 12,000 photographs of Rayons I and II. He set himself the goal of continuing the work of reconstructing the Rayon printing stones. Ernst Müller was able to complete the Rayon II edition with the help of his colleague Jean Kottelat and the great collector and researcher Dr. V. Streiff towards the end of the 1960s. The relevant study was published in the 1967/1968 editions of the SBZ (Swiss Stamp Journal).
Based on the documents and photos of Dr. Munk, Mario Colombi, Dr. Viktor Streiff, Jean Kottelat and Werner Städeli decided to complete the studies of the light blue Rayons if at all possible, which then succeeded shortly before the sudden death of Dr. Streiff (1973). In the following years, this work was gradually published in the SBZ and, with the help of the Philatelic Support Fund, also as a standalone book.
Own thoughts about these circumstances of the Rayon II, Stone A1:
- Suddenly it becomes clear why the yellow A1 stone is so versatile and therefore still so popular today. Not only the variety of stamps is inspiring, but also the variety of colour nuances. Those of the tobacco brown family were discussed in cooperation with the examiner Urs Hermann and studied scientifically in a quite extensive manner, and the results were included in the catalogue of the Swiss Stamp Dealers' Association alongside evaluations. Further colour nuances will probably be added in the future.
- The later stones A2, A3, B and B1 have only a few striking colour nuances. There are some more among the stones D and E. That is not very surprising either, as Dr. Munk estimated there were about 300,000 copies of the A1 stone edition, much less than the stone D and E editions however, which each had around 2,240,000 pieces. In a significantly larger edition it is understandable that there should be much more colour differences, since the colour had to be remixed much more often. Nevertheless, there are much fewer nuances than in the A1 run, which clearly points to Städeli's assumption that the A1 stone was a testing chamber for Durheim, where a lot of "testing and experimenting" took place. (According to Durheim himself.)
- When we use these finished works today for the daily work of determination, do we at least occasionally think of those pioneers who, through years of work and a great deal of time and money, paved the way for the finished books? We can no longer personally thank these people today if we have not done so during their lifetime. For myself, this means that (before the publication of the determination books!) I was not only able to have hundreds, but probably several thousand Rayons classified by Dr. Streiff and Werner Städeli in terms of printing stones. Often for a minimal fee, but often - as in the case of Dr. Streiff - also simply for the possibility of giving him missing types at a fair price.
- Today, however, we can express our gratitude to these early researchers to those who today are concerned with reconstructing new areas and who approach us for help by also helping them to the best of our ability. In the field of Durheim editions, I am thinking above all of Felix Fischer, who has been working for years on the various printing stones of the dark blue Rayons, and Bernhard Geiser, who is working on the reconstruction of a (soon-to-be) complete array of the Cantonal stamps. Such efforts, that will sooner or later benefit all philatelists, cannot be overestimated. They deserve our gratitude