Hi Classic Coins --
Regarding my 40L1L with the Feb 16 Plymouth (?) CDS -- you wrote:
The right frame line on the 16 Feb Plymouth(?) stamp appears doubled part of the way. Do you think comparing the curves in the right frame line with the die proofs would resolve whether the line was recut by hand?
You raise a great point for further study -- but the comparison would be to 40L1i, not the original master die.
We know that on the early state of plate 1, position 40L, an A relief, had all 4 outer frame lines and both inner lines recut by hand. When plate 1e became plate 1i, the position was re-entered, also with an A relief -- but there was no additional re-cutting or touching up by hand. Finally, when plate 1i became plate 1L, the entire plate was again softened, re-entered, and extensively recut.
I took a look at 3 copies of 40L1i this evening -- and it is really hard to make a fair comparison between the RFL on the inter state of the plate versus the RFL on my 40L1L -- primarily because none of 40L1i stamps that I could find have an impression like my 1L copy. The best copy of 40L1i that I could find, at least by way of impression, was on StampSmarter -- and based on comparison to that stamp, I am still not 100% sure if the RFL on 40L1L was very lightly recut -- or not recut at all (???).
I tried using your "compressed imaging technique" to compare the RFL on the StampSmarter copy of 40L1i versus the RFL on the copy of 40L1L that I posted up to SCF yesterday. The curves in the RFL look the same to me on both the inter and late states of 40L1 -- but the doubling that you mention is more pronounced on my 40L1L -- but again -- this could well be due to differences in inking and impression (???). Compressed images of both stamps are attached below -- and as you will see, the RIL is definitely way different on the two stamps -- but the RFL has the exact same general shape. That said, I am leaning toward the RFL on 40L1L not being recut at all when plate 1i became plate 1L -- but again -- that is nothing more than an educated guess at this point. What do you think?
If we want to go all the way back to the "original die" -- which I think is worth discussing -- very generally speaking, when it comes to the four outer FL's -- while they made it to plate 1 early (and all of the other plates as well) -- they were generally very weak -- consequently they were recut. Likewise, the inner lines on the master die were even weaker than the outer frame lines -- and in almost all instances failed to even make it to the plate -- which is why they don't show on almost all stamps unless they were recut by hand. Plate 1E best demonstrates this point where there is a mix of stamps with and without the inner lines recut. Here's how I view the process of going from master die to printed stamp -- and almost every step of the way, the lines on the master die get weakened a bit:
1. Create the master die (i.e., the Panama Pacific die proof scan that I previously posted in this thread is a good example of what the engraved lines on the original master die looked like).
2. Harden it.
3. Create a 1-relief master transfer roll from the master die.
4. Harden it.
5. Enter 3 transfers of the master transfer roll onto a laydown (or secondary die), one above the other.
5a. Here's where the C relief gash on shoulder in the top relief might have occurred (???).
6. Harden the laydown.
7. Create a 3-relief transfer roll from the laydown.
8. Remove the tessellated impingements from the white oval on all three reliefs. (This is where the different reliefs A, B, and C were created).
9. Harden the 3-relief transfer roll.
10. At this point TCC could start entering the plate. They might have first rocked in a "second state" laydown at this point, as a backup. That way if something happened to the 3-relief transfer roll, they could make a new one from the backup, and skip most of these steps.
So the way I see it, you will lose a certain amount of fine lines (and incur a certain amount of weakening to all lines in general) in each of steps 3, 5, 7, and 10.
Another aspect is needing to smooth or flatten the die, or laydown, or plate after each rocking in. This burnishing is usually at the edges of the design, so that also might further contribute to weakening the outer frame lines by the time you get to a printed stamp from plate 1E -- and then there is still the progression from 1E to 1i to 1L.
Most of this process is explained in way more detail in Baxter's book "Printing Postage Stamps by Line Engraving" (please note that while Baxter's book provides a "general explanation" of the process, it is not with specific regard to the 1851 3-cent issue). There is also a great discussion on the guide relief process in the USPCS Sesqui book.
Regards // ioagoa
PS -- If I had better computer skills, I would have combined these images into a single side-by-side comparison -- but alas, I do not know how to do that...
Compressed image of my 40L1L at 10% of original height is here:
Compressed image of the StampSmarter copy of 40L1i at 10% of its original height is here: