On 3 May 1990, to commemorate the 150th. anniversary of the Penny Black *, An Post issued a £6 prestige stamp book. The Penny Black was issued on 6 May 1840. At the time all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Consequently, this also was the 150th. anniversary of Irish postage stamps.
The stamp book has the title "Ireland's Postage A HISTORY." On eight pages, not counting the front and back covers, it tells the history of the posts in Ireland from the 15th. century to date. The text is both in English and Gaeilge with accompanying illustrations.
The stamp book (Hibernian nr. HB33) contained four stamp panes (Hibernian nrs. HP36-39) with further illustrations. The stamp book and panes were printed by ISSP. Other than the two stamps commemorating the 150th. anniversary of the Penny Black issued on the same day, three of the panes contain a mixture of "Architecture" and "Irish Heritage and Treasures" definitives. The commemorative stamps (Hibernian nrs. C547-548) are "stamps-on-stamp" issues. The higher 50p value depicts examples of the four definitive series issued by Ireland since 1922. This includes the black 26p "Cormac Chapel" stamp from the "Architecture" series.
The other three panes all contained stamps from the third ("Architecture") and fourth ("Irish Heritage and Treasures") definitive series. These differ from earlier issues as they are slightly larger and are perforated 13.5, whereas the earlier issues had perforation gauge 15 on the shorter side and 14.25 on the longer side.
The stamp book is a source for five new "Architecture" stamps (Hibernian nrs. D108a, D119a, and D22a), two commemorative stamps and four "Irish Heritage and Treasures" stamps (D39a and D141a). For these series, the Hibernian Handbook does not assign numbers to imperforate-side varieties. Whereas all previously issued booklets had stamps printed on non-fluorescent paper, the stamps from the prestige stamp booklet were printed on paper that has a weak fluorescent reaction.
* The Twopence Blue was issued on the same day. Until documentation proving both stamps were intended to be valid from 6 May 1840 was discovered, the Penny Black was considered the world's first postage stamp. Although not valid for use before 6 May 1840, it is known used from 1 May 1840. Due to problems during application of the gum, distribution of the Twopence Blue was delayed. It is likely only a few London post offices received a supply on or just before that date.