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Here’s a philatelic tale that will give you hope and you may not have heard this story told quite like this. Firstly, forgive the initial sensationalism and its rather bleak outlook, but it’s important to dash your hope before we clear the sky for what is an important and significant cover from the Cape of Good Hope, and we know the sun does shine there and it isn’t called Good Hope for nothing!

So, put your coat on, and hang on in there, even when things get a bit frosty. The hope bit comes later…

Robson Lowe, a philatelic legend, famously declined to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists. That was a great shock to many at the time, and his reasons were as disturbing. Lowe refused the greatest philatelic honour of becoming a ‘Father of Philately’, due to the organisers’ failure to delete Adrian Albert Jurgens’ (1886 –1953) name from the Roll. Lowe regarded Jurgens as a forger.

Jurgens’ problems, and what tarnished his otherwise decorated philatelic legacy, was the 1861 Cape of Good Hope ‘woodblock’ triangular stamps. Or the reprinting of these stamps by Jurgens in 1940-41. Although he had been given permission to reprint them in black, philatelists realised that he’d also reprinted them in their original colours, red and blue, and worse, cleverly printed them on wove and laid paper. Up to 17 sheets by all accounts. To cut a more complex tale short, there was some suggestion that certain postal history material had forged cancels, and been enhanced with the addition of stamps, and even the odd bisect triangular materialised.

Jurgens’ “Woodblock” reprints on card presented to D. H. Kirchman

Whatever your view of this ugly affair, the story is told because as a result collectors of South Africa, and especially the attractive Cape Triangulars, have become a bit sceptical, if not cynical of postal history which is on the rare scale. However, I am the bringer of hope and if we just look out on this Cape of Good Hope landscape, we’ll have that coat off in a jiffy.

Because, our featured cover is a genuine rarity, and as such brings the deep blue cloudless sky overhead, for us philatelists to bask in. If you’re lucky enough to sail off down memory lane, lot 20010 from David Feldman’s 2013 Rarities of the World auction brought a cover into view that you just don’t see. Crucially the featured cover, which is sent by registered mail in 1858 from Fraserburg to Cape Town, has a ‘bisected’ 4d deep blue Cape of Good Hope Triangle from the Perkins Bacon printing, in a “pair” with a further normal in the other corner of the cover.

Lot 32151 from our upcoming June 30th-July 2nd auction series, a genuine 4d “Woodblock” in milky blue shade

Now not wishing to overwhelm you with too many rays of detail, that is the correct postage rate for an internal mail sent registered. Namely 4d postage, 6d registration. Fraserburg clearly didn’t have the derivative stamps in stock for the 10d franking, so as is rarely the case they opt for bisecting one of the 4d stamps, making it a 2d value.

If that wasn’t enough to warm your cockles then the manuscript ‘6’ confirms the registration and then stretch out on that sun lounger and take a closer look at the postmark. All stamps are tied nicely with the inner part of the bisect also tied. You don’t even have to take my word for it as the cover came with a BPA certificate dated 1994, three years before the death of our legend Robson Lowe, and if you haven’t already got the picture, Robson wasn’t one for ‘sitting back’ in his lounger and ignoring what he felt was wrong, especially when it might pertain to Jurgens – namely Cape of Good Hope material.

Plus he would have no doubt pointed out that these stamps are from the London Perkins Bacon printings of the Triangles and not the unfortunately tainted woodblock issue of 1861, or worse the even later Jurgens woodblock reprints of 1940-41.

Detail of the cover showing the triangular cancellation tying the bisect, and the “6” from the registered manuscript endorsement

Today it stands as one of the major rarities of the Cape of Good Hope, and has graced the collections of, among others, two famous philatelists: Charles Lathrop Pack (in fact it is often referred to as the C. L. Pack Bisect Cover) and Ad Indhusophon. It was sold in our 2005 Rarities of the World auction for CHF142’200 (including commission).

So we can relax and enjoy this change in climate. Whilst there are a few pieces and a front, you can soak up the fact that this example is the only recorded full cover with a bisected Cape Triangular. So if that doesn’t restore your hope in these Bisect Triangulars, I don’t know what will.  I’ll get my coat!

The C. L. Pack Bisect Cover of the Cape of Good Hope