Making his Mark
The man in the photograph above features in the Guinness Book of Records more than once! He was responsible for producing the artwork for more than 1,000 stamps for many countries, an incredible amount considering the time and precision demanded for every single engraving.
His first fully-engraved stamp, below, issued by Poland in 1951, depicting a coal miner with drilling machinery. The stamp promotes a 5-year plan for production of coal.
Czeslaw Slania, the man in question, was born in Poland on October 22nd 1921 and even as a small boy displayed signs of the artistic talent that was to blossom in later years. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland, recognised as one of Europe’s best Graphic Arts Academies and while studying was offered employment with the Polish Stamp Printing House – where he worked for six years.
He was known to sometimes include himself or a family member in his engravings
and portrayed himself as a mechanic in a Polish car factory on these Polish stamps from 1952.
Between 1951 and 1956 Slania engraved 23 stamps for the Polish Post Office. In August 1956 Slania left Poland to try to get a job as an engraver in Sweden. This was to prove more difficult than he thought and for some years he had to supplement his earnings from small engraving jobs by dishwashing at the Central Station Post Office Restaurant in Stockholm. He eventually joined the Swedish Postal Service as a full time engraver in 1960. In 1972, he was appointed Royal Court Engraver in Sweden, and later the same for the Royal Courts of Denmark and Monaco.
Prince Albert I of Monaco and his second wife, American-born Marie Alice Heine. Slania was the engraver of these 1980 stamps.
The Faroe Islands is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark which in 1975 issued its first set of stamps. And over the following years Slania engraved 92 stamps for the Islands. He declared his favourite of the 92 to be the stamp shown below from 1979 featuring the head of a ram.
Above, a beautiful Slania-engraved Swedish stamp sheet issued in 2000, commemorating this, his 1,000th stamp engraving. The stamp also has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest engraved stamp ever issued. It depicts a portion of a ceiling painting in Sweden’s Royal Palace by David Ehrenstrahl from 1695.
Below, Slania engravings for 1982 Great Britain Naval History set.
Czeslaw Slania often put his signature on his engraved stamps but this was not always the case, as seen on the Great Britain Coach Mail set seen below, from 1984.
Below, Swedish stamp booklet depicting scenes of the Gota Canal.
On February 4th, 2005, the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) issued three commemorative stamps and three souvenir sheets (one of which shown below) with the theme “United Nations General Assembly at Headquarters — Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations”. All hand-engraved by the great man.
Slania engraved stamps for 32 postal authorities, which is also a world record, and his commissions covered a great variety of subjects. For example, transport on a Singapore stamp sheet from 1997.
Slania also made engravings for banknotes for at least ten countries, possibly more, as some authorities are reluctant to disclose names of people involved in their production. This may also be a record.
Czeslaw Slania died aged 84 in 2005 and was buried in Krakow, Poland. Unfortunately, this brief article can not fully celebrate his lifetime achievements, but if you follow the link below it leads to a marvellous in-depth appreciation of his work.
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