This page last updated: 7 October 2001

::: BOSTON LITHOGRAPH - Plating Study :::

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> To continue progress on reconstructing the layout of the lithograph stone, it would be useful to watch someone demonstrate the old style methods of lithography used in the 1860's. Please E-mail ( me if you know a museum or other facility where the old style tools can be found, or where the old method of lithography is still used.

> Let me know if you have, or know of, lithograph multiples, stamps with extra wide margins or stamps with significant portions of an adjoining stamp. If you can send an image by e-mail, better yet.

> Let me know if you have, or know of, proofs from the lithograph stone. The ones I have are black on card. Ink skips in the left leaf panel connect the proof with the lithographic printing.



In lithography, the printer typically prepares a die and lays out a number of images on a transfer stone. From this stone, a paper image is made to prepare the printing stone. It is possible, however, to vary this process by entering the subjects directly onto the printing stone. In the case of the Boston Lithographs, it seems likely the printer used this shortcut process. By one process or another, the printer lays out a number of subjects on the stone. We cannot tell exactly what layout was used to print these stamps. S. Allen Taylor, who lived in Boston when these stamps were printed, gave us a layout of four panes of 25 stamps each, laid out six across and four down with one extra subject laid down in the top margin of each of the upper panes and in the bottom margin of each of the lower panes. Modern research shows each pane was laid out five across and five down. The order called for sheets of 25 and supposing the printer gratuitously added extra stamps seems implausible.

Few multiples of this stamp exist and no complete panes are recorded. The largest recorded multiples are two blocks of ten stamps, both from the same position of the same pane and both classed as Scott 28a.

Click Here for an image of a block of ten.

Apart from the two blocks of ten, three multiples of six stamps are recorded (UR pane positions 1-3 and 6-8; UR 6-8 and 11-13; and UR 2-5 and 9-10), all Scott No. 28a. We also have a photographic image of another block of six (from one of the lower panes) which has since been separated and only a strip of 3 remains from it. Several blocks of four are known to exist, most from the UR pane and one from the UL pane. The UL pane is the only recorded Scott No. 28 multiple of this size. The others are Scott No. 28a.

Unless more multiples come to light, the true layout of these stamps may never be known. Given the evidence we have, the layout on the stone was 100 subject, laid out in four panes of twenty-five subjects each, with two panes on top and two on the bottom. The panes are identified as UL, UR, LL and LR. Stamps can be located within one of the panes and assigned, for example, UL1 for the first position in the UL pane.

A complete reconstruction has been accomplished for the UR pane, using overlapping multiples. Twenty subject locations have been confirmed for the UL pane. Reconstruction of the two bottom panes remains virtually undone for lack of multiples and presently those panes are repositories for stamps that do not fit the upper two panes.


Each stamp produced from the printing stone for this issue has distinct features. Easiest to see are ink skips leaving white spots where color should be. For some reason, ink skips occur only in the left leaf panel of the stamp. Referring to these skips as "cats paws" and "donut holes" give some impression of how they appear. Other marks are stray spots or lines of color. Regardless of whether the stamp is a first printing or second printing stamp, a stamp printed from the same location on the stone will have the same distinct markings. Proofs exist from the original printings and they demonstrate the same position marks found on the stamps.

Scott 27 cat's paw
Scott 27 cat's paw detail
Cat's paw ink skip
Scott 28 Donut hole
Scott 28 Donut hole detail
Scott 28 Donut hole detail
Donut hole ink skip
Scott 28a UR 24 crescent
Odd color dot to left of "U" from position UR24, the "crescent moon" dot
Scott 28 scarface UR2 600
Stone crack in UL2, the "scarface" grew progressively
LL1-2, short transfer
LL1-2, short transfer detail
LL1-2, short transfer and detail
Donut hole
Donut hole detail
Donut hole and detail from same position but different shades, showing the flaws remained the same regardless of shade
Scott 27 light rose 2 600
Another short transfer in the "2"
Litho proof-detail
Horizontal line from the donut hole to the vignette, seen here in a proof. The same flaw is seen in the stamp, position unknown

Diena noticed a break in the line forming the left side of the panel containing the words "UKU LETA" and now dubbed the "Diena flaw."

Scott 28a UR 4block-1
Scott 28a dark carmine Diena 600a
Diena flaw found in Position UR23 - the bottom left stamp in the 28a block of 4 of this image, with a zoom image of the flaw. Diena attributed this flaw to a retouch done to mask a tear in the transfer paper. Diena assumed a transfer paper was used. There also is a general breakdown of the line separating the center vignette from the left leaf panel. The "crescent moon" dot is seen in the bottom right stamp of this block, UR 24. "Donut hole" ink skips can be seen in the left leaf panel of all the stamps in this block of UR 18-19, 23-24

Another re-touch is apparent in UR 6, the upper left stamp in the following block of six, where the frame line above the left side "2" was strengthened:

Block of 6, Scott 28a (?), positions UR6-8 and 11-13:

Scott 28a 6block
Scott 28a UL6 detail

Lithography printers usually used the die to create a multiple of several stamps. This multiple then was used to enter the stamp images on the stone. Where this method was used, certain "transfer" flaws should repeat whereas a stone flaw would be unique to a particular position. If transfer flaws could be located, they would aid in reconstructing the stone layout and positions. So far, transfer flaws have not been identified, suggesting perhaps each position was entered individually. Study of possible transfer flaws might focus on the UL numeral "2" value and in the uncolored panel to the left of "UKU." A vertical line below the two and a vertical line, usually broken, can be seen in some, but not all, stamps. Methodical study of these lines might yet yield a clue.

Litho proof 2a detail
Litho proof 2 detail

Detail from a proof showing the line below the "2" and a broken vertical line in the uncolored panel to the left of "UKU." In this example, the line is visible at the top of the panel and again at the bottom.

Detail from a different proof. This detail shows the line below the "2" and the vertical line to the left of "UKU." In this example, the line appears only at the bottom of the panel.


  • Green, Irving I., "Hawaii, S. Allan Taylor Solves An 1861 Mystery", The Collectors Club Philatelist, Vol. 42, No. 3, p. 141-147, 154, March, 1963. This work publishes the controversial layout described by S. Allen Taylor, the notorious forger active in Boston soon after the Boston Lithograph stamps were being produced.

  • Colson, Warren H., "The Hawaiian Stamps Of The Type A11 In The Standard Catalogue," Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News, January 25, 1902, p. 38-39. Colson makes reference to only one printing, notes the "deep shade" and states the sheet was of 20 stamps. I think he erred only in the last point. Of the "deep shade" stamps, he states it is "very rare" laid horizontally.

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