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New Collection in DRI – Irish Postage Stamps: Unadopted Designs

29 January 2024

The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) is pleased to announce that a new collection –  Irish Postage Stamps: Unadopted Designs – has been published in the Repository through An Post Museum and Archive (APMA).

Since its formation, the Post Office has routinely invited submissions for possible stamp designs from artists, designers and printers. Successful designs go on to become an issued stamp (with most already ingested into the Repository). Despite not being adopted as an issued stamp, the designs declined by An Post also hold considerable artistic and historical interest.

As a result, the APMA have ingested a selection of unadopted designs into the Repository. This collection showcases the work of some prominent artists alongside less well-known figures. Of the importance of this unadopted design collection, Company Archivist and Museum Curator for An Post, Stephen Ferguson said:

“Our stamps do so much more than pay for a letter to be delivered: they have, for the last century, been remarkable cultural ambassadors for Ireland and its people, showing the world how we see ourselves and also, sometimes, how we may wish to be seen.”

These comments are reinforced by viewing the unadopted design below – by the artist Raymond McGrath. This stamp design was created in commemoration of the Ireland Act of 1949, where the Republic was declared. The stamp shows a phoenix rising from flames and uses the colours of the Irish flag (green and orange) as the composition tones. The design very much illustrates the mood of the nation at this time, including feelings of patriotism and notions of rebirth associated with the declaration of the Irish Republic.

Of the ingest of Irish Postage Stamps – Unadopted Designs, DRI Director Lisa Griffith said:

“We are delighted to add another collection from An Post Museum and Archive to the Repository. The addition of unadopted stamp designs adds depth to our existing collections and indicates some of the decision-making processes behind selecting stamps for issue.

Indeed, given the wide variety of subject matter in this collection, it is clear that the selection process must have been a very difficult decision for artists and selectors like!”

Other memorable unadopted stamp designs include: a design by artist Elizabeth Rivers commemorating the Red Cross centenary. The stamp shows central red cross outlined in white, with the years 1863-1963 in the centre.

The above stamp, designed by Victor Brown, marked the anniversary of the 1798 Rebellion and shows pikemen and a ship alongside an inset of Wolfe Tone in French uniform. This busy stamp is dominated by black and white colours, marking a sharp contrast between the background and foreground.

A selection of stamps and unadopted stamp designs from 1922 to the present feature in an exhibition entitled Miniature Masterpieces. This exhibition documents one hundred years of Irish stamps mounted by the An Post Museum and Archive, and is currently on display at the National Print Museum in Dublin. The exhibition will run until early May 2024.

“Irish Postage Stamps: Unadopted Designs” can be viewed and downloaded in the DRI Repository.

You can keep up to date with all of our new collections by signing up to our newsletter.

Main image: Department of Posts & Telegraphs, & Raymond McGrath. (2024)
Irish postage stamps – unadopted designs, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor],
An Post Museum and Archive [Depositing Institution],

Department of Posts & Telegraphs, & Elizabeth Rivers. (2024)
Irish postage stamps – unadopted designs, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor],
An Post Museum and Archive [Depositing Institution],

Department of Posts & Telegraphs, & Victor Brown. (2024)
Irish postage stamps – unadopted designs, Digital Repository of Ireland [Distributor],
An Post Museum and Archive [Depositing Institution],

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