Royal Observatory Greenwich – postcard collection

Estimated date
1852 & 1984
Post Office
Publisher's title
Greenwich Meridian (Time – Airys Transit Telescope)
Nominal size
6.0 x 4.0 inches
Publisher/printer ref.
PHQ 77(d) 6/84
Website ref.

© Post Office. In 1984, the Post office issued a set of four stamps (16p, 20p. 28p & 31p) to celebrate the so-called centenary of the adoption of the Greenwich Meridian as the Prime Meridian of the World. As was the norm at the time, the Post Office also issued a set of postcards depicting the four stamps, of which this is one. The design for the 31p stamp was derived from a combination a southern view of the piers taken from plate 10 of the description of the Transit Circle published by Airy as an appendix to the 1852 volume of Greenwich Observations, one of the views of the telescope taken from the same publication and a photograph showing alterations made to the central cube of the telescope in 1865. The words east and west were reversed during the design of the stamp. This was a serious mistake as the two piers supporting the telescope are not mirror images of each other. Unfortunately, this was not realised until after the stamps had been put into production. A second less obvious error is that when the images were combined, their relative sizes were not correctly scaled. A third problem is that the red line depicting the Meridian is printed slightly to the right of the centre of the telescope. An examination of several specimens of the stamp suggests that this is where the misalignment arose.