Who can solve a 150-year-old enigma?
Well this one is a mystery, in fact I don’t really know if this article genuinely sits under France or GB.
There were at least 12 different colour essays produced and printed in 1869 and were called “Project Joubert”.
They depict the head of the “Imperial Prince” who was later
Napoleon IV and son of Napoleon III. He died a young man
at 23 whilst fighting with the British against the Zulu’s in 1879.
These essays were designed by Jean Joubert de le Ferte who
was the chief engraver at De La Rue.
Joubert was responsible for engraving the first official Great
Britain Surface Printed stamp, the 1855 4d printed by De La
He proceeded to design many of the Foreign and Colonial
issues between 1856 until 1877 and therefore, this covered
the period when these
essays were designed
and issued. These essays
were designed from a master proof and an example of the plate proof is shown here (left).
The essays were made up in sheets of 25 and ungummed. There are not too many references to them in catalogues, however, they are listed under France in the 1975 edition of Yvert and Tellier’s Specialised Catalogue Volume 1 under the heading of 1869 Essays.
There is a rumour that these stamps were re-issued in the 1940’s but I cannot find any evidence to support this, having said that these examples do look remarkably fresh so they could well be reprints. The mystery remains, were these essays printed by De La Rue and if so would they be classed as British proofs and essays. Furthermore, for
what purpose were they issued? Any light on the subject would be gratefully welcome. You can email me at