London: ca 1845. A letter signed "Will Humphrys", addressed from 8 Frith St., dated Monday 5th Febr (n.y., but 1838, 1844, 1849 or 1855). Humphrys say "Mr. Cousins has promised to spend tomorrow evening with me when I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you - I shall have a proof to show you. Yours very truly Will Humphrys".
Humphrys was an engraver with international associations. He was born in Dublin, apprenticed in Scotland, worked in Philadelphia, London and Italy. He engraved prints for the famous London printmakers and later in life, engraved many of the stamps & dies for the first stamps of many of the British Commonwealth countries and states, including the famed "Black Swan" for the state of Western Australia. In later life, he was an accountant for the music firm of Novello & Co.
Humphrys' was born in Dublin, was a pupil of the Scots engraver George Murray, and undertook banknote engraving. He emigrated to Philadelphia where his first works appeared in S.F. Bradford's "Encyclopaedia" (1805-1818). By October 1824, he had moved to London and engraved various images for the "Literary Souvenir," S. Rogers' "Italy," "Friendship's Offering," "Wreath of Friendship" and the like. In 1826, the Society of Arts presented him with the gold Isis medal for his recipe of etching steel plates, the first menstruum to omit nitric acid. Between 1839 and 1849, he worked with the famous engraver Samuel Cousins, whose career and fortune was made by his association with the Royal Academy giants Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Thomas Lawrence. In this time period he engraved for the famous print publishers, including Ackermann, Colnaghi, and Graves. He engraved "Sancho and the Duchess," after C. R. Leslie, (also an American who started as an apprentice with Bradford of Philadelphia) as well as "Master Lambton," after Thomas Lawrence,... (and) "George Washington," after C. G. Stuart. (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).
He became employed by Perkins, Bacon & Co. and is famed for his engravings of stamps, many the first that had been issued by ex-British colonies and states. Humphrys engraved the head of Columbus for the first stamps of Chile. In 1854 he re-engraved the Queen's Head for the line-engraved 1d red-brown, known as the "Humphrys's Retouch" by philatelists. Other stamps or dies he engraved include New Zealand - the first stamps, known as the Chalons, working from a watercolour by Edward Henry Corbould; Queensland - the dies for the first stamps used from 1860 to 1881; South Australia - the dies for the first stamps issued in 1855; and the dies for the famous Black Swans issued in 1854 for Western Australia; the Cape of Good Hope- the die for the first issue (triangulars); and Ceylon. (Wikipedia).
The address of 8 Frith St was in Soho, London, an area with long associations in the musical world. In 1838, a portrait of Vincent Novello, by "William Humphries" was advertised for sale at Novello's at 69 Dean St., Soho. After 1864, he worked for Novello's as an accountant and died of a stroke at Arthur Novello's villa in Genoa in 1865, aged 71. His estate was valued at a humble 800 pounds, a pittance compared to Cousins, whose estate was valued at 113,000 pounds.
1p, 4 1/2 x 4 7 3/8", period folds, small impressed stationary stamp in the top right corner. Sml. tear in margin with minuscule loss. Very good condition. Item #24242