This stamp from the Royal Mail’s Millennium Series was part of a set of four jointly called The Inventors’ Tale which paid tribute to the work of British inventors. Designed with classical understatement by the incomparable David Gentleman, the stamp’s theme is the development of accurate timekeeping and its relation to navigation. It shows the Greenwich Meridian as a red line extending across a globe of the Earth and onto a clock face which symbolizes John Harrison’s last and most accurate chronometer, H4. This clever juxtaposition of clock and Earth underlines the link between time and longitude, which is embodied in the role of Greenwich as the world’s prime meridian for navigation and timekeeping. A modified version of this design was to reappear in 1999 December in the Millennium Timekeeper sheet.
The Inventors’ Tale set was released on 1999 January 12. The other advances commemorated were:
26p, James Watt’s development of steam power (1999/47); 43p, Henry Fox-Talbot’s photographic experiments (1999/46); and 63p, Alan Turing’s work on computers (1999/45).
The Timekeeping stamp was numbered ‘Millennium 1999/48’, even though it was the first of the Millennium series of stamps issued in 1999 – the numbers actually counted down from 48 to 1 throughout the year.
Stanley Gibbons no. 2069