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The cream of Britain's artists, designers and image-makers, lined up along the Greenwich Meridian Line today with Joanna Lumley to mark the launch of Royal Mail's Millennium Collection - its own unique celebration of the dawning of the new Millennium.

The special stamp programme for 1999 is the largest and m6st prestigious commissioning of artwork ever by Royal Mail. A total of 48 stamps will be issued throughout the year - each one created by a different acclaimed image maker and devoted entirely to celebrating the past Millennium.

Artists David Hockney, Peter Blake, and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi RA and illustrator Ralph Steadman are among the prestigious line-up responsible for creating the collection. Designer David Gentleman has created his 99(TH) stamp for Royal Mail with Timekeeping, which is the first stamp in the series of 48.

As the stamps were launched, David Gentleman said: "I am delighted to he part of Royal Mail's celebration of the Millennium and pleased that for this occasion, Royal Mail has tumed to some of the country's most distinguished artists and designers."

Four stamps will be issued every mouth in 1999, building into a single - collection of 48 special stamps which look at British history and achievements over the past 1,000 years.

Professor Jeremy Black of Exeter University, a leading historian, author and consultant to this major initiative, said: "The designers have drawn their inspiration from an eclectic group of subjects ranging from Peter Brookes' depiction of Jenner's vaccination, Justin Mortimer's celebration of Dr Who and Peter Blake's Live Aid.

"Each issue will be like the chapter of a book, and taken together as a collection, will prove a fascinating record of the Millennium," he said.

Royal Mail Director and Chair of the Stamp Advisory Committee, Adam Novak, said: "The Millenium stamps will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own 48 miniature works of art, marking this historic event. As such, the collection will be a significant souvenir for generations to come - serving as testimony to the remarkable advances that have occurred in every sphere of British life."

Leading design consultancy CDT was commissioned by Royal Mail to assist in the realisation of this unique programme. Each stamp is numbered, from 48 in January to number one in December. Other than the January set they will all be issued on the first Tuesday of each month.

Images of the first two stamp issues for 1999 - Inventors' Tale and Travellers' Tale - were unveiled at the Old Royal Observatory, Greenwich, which is the official starting point of the new Millennium.

Inventors' Tale, on sale on January 12, pays tribute to the leading role that Britain has played in the creation of machines and processes that changed and defined the world.

The issue consists of Stamp 48: 'Timekeeping' by David Gentleman; Stamp 47: 'Steam power' by Peter Howson; Stamp 46: 'Photography' by Zafer and Barbara Baran, and Stamp 45: 'Computers' by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, RA.

Travellers' Tale will be on sale on February 2 and looks at the culture of travel pioneered by Britain and how it has helped liberated people.

Stamp 44: 'Jet travel' is by George Hardie; Stamp 43: 'Liberation by bike' by Sara Fanelli; Stamp 42: 'Linking the nation' by John Lawrence; and Stamp 41: 'Cook's endeavour' by Andrzej Klimowski. (Further details of both issues are available).

All the stamps will be available in both presentation packs and as First Day Covers in post offices starting from January 12 next year. A Christmas gift of a 12 month subscription can be reserved now by calling 0845 071 2000. A specially designed collection case has also been created for both the packs and the covers.

Notes to Editors:

January 12 - Inventors' Tale

Stamp 48, 20p, 'Timekeeping' is designed by David Gentleman and is inspired by the work of John Harrison who created the chronometer to solve the problem faced by seafarers of keeping time accurately enough to enable them to work out their longitude.

The 26p stamp, Stamp 47, is designed by Peter Howson, who was the Official British War Artist for Bosnia. This stamp marks the British development of steam power and celebrates the creations of such engineers as Thomas Savery, James Watt and George Stephenson, who harnessed steam power to drive the Industrial Revolution.

Husband and wife team Zafer and Barbara Baran mark the invention of modern photography on Stamp 46 - the 43p value - and the work of William Henry Fox Talbot, who used a negative to create a positive image. The image on the stamp uses a number of Fox Talbot's original prints of leaves as a starting point for the Barans' original photographic interpretation.

Stamp 45 - the 63p stamp - is designed by world renowned sculptor and artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. He brings the series up to the 20th Century with the computer - a British invention first conceived in the 19th century, But. it was not until the Second World War that the modern computer was born. Its logic was designed by Cambridge-educated mathematician. Alan Turing and enabled codebreakers to read Germany's most secret signals encoded by Enigma machines.

February 2 - Travellers' Tale

Stamp 44 - 20p - reflects the most recent achievement, Jet travel. Created by graphic designer George Hardie, it represents the way that jet travel has encompassed the world and features a de Havilland Comet.

The Wright brothers claim the fame for creating a flying machine that carried a passenger, but the aeroplane was in fact a British invention. Sir George Cayley built the first heavier-than-air flying machine which took flight in Yorkshire in 1853. Another Englishman, Sir Frank Whittle, designed and patented the first jet engine in 1930.

Stamp 43 - 26p - is by London-based artist Sara Fanelli and celebrates 'Liberation by bike.' It features the first ladies' safety bicycle, designed by Dan Albone, of the Ivel Company, in 1896. It meant there existed a convenient mode of transport available to all classes and used by men and women alike. Early feminist and Labour groups were cycling clubs.

Stamp 42 - 43p - is designed by wood engraver John Lawrence and represent the age of locomotion. It celebrates the work in the nineteenth century of engineers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose railways and steamships provided a network which linked major towns and cities to key ports around the country and thence to the United States.

Stamp 41 - 63p - is by collage artist Andrzej Klimowski and marks the beginning of scientific exploration with the travels of Captain James Cook in the eighteenth century. Called 'Cook's Endeavour', it is inspired by the logbook of Cook's voyages of discovery in the Pacific.

The designers working on the unique Millennium stamps programme are; January (Inventors' Tale), David Gentleman, Peter Howson, Zafer and Barbara Baran, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi RA; February (Travellers' Tale) - George Hardie, Sara Fanelli, John Lawrence, Andrzej Klimowski; March (Patients' Tale) - Peter Brookes, Susan Macfarlane, Mike Dempsey, Antony Gormley; April (Settlers' Tale) - John Byrne, Wilson McLean, Jeff Fisher, Gary Powell; May (Workers' Tale) - Peter Collingwood, David Hockney, Bill Sanderson, Brendan Neiland; June (Entertainers' Tale) - Peter Blake, Justin Mortimer, Mike White, Ralph Steadman; July (Citizens' Tale) - Natasha Kerr, Michael Craig-Martin, Allan Drummond, Alan Kitching; August (Scientists' Tale) - Mark Curtis, Ray Harris Ching, Colin Gray; September (Farmers' Tale) David Tress, Christopher Wormell, Tessa Traeger, Richard Cooke; October (Soldiers' Tale) - Andrew Davidson, Rod Kelly, Don McCullin, Christopher Corr; November (Christians' Tale) - Craigie Aitchison, Brody Neuenshwander, Clare Melinsky, Catherine Yass; December (Artists' Tale) - Allen Jones, Bridget Riley, Howard Hodgkin.

Photographs of the above mentioned stamps are available from The Post Office PixElect site on the Press Association's Bulletin Board.

SOURCE The Post Office

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