The Kingdom of Sicily was the last of the Old Italian States to issue adhesive postage stamps. Its one and only set was put on sale on January 1st, 1859, and it had a rather short life, because in mid-1860 Garibaldi’s expedition to the South swept away the Bourbon King’s forces, and the stamps featuring the profile of King Ferdinand II (also known as King Bomba) were immediately withdrawn. The uniform design for the seven denominations had been masterfully engraved by Tommaso Aloysio Juvara. The essays by Giuseppe Barone of Palermo and Lesach © of Paris were deemed unsuitable. Carlo La Barbera, a painter, was asked to design a cancellation which would not defile the portrait of the monarch. Giuseppe La Barbera prepared the copper printing plates which were utilised by the printer, Palermo-based Francesco Lao. At first he used a type of paper, made in Naples, which was porous and yellowish-grey in colour and later on the harder white Palermo-made paper. The somewhat inadequate printing equipment, the inexperience of the artisans who produced the plates, and the printing method had three appreciable consequences: the plates wore out fast, and more than one plate had to be replaced for the denominations that had wider use (namely the 1/2 grano and the 5 grana, with two plates each; the 1 grano and the 2 grana, with three); the presence of tiny (but sometimes sizable) variations that make it possible to detect the position of each of the 100 stamps in every plate; and a number of easily spotted flaws, which had been remedied by retouches.
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