The federation of Australian States came into being on the 1st January, 1901. It took over a decade before Australia's first nationally recognised postage stamp appeared, the 1d Red Kangaroo. Apart from the disastrous KGV recess, it took a generation (26 years) before Australia's first commemoratives appeared in 1927.
Australia's early commemoratives were of two styles, portrait and landscape as illustrated above.
Despite the actual image appearing, the printers kept to these two basic layouts for the next decade, until the rotary recess issues took over in 1937.
Flat-plate recess printing utilised only two stamps sizes. Specifically;
The origins of the portrait layout is not difficult to ascertain. It is identical in every respect to that used on the original and abortive KGV recess issues of 1914.
Stamp sizes, measurements, and paper mesh.
All landscape-size dies were intended to be 1¼ x 7/8ths of an inch, as requested in the design competition for the 1½d Canberra:- the 1st of the landscape designs. All of the issued stamps differ from these die dimensions and exhibit at least one of the following characteristics (some have all three);
The differences are caused by damp printing. It was used for all the issues, and almost all printings. With damp printing the paper shrinks disproportionately according to the mesh. Vertical mesh stamps are slightly narrower than their cousins and curl side to side. Horizontal mesh stamps curl top to bottom and are slightly taller.
Each printing of a given issue was done on paper supplied, sufficient at least, for the job in hand. Landscape format stamp sheets measured approximately 14¾ x 8 inches with ¾ inch margins all round. portrait format stamp sheets measured 9.375 x 10½" also with ¾ inch margins.
For any given printing, that printing produced only horizontal, vertical, or non-shrink varieties. Where only one printing occurred for that issue, then only a single variety exists. Second, subsequent printings may have used existing or new paper stock of the same mesh, and hence there are no size varieties for that issue. In either case, it is simply noted eg that all 6d Kooka stamps have vertical mesh. Thus for the 6d kooka, there are no size varieties to be had, merely the observation that mint specimens will curl top to bottom.
On the other hand, issues that had a long life, specifically the 3d Airmail and the 1/- Lyrebird, naturally had multiple printings. In is reasonable to expect that in those cases, some of the printings would be opposite in mesh to the standard. And, that while random, one orientation would be scarcer than the others. This in fact is true for both mentioned stamps.
Finally, the last printings of 1/- Lyrebird and 3d Airmail in 1935 were dry ink printed. This as a result of the newly introduced rotary recess machines which used the new dry ink process. While the stamps were printed as before on flat-recess plates, the new dry ink process from the rotary recess machines was introduced. This resulted in stamps approximating the original die size as shrinkage did not occur in either direction to any appreciable extent.
Metric measurements are traditionally used in deference to French philately. Imperial measurements, in fractions of inches, were of course used for plate production.
The commentary holds true for portrait format as well. Landscape size is given as a specific example.
10 x (1¼ +1/16th) = 10x 1
5/16ths = 10 x 21/16ths = 210/16ths = 13.25 + ¾ inch margins = 14.75
Dry ink printing occurred in 1935 for the very last printings of the 1/- Lyre, the 3d Airmail, and probably KS.
Damp printing. This method was required due to the inks used, where the paper was first dampened to take up the ink. This necessitated, obviously, that the sheets were gummed (generally by hand) after printing and after drying.