Celliers and De Volksstem


Extracts taken from:

Who printed the stamp issues of the Stamp Commission?

by Garth Kruger

Published in The Transvaal Philatelist Vol. 40, no. 4 (156), November 2005, pages 102 to 105. Copies of this issue are still available

Following his inauguration as President of the South African Republic (1st July, 1872), Thomas François Burgers recognised the need for a local newspaper in Dutch, the official language of the Transvaal. During a visit to the Cape, Burgers asked Jan François Celliers, who was living in Cape Town and working as a journalist on the staff of Het Volksblad, to estimate the cost of establishing a newspaper in Pretoria. Celliers stated in a letter dated the 21st November, 1872, that he would be prepared to be editor of such a newspaper. Celliers left for Pretoria in April 1873 and the first edition of the newspaper De Volksstem was issued on 8th September 1873.

With James Cooper Rous he published the Staatscourant (Government Gazettes) and De Volksstem . Rous refers to himself as the 'printer' at De Volksstem in 1875, the year of the first Stamp Commission issues.
Celliers and Rous continued as partners in the publishing business until Rous died in 1876. The first stamp issues printed on behalf of the Stamp Commission must have appeared while Rous was also involved in the venture. In 1876 P.W.T. Bell was appointed as head printer.

Celliers became a vociferous critic of British annexation and administration of the Transvaal after 1877. Not surprisingly De Volksstem lost the contract for government work.

The treaty to end the First Anglo-Boer war was signed on the 3rd August, 1881, after which the contract for government printing was again awarded to Celliers, Bell continuing as printer.

After selling De Volksstem c.1888, Celliers became Member of Parliament for the gold fields of de Kaap in the lowveld. He died on 4th March, 1895.

Historical fact dictates that we should attribute the actual physical printing of the stamps attributed to Celliers, at least in part, to James Cooper Rous and P.W.T. Bell. Rous and Bell were the printers in charge from the time of the first Stamp Commission issue on the 29th April, 1875, until Rous' demise in 1876. Thereafter Bell was responsible. The role they played is comparable to the roles played by other printers of stamps issued by the South African Republic: Otto, Viljoen, Borrius and Davis. The so-called 'Celliers' issue of 1883 is incorrectly attributed to Celliers, who never trained as a printer, and should more accurately be called the 'Bell' issue.


Stanley Gibbons, catalogue number: SG 69

One penny, imperforate, venetian red, printed on soft rough-surfaced
paper showing wire marks, with colourless gum (Yardley's paper D)


Stanley Gibbons, catalogue number: SG 174
In 1884 it was compulsory to use postage stamps as payment for telegrams, and
many of the Bell printings of the one shilling green are to be found telegraphically cancelled.


De Volksstem

Multicoloured label issued to commemorate the 28th anniversary
of the publication of the newspaper, De Volksstem

The last issue of De Volksstem appeared on 31st October, 1949.


This back-number of The Transvaal Philatelist is available

Ref: - see The Transvaal Philatelist, Garth Kruger 2005, in the Author Index 'Author and Subject Index' by clicking *Transvaal Study Circle* on the Home Page


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