From the son of a miner to the Royal court of Sweden: Fascinating story of world’s most prolific stamp engraver
By the time of his death 14 years ago today, Czesław Słania had engraved more stamps and banknotes than any other engraver in history.
Named by The Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific stamp and banknote engraver in the world, these engravings included over 1,000 stamps for 32 postal services and designs for over 30 banknotes in 10 different countries.
He had worked for royalty, governments and celebrities and had a string of honours and awards to his name from five separate countries.
It is therefore perhaps surprising that the life of Czesław Słania is not better known.
Born near Katowice in 1921, Słania developed an early artistic talent which he put to good use following the the outbreak of WWII by forging train tickets and helping the resistance fight against Nazi Germany.
After the war he enrolled at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts and, whilst still a student, started working at the Polish Government Printing Works where, using a traditional tool called a burin, he gained a reputation for his incredibly detailed and picturesque engravings.
In 1956 he left Poland for Sweden where, after working for the Swedish Postal Authority for a number of years he came to the attention of the monarch who was so impressed he named Słania Royal Court Engraver, a position he held until his death.
During his career, Słania created more than 300 stamps for Sweden as well as over 20 for other countries.
His engravings were also used for 32 different banknote designs and he was even commissioned to do a series of one-off portraits for the rich and famous, including Richard Nixon, Marilyn Monroe and Cassius Clay (later known more famously as Muhammad Ali).
In March 2000, to mark his 1,000th stamp for the Swedish Post, Słania created one of his finest pieces to date - a portion of a ceiling fresco made by David Klöcker Ehrenstråhle in 1695 in Drottningholm Palace, the home of the Swedish Royal Family.
Measuring 81 mm by 61 mm the stamp is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest ever official stamp made by steel engraving.
Such was the status attached to his work, Słania was flooded with honours and awards, receiving the Order of Saint Charles and the order Mérite Culturel in Monaco, the Dannebrog Order in Denmark and in 1983, the Robert Stolz Music Prize ‘the best stamp with a musical theme’ for his engraving based on a painting by the Swedish artist Anders Zorn called ‘Motivation’.
In 1999, he was awarded the highest order from Poland, the Commander Order.
He died on March 17th, 2005, at the age of 83.