Series 1 – 16th Century


21st May 2002 will mark the quincentenary of the Discovery of St Helena. In the buildup to this special occasion it is planned to release a series of stamps each year depicting the history of the island through the centuries.

Series I was released on Thursday, 29 May 1997. The set comprises four stamps, each vividly depicting the history of the island. Stamp one shows the first sighting of the island by a Portuguese sailor from the masthead of his ship under the command of Joao da Nova. The second stamp depicts the first inhabitant Don Fernando Lopez. Lopez was a Portuguese officer who had deserted to the enemy during the fighting between Portugal and India at Goa in 1512. He was badly mutilated as punishment for treason and in 1515 stowed away on a ship bound for Portugal. However, as the ship lumbered up the coast of Africa Lopez began to have doubts about the reception he might receive on arriving home, and when the ship put in to St Helena he hid himself on the island. What was a close secret of the Portuguese for eight-six years was to be revealed to the world when on 9 June 1588, as the third stamp depicts, the Englishman, Captain Thomas Cavendish landed on St Helena. Cavendish sighted the island on the homeward leg of his famous voyage around the world. Stamp four depicts the magnificent `Royal Merchant’. She was one of three vessels that sailed from England in 1591 under the command of Sir James Lancaster, to make the first voyage to India ever undertaken by English merchants. St Helena soon became well established in her vital role as a calling-station for the replenishment of these stately ships known for more than two hundred years as the lords of the ocean.


When researching material for the production of this stamp issue it came to light that the name when applied to the discoverer of St Helena is not Joao da Nova Castella but simply Joao da Nova. Castella it appears was someone else entirely. It is probably fair to say that the caption on the 20p stamp is the first time that the correct name has appeared in print on St Helena. It therefore bears our the belief that our postage stamps are not just pieces of sticky coloured paper but our best ambassadors. You can learn about the history, geography, culture, flora and fauna and much more when you Collect the stamps of St Helena !