The two Ling-yuan types are due to method of application: two values seem to have been applied like the Cheng-de, and two by lithogravure.
I will do some research myself. I will see what the early collectors did with this.
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I am not 100% sure about litho, the problem is I don't have any copies of this stamp to look at. If I can find out any more I will let you know.
Your original photos were not from the same overprinting device. The characters are a different size.
Now you have a spacing issue. That may or may not be from the same device.
In Mizuhara's Catalog he says the CPC issue is hard to distinguish.
Why are you insisting that they all be from one place? The only reason you give is the sophistication of the surcharging devise could not have existed in such small towns.
Who says the surcharging was necessarily done there in those towns?
In the Jiaodong of Shandong Wartime Post, there are several types of the same designs that are distinguished in the listing but we believe they were produced in different places at different times. Why can't we have that here?
I put the cataloging of the stamps correctly first. Then, if I can, distinguish who may have made them. Please don't think I am being contrary here, but I have a long list of scholars like the two of us, who have worked on MLOs, and whose work I am building on.
Mizuhara wrote in his footnote for this issue in his catalog only one plate existing which were also used later by the CPC and the overprinted color vary between black and gray (but hard to distinguish [maybe even impossible I would said]), he also wrote only Typeset was used and not Lithography.
For myself lithography would be unlikely as an overprint method for that time. If you take a look on lithography overprinted stamps from LA you can always see the overprint is rough, no repeating faint structures and varies strongly between stamps of the same sheet (the reason was they scratch the overprint cliche each by each by hand in to the stone or similar material). Most local overprints (if they don't use a chop) were done by mimeograph, not lithography (if we count on the possibility).
That a typeset vary (character sizes, spacing, etc.) in one sheet is not something unlikely, is quite common, just think on the LUDA typeset overprints where you nearly can't find any identical cliche on one sheet. I have many LUDA sheets or larger units if you like to see which shows this effect very vivid.
I agree with you the possibility that the overprinted sheets were spread to many other smaller P.O.s, I think I never denied this possibility.. The Shandong Wartime stamps is something different, they were printed smaller mobile lithography devices which often carries around during the wartime. The stories about the temporary printing units in caves is a quite famous story. Some CPC spots / bases just received an idea about the stamp-design and copy it based on some rough drafts, that's the reason very different stamps exiting (like torch or boulder / wheel issue). Where exactly they were printed is another story.
I'm always very open for new research results and ideas, but I need sturdy proofs. Smaller differences (for example character size or spacing) in the overprint (for typeset) is for myself not enough to come to the conclusion different plates were used.
Can you please post here a high resolution scan of a stamp which you think was overprint by the lithography? Please scan with 600-800 dpi.
PS: I add a scan where I overlapped two overprints. besides small spacing and character difference by the "作" is a quite identical overprint...