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How to Read and Code 19th-Century British Postmarks in TEI: with Mary Russell Mitford's Letters

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a powerpoint slideshow of 19th-century letter manuscripts (shared courtesy of Reading Central Library) with annotations to help guide viewers in reading and understanding postal markings on 19th-century British mail. The guide also orients readers to coding this information according to the standard guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative, or TEI.

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How to Read and Code 19th-Century British Postmarks in TEI: with Mary Russell Mitford's Letters

  1. 1. The Postmarks of Mitford’s Letters, including sample images and TEI markup Version 3.0 By Greg Bondar University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
  2. 2. MRM letter from 27 June 1850
  3. 3. Typical Mitford address leaf, with the usual stamps and “folded by nines”
  4. 4. Typical Mitford address leaf, with the usual stamps and “folded by nines” MileageDelivery Franking Seal
  5. 5. Sample TEI Describing Postmarks <teiHeader> <sourceDesc> <msDesc> <physDesc> <objectDesc> <supportDesc> <support> <p>Folio sheet of <material>paper</material> folded in half to form four quarto pages, with correspondence on 1-3 and address leaf on page 4, then folded in thirds twice more and sealed for posting.</p> <p>Address leaf bearing the following postmarks: 1) black circular mileage stamp <!-- Applied upon deposit of letter at local PO --> reading <stamp>READING<lb/><unclear> <gap quantity="1" unit="chars" reason="illegible”/></unclear></stamp>. 2) Red double circle duty stamp <!-- Applied upon arrival in London --> reading <date when="1821-11-01"> <stamp>B<lb/>1 NO 1<lb/>1821</stamp></date>. 3) Sepia-inked oval Delivery stamp <!-- Applied upon transfer from Inland Mail to London's local Penny Post for delivery. --> reading <stamp><time>10 o'Clock</time><lb/> <date>* NO * 1 *</date><lb/> <date>1821</date> F.N<hi rend="superscript">n </hi></stamp></p> <p>A large 7 denoting the fee for a single-sheet letter has been written in black ink by the postal service across the address leaf.</p> See this letter imaged on the next slide 
  6. 6. DeliveryDuty Mileage Seal
  7. 7. Mileage Stamp 1) black circular mileage stamp <!-- Applied upon deposit of letter at local PO ie. This stamp bears the date the letter was mailed --> reading <stamp>READING<lb/> <unclear><gap quantity="1" unit="chars" reason="illegible”/></unclear></stamp>. 42 miles from Reading to London April 14, 1818 October 22, 1819 Three Mile Cross
  8. 8. Mileage Stamp 1) black circular mileage stamp xml:id=“pmMileage” 42 miles from Reading to London April 14, 1818 October 22, 1819
  9. 9. Mileage Stamp The distance, or mileage, a letter travelled determined the postage, multiplied by the number of sheets, paid by the recipient. Rates for 1812: (after Staff 1964, page 72) Distance Rate Up to 15 miles 4d. 15-20 miles 5d. 20-30 miles 6d. 30-50 miles 7d. 50-80 miles 8d. 80-120 miles 9d. 120-170 miles 10d. 170-230 miles 11d. 230-300 miles 1s. 300-400 miles 1s. 1d. Over 400 miles +1d. for every 100 miles The Louth-London Royal Mail, by Charles Cooper Henderson, 1820
  10. 10. Duty Stamp 2) Red double circle Duty stamp <!--Applied upon arrival in London --> reading <date when="1821-11-01“> <stamp>B<lb/> 1 NO 1<lb/> <!--Day MONTH Day--> 1821</stamp></date>. NOTE: The date on this stamp is usually later than the date on the Mileage Stamp! Also, Letters that have been franked will not receive a Duty Stamp
  11. 11. Duty Stamp 2) Red double circle Duty stamp xml:id=“pmDuty” NOTE: The date on this stamp is usually later than the date on the Mileage Stamp! Also, Letters that have been franked will not receive a Duty Stamp
  12. 12. Duty Stamp • As unpaid mail arrived by mail coach at the Chief Office in London in the morning, it was stamped with a morning duty stamp, including the date of arrival and a letter designating the sorting table. Mail left London on mail coaches in the evening and received the evening duty stamp. Morning and evening duty stamps were introduced in 1795 in order to identify the individual clerk who stamped a specific piece of mail. Alcock and Holland 1940, 20-21. Microcosm of London Pl. 063 - The Post Office
  13. 13. Duty Stamp Morning Duty Stamps (Alcock & Holland 1940:22 , Fig. 28 & Barrie #L15): According to Paterson 1811:533, the mail coach both arrives and departs Reading at 1:20am, presumably as a result of a morning arrival to, and an evening departure from, the Central Office in London. Mitford writing to London: Evening duty stamps from Talfourd in London sending to Mitford in Reading. Evening Duty stamp from MRM in London writing to mother at Bertram House
  14. 14. Irish Duty Stamp • Special stamp for unpaid letters passing through Dublin Bound for Castle Martyr, Ireland via Dublin Mileage Stamp (From Reading) Irish Duty Stamp Irish Mileage Stamp (Dublin to Castle Martyr) Frank
  15. 15. Delivery Stamp 3) Sepia-inked oval Delivery stamp <!-- Applied upon transfer from Inland Mail to London's local “Twopenny Post” for delivery. --> reading <stamp><time>10 o'Clock</time><lb/> <date>* NO * 1 *</date><lb/> <date>1821</date> F.N<hi rend="superscript">n </hi></stamp></p> Abbreviations of Delivery times: F.N.n = Forenoon A.N.n = Afternoon N.T = Night
  16. 16. Delivery Stamp 3) Sepia-inked oval Delivery stamp xml:id=“pmDeliv” Abbreviations of Delivery times: F.N.n = Forenoon A.N.n = Afternoon N.T = Night
  17. 17. Delivery Stamp • Usually stamped in red ink, rarely black. • “PAID” indicates that the postal fee was paid by the sender. The absence of “PAID” on the Delivery Stamp indicates an “Unpaid” stamp and the fee is to be paid by the recipient upon delivery. • When a letter was transferred from the Twopenny Post to the General Post Office for delivery, an additional fee was owed as indicated by:
  18. 18. Delivery Stamp • 1794-1834:Chief Office=Mo Day; Westminster= Day Mo • 1795-1824:Westminster= Indented rim • 1801-1819:Chief Office=single-rim; Westminster=no border • 1819-1834: Chief Office=dbl-rim; Westminster=single-rim
  19. 19. Delivery Stamp (Charge Marks) • Letters not prepaid were liable to an additional charge when entering London’s Twopenny Post system for delivery: Here a 2d. Charge Mark has been crossed-out and replaced with one for 3d., reflecting inflation in 1805 as a result of Britain’s war with France.
  20. 20. Delivery Stamp (Charge Marks) xml:id=“pmOther” Here a 2d. Charge Mark has been crossed-out and replaced with one for 3d., reflecting inflation in 1805 as a result of Britain’s war with France.
  21. 21. Receiving House Stamp • Stamped when a letter was submitted at a Receiving House of the Two-Penny Post, either to be mailed or delivered.
  22. 22. Receiving House Stamp xml:id=“pmHouse”
  23. 23. Charge Marks, Fees, and indications of payment <p>A large 7 denoting the fee for a single-sheet letter has been written in black ink by the postal service across the address leaf.</p> (42 miles from Reading to London would have cost 7d.) This letter cost Haydon 7 pence to read Here a 2d. Charge Mark has been crossed-out and replaced with one for 3d., reflecting inflation in 1805 as a result of Britain’s war with France.
  24. 24. Charge Marks, Fees, and indications of payment xml:id=“pmOther”
  25. 25. Franking Stamps To aid communication between Members of Parliament and their districts, MP’s were granted “franking” privileges so that they were not charged postage; something they often shared with friends, such as MRM. Franking Stamps Ireland
  26. 26. Franking stamps xml:id=“pmFrank” Franking Stamps Ireland
  27. 27. Some of Mitford’s seals 1819 1823 1824 1825 1835
  28. 28. xml:id=“sealMary”
  29. 29. xml:id=“sealFamilie”
  30. 30. Mitford’s ‘Sword & Boar’s-head’ seal xml:id=“sealSword”
  31. 31. Mitford’s ‘Sword & Boar’s-head’ seal (Mitford Family-crest?)
  32. 32. Mitford’s ‘Cupid’ seal “UN ME SUFFIT” = “One [Heart] is Enough” xml:id=“sealCupid”
  33. 33. xml:id=“sealM” xml:id=“sealGM” xml:id=“sealBlob” xml:id=“sealOther”
  34. 34. : Woven paper
  35. 35. Stationer’s Marks xml:id=“stationer”
  36. 36. xml:id=“stationer”
  37. 37. For more data from paper:
  38. 38. Try using a back-light!
  39. 39. xml:id=“waterMark”
  40. 40. Watermarks can provide dates, manufacturers, paper size, etc.
  41. 41. xml:id=“waterMark”
  42. 42. Laid or Satin paper with chain-lines
  43. 43. What do you see?
  44. 44. After processing colors in Photoshop
  45. 45. References • Alcock, R. C. and F. C. Holland. The Postmarks of Great Britain and Ireland. Cheltenham, England: Alcock, Ltd., 1940. • Barrie, Jay. The British Catalogue of Postal History, Volume 3 – London, Second edition. London: London Postal History Group, 2005. • Cameron, Kenneth Neill. “Postmarks and the Dating of Manuscripts”. Shelley and his Circle, Volume 2: 914-25. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1961. • Peterson, Daniel. A New and Accurate Description of All the Direct and Principal Cross Roads in England, Wales, and Part of Scotland, 15th edition. London: Longman, 1811. • Staff, Frank. The Penny Post 1680-1918. London: Lutterworth Press, 1964.

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