Members Interests

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I am in course of revisiting the Scottish Experimental Duplex cancels which were used intermittently by various offices during 1855-65. However, I should much appreciate assistance from SPHS members as to the different types of the Madeleine Smith mark which were used over a two year period from February 1856.

Firstly the 1963 handbook published by the Scottish Postmark Group makes the following comments about this postmark:

  1. Earliest and Latest Known Dates are 6th February 1856 and 19th June 1857 respectively.
  2. Early strikes were made in dull blue and green
  3. Three cancelling stamps were made although the differences were minute
  4. One of the cancelling stamps incurred a break in the middle of the top bar in May 1856

However, James Mackay's 1987 Scottish Numeral Postmarks takes a slightly different stance which may have been influenced by Kirkwoods' proof books being available to him but not, I believe, for the SPG study. He was of the view that only two stamps were issued to Glasgow around 4th February 1856. However, he was also of the view that these were double stamps in which the dater and the obliterator were separate parts and further added that they were of the hinge pattern although I am not sure that this makes them double stamps.

Mackay's studies of the Madeleine Smith marks led him to believe that:

  1. Because of the double nature of the stamps, the parts were interchangeable thus providing the possibility of four different combination marks
  2. The damage to the top line of the obliterating part of one of the stamps took place in September (not May) 1856
  3. There is also a difference in the two dater parts of the stamps. Looking at the first type of Glasgow it will be seen that the cross bar is extended far more than on the other stamp
  4. The early strikes were in fact made in black with the dull blue and green stamps being used during their later life; February to April 1857

To summarize; if we take Mackay's explanation then the four possible combinations would seem to be as follows:

                   Type 1                  Type 1A                  Type 2                      Type 2A

For me to be able to build up a comprehensive picture of this postmark I would like to see as many examples as possible and therefore I would urge members to forward details of copies (on piece or cover) in their possession either to myself or to the Scottish Post editor. Ideally I would like details accompanied by a scan (min 360dpi)/photocopy. The details I am seeking are:

  1. Classification as per above Type 1, 1A etc or indeed a different Type
  2. Colour
  3. Date
  4. Stamper Code (first symbol), Duty Code (second symbol)

As stated above, it is my intent to put together over the next 12 months a comprehensive listing of the Experimental Scottish Duplex marks which I hope to post on the internet free for all to see. I will therefore be again asking for help from SPHS members but in the meantime should members have examples of the early Edinburgh duplex marks then scanned copies would be gratefully received. Please contact me, Russell Taylor, by email at: silverstamps @ (close the spaces to get the correct email address).


James Grimwood-Taylor

Until recently I had never really wondered whether early internal Scottish prestamp covers with Manuscript Town name/initials marks (mostly recorded in the 1710-40 period) were ever prepaid. I illustrate (Fig. 1) a 1749 cover that appears to have an unrecorded prepaid Manuscript Town mark - "C pd 2 A" [i.e. Coupar Angus prepaid 2d] - which I acquired last year in a mixed lot (in a stamp auction where the describers were somewhat lacking in curiosity!). [The Auckland/Stables book records Coupar Angus Manuscript Town marks only from 26 July 1735 to 17 July 1738 .] My question is; is it unusual or even unique? Likewise, are there any other prepaid manuscript town name covers out there? Has anyone got pre-1750 covers of any kind from Coupar Angus? Did Coupar have an interim manuscript period between handstamps like Dunkeld (which had a handstamp from 1743 to 1752 and from 1758 onwards, but reverted to manuscript marks from 1753 to 1757)?

            Ron Stables confirmed the other day that he also cannot recall having seen any examples of these early 18th century Scottish manuscript markings (abbreviated or otherwise) on prepaid internal letters. Can this really be the only example? Admittedly it was very rare for anyone to prepay a letter prior to 1765 (anywhere in Britain ) because people did not trust the Post Office to deliver letters if they did not have to get their payment from the addressees! The exception was for letters addressed to Continental Europe, when payment to London was compulsory (as seen on the prolific late 17th century Andrew Russell correspondence to Holland); but there must have been other occasions when someone chose to prepay their letters. This 14th Nov. 1749 letter (rather late for a manuscript town-mark; Coupar Angus's first handstamp is apparently recorded from 1742 onwards) is from the well known James Smith correspondence. It is addressed to Smith and seeks his advice, while reassuring him that he will soon be paid, so presumably the sender wanted to keep on the right side of Smith and accordingly chose to prepay the 2d postage.

            The contents are written in somewhat impenetrable colloquial spelling/language:-

            "Dr Sr, This is to aqent you that my son (?) at Pearth, Mr. David Allson, aqents me that the Shrive is moven that afar of main that the Barons had befor them again, so I want your advis if the shirve can pas any sentens until the barns consider my afa[i]r as itt is lead befor them and have the[i]r answer, I will expect your return in cours and you shall be thankfully payed at Metton by your true Humbl Servt, Thos. McNeill."

I look forward to hearing from anyone who can help with this conundrum, via the Editor/webmaster.

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