More about the Mauritius "Post Office" of 1847
Of the Mauritius Two Pence blue unused, there are only four examples known. One in the British Library, another purchased by a Swedish collector in 1972. The Royal Collection has one.
If an opinion poll were to be conducted to discover the most famous stamp issue ever made, there is little doubt that the highest percentage would be awarded to Mauritius 1847, one penny, and two pence - the Post Office Mauritius, the first official issue of adhesive postage stamps by any British Colony.
While the philatelic world universally refers to the stamps as the Post Office Mauritius, the eyes of the general public would be more likely to light up with intelligent anticipation if reference were to the higher value by color - the Blue Mauritius. If one were to refer to a Red Mauritius or even an Orange Mauritius the reference would be met with a puzzled frown or indifference from a non-collector and even the philatelist would not immediately understand to what stamp the speaker was referring.
Why that should be so is a mystery - for the lower value is scarcely less rare than its blue companion and as frequently attracts headlines on sale.
There are 26 examples of the issue recorded, 14 of the One Penny and 12 of the Two Pence. Throughout the writing in the philatelic press runs the recurrent theme that there are stamps which are undoubtedly of greater rarity but there are none which are more sought after.
By the early writers, and even later, no standard form was adopted in reference to the 1847 issue of Mauritius. Later the form ‘Post Office’ Mauritius became virtually universal. In order not to be anachronistic the variations have been reproduced appropriately where they occur in citations and references, including translations.
Natalis Rondot in Le Magasin Pittoresque vol 33 p. 109 (1865) stated that Mauritius adopted the system of franking letters by stamps in 1846 by virtue of Ordinance 13 of that year; he states, in a footnote, that that date had been given to him by the postmaster of Mauritius. He was reasonably close to the actual date.
Some of the early postage stamps of Mauritius had been referred to in the embryonic stamp catalogues of, among others, Potiquet, Gray and Moens. However the first mention of the Post Office Mauritius stamps that I have traced in the philatelic press occurs in an article by Georges Herpin in Le Collectionneur de Timbres-Poste, vol 2, pp 50-55 March 1865, some 17½ years after the stamps were issued.
This was the first attempt in print at classifying the early native productions and London Britannia types then known. It was accompanied on page 51 by an illustration of a Two Pence inscribed at the left Post OFFICE. The first example had been discovered less than a year before on a letter at Bordeaux.
Georges Herpin wrote:
"It was towards 1851 that, for the first time, postage stamps appeared in the English colony of the Isle of Mauritius. For a long time only a one penny and a two pence stamp were available, of which the use was limited to the interior of the island. If one wished to frank a letter for the exterior one paid the carriage at the post office and the letter bearing notification of the performance of this formality was dispatched to its destination. That was the old system in all its simplicity. The stamps for the interior appear to us to merit some attention, and we hope that the following details will be read not without interest."
"These stamps were engraved on copper by the only engraver of the island M. Barnard, and the plate consisted of 12 types arranged in four rows of three each. It was the earliest infancy of the art, and one finds the same system in New South Wales (1st and 2nd series), Caledonia, Philippine Islands (1st issue) etc. The first stamp served as a model for the second, that for the third, and so on."
"However; if one is able without difficulty to indicate many dissimilarities between these 12 stamps because of the greater or less fidelity of the various copies, one can notice with no greater difficulty something which relates to the deplorable execution of all of them an awkward uniformity..."
"Unquestionably the most interesting variety [of the two pence] is this: in place of the words: post paid, examples exist where one reads: post office. This alteration of the legend, which we have been unable to verify ourselves, was assured to us by a philatelist in whose appreciation we have the greatest confidence. How could such a substitution have passed unnoticed when the plate was presented to the postal administration? One would have difficulty in accounting for it if one did not recall that analogous eccentricities are to be found in the stamps of other countries; for example, in each sheet of the 1 real of the Philippines issue of 1854 Y 55 there is to be found a stamp on which one reads: Corros instead of Correos."
"As most amateurs know, the majority of our colonies order their stamps in England. De La Rue & Co, in particular, have manufactured many of the prettiest specimens on the possession of which collectors pride themselves. Still this fact robs the colonial stamps of much of the importance which they would gain were they the productions of the colonies from which they emanate. Mauritius has, however, furnished us with genuine home made stamps for home use, - and rough articles they are."
Both the ‘Post Office’ and the first issue of ‘Post Paid’ stamps were engraved by Mr. J. Barnard, a watchmaker and jeweler. The description of Barnard as a watchmaker and jeweler persisted without question in philatelic literature from 1880 onwards - from The Stamp Collector by W.J. Hardy and E.D. Bacon London 1899 p 108, to Modern Stamp Collecting by Fred J. Melville London 1940 p 106, to ‘Post Office’ Mauritius, 1847 by Michael Harrison London 1947 p 27 to Stamps of Fame London 1949 p 23. E.B. Evans, though not infallible, and the editors of the official list of the Royal Philatelic Society London, were considered to be sufficiently careful in checking statements to be relied on as authorities.
However, it seems that all were in error. Peter Ibbotson under the title ’The Barnard Myth’ in Stamp Collecting, vol 123 p 527, 7 November 1974 and p 1087, 30 January 1975 - and also Harold Adolphe, Chief Archivist of Mauritius, the great help of whom Peter Ibbotson was to acknowledge, and Raymond d’Unienville under the title ‘The Life and Death of Joseph Osmond Barnard, Stowaway, Engraver, Stevedore and Planter’ in The London Philatelist vol 83 pp 263-265 December 1974 - published the fruits of research establishing that Barnard was born of probably Jewish parents named David and Rebecca, in Portsmouth on 10 August 1816. The Navy List of 1816 records a D. Barnard of Hanover Street, Hilsca, as a licensed Navy Agent for petty officers and seamen. Joseph Osmond Barnard, it is revealed emigrated to Mauritius as a stowaway aboard the three-masted ship Acasta, arriving at Port Louis on 6 December 1838 where until 1851 he was in business as an engraver and printer.
When conducting some research into certain Post Office Mauritius in 1977 I was in communication with P.J. Barnwell, a nonagenarian, sometime of the Royal College in Mauritius and longtime contributor to the Dictionary of Mauritian Biography. He wrote to me:
"It had not occurred me to question the usual statement of Barnard as being a watchmaker and jeweler. Europeans in Port Louis often turn their hand to various tasks, but I doubt if Barnard actually made any watches; watchmender is a more likely occupation. His marriage certificate described him as an engraver and miniature-painter. An advert of 1851 allied him with a man who was described as a watchmaker. When I was in Mauritius, and looked for his death I made a note of a planter, Joseph Osmond Barnard; and some years later, Noel Regnard found a wedding ‘act' of a man with the same three names, described at that time as above stated. That he was a dealer in jewels as well as watches, and an engraver-painter, all allied trades, is easy to accept..."
The published research shows that from 1851 to 1862 he was in business as a partner in lighterage and shipping establishments; his marriage was to a Mauritian, the natural daughter of a resident, in September 1839. He died on 30 May 1865, leaving ten surviving children.
Another widely published statement about Barnard is that he was half-blind. It would be unjust to deduce from his engravings alone that his eyesight was anything but perfect, particularly having regard to the minuscule letters ‘J.B.’ engraved on the truncation of the neck of the effigy. However, there is substantial evidence that his sight was not all that he could have wished.
No instructions or invitation to tender have been found; probably the details of what he was to perform were conveyed to Barnard in a conversation. No written acceptance of the estimate has been found nor even the date when Barnard was instructed to carry out his work.
It is so highly improbable as to be discounted that the design was left to him alone, and the presumption must be that someone in authority gave him instructions, detailed instructions about what to engrave.
According to the article by Adolphe and d’Unienville:
"His instructions were that a profile to left of Queen Victoria with diadem should occupy the middle of each stamp, as it did on the English penny and two penny stamps."
"He chose a small copper plate about 3 1/4 inches by 2 1/2 inches, such as might be used for printing a lady’s visiting card, on which to engrave the design."
Although he had described himself in an advertisement in Le Cernéen the local newspaper, for 9 March 1839 as a Miniature Painter and Engraver it seems that he had but little experience of engraving portraits, at any rate, miniature portraits; his attempts to copy the noble lines of the Heath's engraving of the Queen's head were crude. Nevertheless, there is about the design a simple charm which has perhaps in no small measure contributed to the popularity of the Post Office Mauritius with collectors.
Barnard engraved the 1d. design in the north-west corner and the 2d. in the north-east corner of the small copper plate. No remarks have been called forth about the wording POSTAGE,. MAURITIUS, ONE PENNY, and POST.
However, a whole romance has been built up about the other word, OFFICE. There is no direct evidence to support the theory that inscribing OFFICE was an error. The argument in favor of its being an error is based, au fond, on the early statements in the philatelic press that it was an error, and on the undoubted fact that, within eight months, a new issue was put on sale with the word PAID inscribed on both values in the place where on the first issue the word OFFICE had appeared - moreover, there is no trace in the Mauritius archives of any reason for the change.
The argument against the 'error' theory is based on the equivalent of the legal maxim omnia praesumuntur rite et solemniter esse acta donec probetur in contrarium, which is that all things are presumed to have been done properly and with due formalities until it be proved to the contrary. The contra-errorists, of which I have been one for as long as I can recall having had an opinion on the subject, point first to the existence of postal markings inscribed POST OFFICE MAURITIUS or MAURITIUS POST OFFICE in use in the colony for many years before adhesive postage stamps were ever thought of there or, indeed long before they were brought into use in England. The first marking within an oval frame and reading COL/POST OFFICE /MAUIRITIUS came into use in 1834, but some eight years previously an unframed MAURITIUS/POST OFFICE had been used, and at least two other similarly worded markings were brought into use in 1832 and 1838.
Why should OFFICE be considered an error in relation to the 1847 issue of Mauritius? Echo answers Why?
The answer, purely and simply, would seem to be that, if it is regarded as an error, it opens the door to romantic imaginings. There can be little doubt that it did so in the case of Dr Georges Brunel, an enthusiastic, if not notoriously factual, writer on all matters philatelic, who was provided with an opportunity to give rein to his imaginations in 1920 when Theodore Champion had to pay what was then a record sum for not only a Post Office Mauritius but any stamp, namely, 116,912 francs (£2,248) at auction of the Mors collection to secure a Two Pence Post Office Mauritius for his own collection.
Champion was a French dealer who had a remarkable collection of great rarities. He engaged Dr. Brunel to write the story of the Mauritius stamps. Of course, Dr. Brunel was aware of at least some of the earlier writings and, certainly, any he lacked and wished to refer to would have been provided. However, he seized the opportunity of adding glamour to the round unvarnished tale of the earlier writers imagined error. It makes a readable story as presented in Bulletin Mensuel de la Maison Theodore Champion et Co for June and July 1920 and translated and abstracted by, W. Renouf in The Philatelic Journal of India, vol 25 pp 80-83, June 1921 from which I shall cite.
The skeleton of imagined fact had to be rounded out with the flesh of imagined reconstruction of the circumstances. ‘The error in the plates of Post Paid stamps’ error had been nailed beyond recall by the discovery some eight years earlier, as will be mentioned, of Barnard's engraved plate for the Post Office Mauritius, so Brunel gave the error story a twist.
The secret of the rarity of the ‘Post Office Mauritius’ is that it was a blunder. But philately has benefited thereby and this exemplifies how good can come out of evil.
We now see our friend Barnard with an order to engrave the Mauritius stamps. The design of the profile of the head of Queen Victoria has been approved, and he has been given verbal instructions as to the inscriptions. He has touched his forehead with his fingers to signify that he has grasped what is wanted.
He sits to work. As he is really a jeweler and not an engraver, the result must not be criticized too severely. It is passable. He inscribes the word ‘Postage’ at the top in burly letters, the value at the foot, and Mauritius to the right. Only one side remains blank, but here he experiences a tragic lapse of memory. His sketch gives no assistance, and for the life of him he cannot recall the words which he has to engrave. He sets out to find the Postmaster Brownrigg, to ask him to refresh his memory. Arriving at the door of the Post Office he sees the words Post Office before his eyes. It is born upon him that these are the missing words. Delighted, he rubs his hands together, he does a right about turn, and finishes his engraving forthwith. And incidentally he perpetrates the most colossal and the most famous error in philately.
He is so pleased with the result that he does not trouble to submit proofs. He prints 700 copies, 350 in red (1d) and 350 in blue (2d). Then he takes these to the Governor.
'Triple sot' (we had best not attempt a translation) burst from the representative of the Britannic Majesty when he read on the stamps, ’Post Office’ instead of ‘Post Paid'. However, the mistake had been made. The stamps might as well be used. The Governor was about to give his annual party, and he used the majority of the issue on the invitation cards for this party.
In 1923 Champion paid £2,100 for a One Penny for his own collection. Brunel's fantasy was repeated in the book Les Timbres-Poste de l’lle Maurice by G. Brunel Paris 1928, which is little more than a reprint of his writing for Champion. It has been drawn on by other writers, some doubtless without a questioning thought, others for purpose of setting forth the fact of its existence. It forms part of the colorful thread of the philatelic history of the Post Office Mauritius and no such history could claim even pretence of being complete which did not set out the fantasy, and the reasons why it is a fantasy.
Nevertheless, the voice of romantic doubt yet remains unstilled. A.S. de Pitray, author of Le ‘Post office', Mauritius, et sa légende Curepipe 1975 describes himself as a passionate devotee who believes that there is no smoke without fire. He is not convinced that OFFICE was not an error. Doubtless others share his point of view.
A letter from the Colonial Postmaster to the Colonial Secretary, dated 20 September 1847 stated:
I have the honor to report for His Excellency the Governor's information, that the necessary postage stamps are now ready for issuing, 700 having been struck off... I respectfully await His Excellency's instructions before having any further number of stamps struck off...
Stamps on cover are known dated 21 September 1847; from that it is deduced that they were issued on that day, at least being available to the Governor, Sir William Gomm, and Lady Gomm for use on envelopes containing invitations or cards of admission to a fancy dress ball to be held on 30 September that year.
Another statement which has been made by some and scouted is that production of the issue was hurried on because Lady Gomm was anxious to use the novelties on the envelopes containing the ball cards. However, the mere date of Barnard's estimate, 12 November 1846, seems to indicate that the idea of having adhesive postage stamps was well advanced long before any date was likely to have been set for the ball. Further, the fact that 700 stamps had been printed by 20 September 1847 indicates that, so far as production was concerned there is no basis for the suggested hurrying on. Nevertheless, a remarkably short time elapsed between notification that the stamps were ready and their use, so it may well be that the issue of the stamps, not their production was hurried.
The article by Adolphe and d’Unienville states on page 265 that the stamps were sold to the public as from 22 September 1847.
The estimate, and presumably, order was for 1,000 stamps. It is not certain when the other 150 of each value were printed but it is unlikely to have been until after 25 September 1847, since that was the date of a report from the Auditor-General, W.W.R. Kerr, recommending that the additional stamps be ‘struck off... and kept in the Colonial Secretary's office’.
The letter of 2 May 1848 from the Postmaster to the Secretary concerning delay of the Post Paid issue contains the following paragraph relating to the Post Office issue:
When first these labels were introduced 1,000 were struck off, and so desirous were the public of availing of them, particularly for town letters, that in the course of a few days they were all disposed of.
The most romantic story connected with the Post Office Mauritius stamps concerns an unused specimen of the 2d. value. One day towards the end of 1903. James Bonar, an official of the Civil Service Commission, was going through some old papers in his house at Hampstead, London. In the course of his rummaging he came across a scarcely-remembered six penny pocket-book which he had used as a stamp album, and as he idly turned its pages it brought back vivid recollections of his school days in Scotland. some 40 years before, when he had succumbed to a passing craze for collecting stamps.
He put the book on one side, intending to give it to his grandson. That evening Mr. Bonar entertained a family friend, Miss D. Thomas, to dinner. Miss Thomas had some knowledge of philately, and her host produced his little album. The first few pages revealed few stamps of any real interest, but on coming to the page headed Mauritius Miss Thomas was amazed to see a perfect example of the 2d. Post Office reposing in the center.
Excitedly she turned to Mr. Bonar and advised him to get in touch with a philatelic expert, as the stamp might well be very valuable. Soon afterwards Mr. Bonar acted on the suggestion and called in Nevile Lacy Stocken, of Puttick & Simpson. He at once informed the owner that the stamp was genuine, and would realize well into four figures if it were offered for sale by auction. Mr. Stocken left with the stamp in his pocket. He was thrilled to do so.
Owing to the fact that in the days when Mr. Bonar's collection was formed it was the practice to stick stamps firmly to the pages with gum, Mr. Stocken had to cut the stamp out, together with part of the page to which it adhered. The gum had penetrated the rather porous paper on which the stamp was printed, and in order to improve its appearance he had to boil it for a short while. This treatment discharged the gum. removed the adhering paper, and revealed that the stamp had good margins all round and was undoubtedly the finest known specimen of the Post Office issue.
A blaze of publicity followed the discovery and when it became known that the rarity was to be auctioned at the Leicester Square Galleries on 13 January 1904, eminent philatelists of many nations prepared to attend the sale. Early in January Mr. Bonar informed the auctioneers that he wished to withdraw the stamp from auction, as he had had a private offer of £1,000. However, he was persuaded to allow the stamp to be auctioned, since that would be to his greater advantage.
Another factor undoubtedly played a part in the decision. The impending auction had been given world-wide publicity and no statement had been published that the stamp would be offered for sale by auction unless previously sold privately; if the auction were to have been cancelled because the stamp had been sold privately, the auctioneers and James Bonar himself might have been faced with claims for damages by people at a distance who had already begun preparations to attend the auction in person or by agent - a not unprecedented occurrence.
The saleroom was crowded, with buyers bidding on behalf of philatelists throughout the world. A hush settled over the crowded room as the auctioneer called the lot number and started the bidding at £500. By hundreds it rose to £700, then to £1,000... £1,200... £1,300... £1,400... by C.J. Phillips, acting as agent for the Reichspost Museum, Berlin (Jamaica Philatelist No 3 p 57). Hugo Griebert, bidding on behalf of Philip Kosack, the German dealer (Beiblatt zur Briefmarken Zeitung (Krötzsch) vol 15 p 505) then advanced the price to £1,420 but threw in his hand in despair as a further bid of £1,450 was made. At that price the stamp was knocked down to Mr. J. Crawford. It had been bought for the Prince of Wales, later King George V, and now rests in the Royal collection at Buckingham Palace alongside the 1d. of the same issue.
The new owner of the stamp asked Sir Bryan Godfrey-Fausset, a non-philatelist, what he would say of a chap who paid £1,400 for a stamp. Godfrey, as he was invariably called by the new owner, replied: I would call him a silly ass, Sir'. When recounting the incident, King George V is reported - I have the report from a lady to whom the story was related by King George V himself at Sandringham - to have chuckled delightedly and said: ‘Poor Godfrey, he let himself in for that’. Inaccurate versions of the incident have appeared in print, particularly in publications relying on the diaries of Sir Frederick Ponsonby, a private secretary and holder of other offices in Royal establishments.
Another inaccurate version has been published about the remainder of the stamps in Mr. Bonar’s collection. It has been stated that it contained several other rarities. In fact that was not so. When the collection, which had remained intact except for the Post Office Mauritius, was sold at auction in London in 1951 it realized no more than £130.
The 1d. stamp in the Royal Collection is used on an envelope. On 30 March 1898 it was purchased by W.H. Peckitt, of London, for £600 which he telegraphed out from London -see A Chat on Mauritius and Its Stamps by T.A. Pope, British Guiana Philatelic Journal, No 1. p 5 December 1906. The author of the article was in Mauritius at the time the envelope was discovered.
The large sum paid to the owner caused quite a stir in the island and prompted other people to search through their papers. Henry Adam, an elderly member of the Government Council of Mauritius, well remembered having attended Lady Gomm’s fancy-dress ball, and was quite sure that somewhere among his personal papers was a souvenir of the event. He spent many hours looking through some fifty years’ accumulation of documents, and eventually was rewarded by finding the envelope addressed to H. Adam Esq Junr. and bearing a One Penny stamp.
Once again publicity was given to the find. In the summer of 1899 Mr. Adam sold the precious envelope to Th. Lemaire, a prominent French dealer, for £680.
In 1897 M. Lemaire had bought the Legrand collection, which contained a 1d. and 2d. Post Office. He submitted these stamps on approval to the Reichspostmuseum in Berlin, at the price of £2 ,000, but the Curator said that the Museum could not afford to pay so much. However, Lemaire’s permission to make colored illustrations was sought, and he consented, thinking that they were required for a catalogue. Great was his astonishment and the indignation of all philatelists when it was learned later that the stamps had been handed to the German State Printing Office, faithfully copied on an engraved plate, and two specimens of each value printed in the exact colors. These forgeries remained on show at the Museum until examples of the genuine stamps were obtained.
At the beginning of the 20th century, M. Lemaire published a series of articles dealing with the Post Office stamps in the columns of his journal, Le Philateliste Francis. The articles were read avidly by a French schoolboy who, although he could never hope to own such rarities, was keenly interested in the romantic stories of the latest discoveries. He spoke about the stamps to his mother, widow of a businessman of Bordeaux. She, her interest kindled by her son's enthusiasm, recalled some of her late husband's early dealings with Mauritius, and told the boy that there might be some old letters from Mauritius in the correspondence files of the firm.
Many weary and dusty days the boy spent in turning over piles of musty papers. It is true that for his labors he was rewarded with finding some old stamps, but there were none among them of notable rarity. The spark of enthusiasm although dimmed, continued to burn, and as he came to the last few bundles of letters there were revealed to his delighted gaze two letter-sheets bearing between them three of the classic rarities.
One of these letters was a veritable king among princes. It bore the two values, and the postal markings traced the history of the letter from the time when it left the island until its delivery. The letter is from Port Louis, is dated October 1847, and on the back there is a circular postmark inscribed Mauritius Post Office bearing the same date.
The letter was sent first to England, where it received a ‘Ship Letter Plymouth’ cachet and also an English circular postmark in red. Then the letter went to Boulogne; evidence of this is found in a red circular mark dated Dec. 26, which goes across the stamps. From Boulogne the letter was sent to Paris, where a blue circular mark dated Dec. 26 was applied and two days later Bordeaux was reached, as can be seen by the Bordeaux arrival mark. The time taken by the letter to travel from Port Louis to Bordeaux was therefore, eighty-five days. This letter is unique, in that it is the only one known bearing the two values of the Post Office stamps, and it provides an excellent example of the way in which the interest of stamps is heightened when they are on cover.
The schoolboy offered this letter to M. Lemaire who bought it on 17 January 1903. In 1922 the letter was bought by Arthur Hind, the American millionaire, who paid about £7,500 for it. When his collection was dispersed the letter returned to France; the price realized was £5,000, a rare instance of the sale of a Post Office piece for less than had been paid for it. After changing hands more than once the letter was acquired by Hiroyuki Kanai, the Japanese industrialist and owner of a peerless collection of Mauritius native issues, no doubt the greatest collection of Mauritius stamps ever assembled. The cover to Bordeaux is acknowledged by many experts as the most valuable philatelic item in existence today.
The other stamp which the schoolboy found was a 2d. value, also on a letter bought by M. Lemaire. This letter was bought in 1903 by Philipp Kosack on behalf of the Reichspost Museum Berlin. That Museum had acquired, also through Philipp Kosack, a 1d. Post Office Mauritius in 1904. The two Mauritius stamps, together with six other rarities. were kept in the display gallery of the Museum in a small vertically mounted wall frame.
There are two Post Office Mauritius stamps in the Tapling collection at the British Library, a 1d. and an unused 2d.
In 1874 a Bordeaux stamp collector wished to attend the Grand Fête in Paris. His desire to participate in the festivities was strong but his financial resources were weak. He decided to part with his collection; he offered it to Mme Desbois. In the collection she found the unused 2d. Post Office. It was sold to Ferrary in 1875 and later formed part of a famous ‘swap’ between Ferrary and Tapling, who acquired the 2d. Post Office Mauritius in exchange for a stamp of Afghanistan - see Stamp Collector’s Fortnightly vol. 23 p 230 (20 October 1917) - or some other item.
Ferrary and Tapling swapped two very rare items. That the barter, exchange or swap took place is undoubted and has been recorded in the literature over the years onwards from e.g. The Stamp Collector by Hardy and Bacon (George Redway, London 1898) pages 251-252. The one from Ferrary was an unused Two Pence Post Office Mauritius. However, what Ferrary received is a matter of some doubt. According to a letter from Maurice Giwelb in Stamp Collecting vol. 8. p 290 (18 August 1917) Ferrary - who had died the previous May – ‘gave Mr. Tapling the Penny Post Office Mauritius for a Cashmere stamp! This I had from the late Mr. Tapling’s own lips, so it is not tittle-tattle’. That statement was incorrect certainly in one particular: the Mauritius stamp received by Tapling was the Two Pence. That letter drew forth an unsigned note in Stamp Collectors’ Fortnightly vol. 23 p. 230 (20 October 1917), where its writer – doubtless, A. B. Creeke Junr. - differed about details in Stamp Collecting; he pointed out that the Mauritius stamp was the Two Pence, unused, and claimed that he was vouchsafed a statement by Tapling at a meeting of the Philatelic Society, London (obviously before 1894, in which year Tapling died) that the exchange given by him to Ferrary ‘was an Afghan stamp not one of Kashmir', a variant spelling of Cashmere. Later legend has it that neither was correct and that the item exchanged with Ferrary was Poonch, 1879 1/2 anna red, ‘unique pair... used on piece', and that statement appears as part of the description of lot 499 in the ’L E Dawson’ Indian States auction by Robson Lowe on 10 January 1967. Some items in Kashmir and Afghanistan are without prices in modern catalogues, whereas the Two Pence Post Office Mauritius is listed in Stanely Gibbons Stamp Catalogue Part 1, Volume 2 1992/93 at £240,000. I have been unable to identify any single item of Afghanistan, Cashmere or Poonch in the Ferrary auction sales in Paris between 1921 and 1925 with the descriptions available. The 1967 auction catalogue does name Ferrary as a previous owner of the Poonch item, which was knocked down at £320. Whatever the item which Ferrary obtained in the famous swap. judged from a pecuniary standpoint, he was the loser.
The 1d. stamp is on an envelope which was bought by Lieutenant E.B. Evans when he was on duty in Mauritius. He, on his return to England, sold the envelope to Tapling: the photograph accompanying the Biographies is one of those made for Captain Evans, as he had then become. Subsequent photographs all show a mark applied by the museum, a small rectangle containing the letters ‘B M’.
A man in Mauritius, called Noirel, found two used One Penny Post Office Mauritius stamps, which he immediately offered to a friend, M. Lionnet, who was a collector and was continually asking for old stamps. Lionnet wanted only one and Noirel had the unhappy idea of putting the other example in the pocket of his white drill jacket. Some days later he was approached by another collector who had heard of the find and wanted to buy the other stamp. Noirel felt in the pocket of the coat he was wearing, but his hand encountered no stamp. Suddenly he remembered; he had left the stamp in his other coat, which he had given to be washed. He rushed upstairs to his wife but found to his dismay that she had already washed the coat. No trace could be found of the stamp.
M. Rae, a resident of Port Louis, writing in April 1900 to Th. Lemaire a letter which was published in Philatéliste Francais for May 1900 and reprinted in Le Timbre-Poste, vol 38 p 342 November 1900 stated: ‘M. Noirel had tears in his eyes when he recounted his misadventure to us; he had good reason. That stamp would, therefore, be the 21st found’.
That called forth the editorial comment from Moens. ‘Found, but assuredly lost.’
Another even greater, misfortune reputedly befell an Anglo-Indian tea-planter named Walker, and an American tourist called Bratt. They were on holiday and decided to go on a stamp hunt to a small seaport village in Southern India, which had been an outlet of coolie immigration to Mauritius. They informed the natives that if they had any old stamps the stamp hunters would be willing to buy them. Immediately they were deluged with offers, among them being one each of the 1d. and 2d. Post Office Mauritius. Intensive search failed to reveal any more of the issue in the village, so Walker and Bratt decided to return to Madras the next day.
For safe keeping Bratt put the rarities in the back of his gold watch, and both men went to bed. During the night a thief entered their bedroom and stole the watch. Next morning the police were informed of the theft and a large reward was offered for recovery of the watch. The thief was caught in the very act of trying to sell it.
The friends’ delight at the watch’s recovery was short-lived. On opening the back Bratt found that the stamps had disappeared. His breathless inquiry about them evoked the answer from the captive that he had opened the watch and finding only little dirty pieces of paper had thrown them into the fire so as to destroy all trace.
At least one hardy bachelor was prepared to sacrifice his freedom in order to possess a 2d. Post Office, Mauritius. This intrepid soul, it was reported in Vanity Fair in 1891, inserted in a Mauritius newspaper The Monitor, - according to a South African correspondent’s letter published in Stamp Collecting vol 132, p 345, 7 December 1978, citing a comment published in George & Knysua Herald of 1 July 1891 - the following advertisement:
"A Stamp collector, the possessor of a collection of 12,544 stamps wishes to marry a lady who is an ardent collector and the possessor of the blue two-penny stamp of Mauritius, issued in 1847."
A philatelic journal, commenting on the advertisement, stated:
"The stamp in question is, of course, a rare one, its market price being no less than £ 200, and the only thing that causes one anxiety on the advertiser's behalf is the fear that he may perhaps be imposed upon by a forged specimen."
Perhaps the last word on the subject can be taken from The Postage Stamp, vol 9 p 305 (23 March 1912), which printed a paragraph headed ‘Not Divided by Death’; it stated:
"Le Circulaire Philatélique has been informed by a subscriber that there lives in Paris a lady collector, the proud possessor of a very old album, full of rarities, including a ‘Post Office’ Mauritius. The owner, ignorant of the great value of her stamps, refuses to sell, and says, 'I promised my dear hubby on his death bed to have the album placed with me in the coffin."
That paragraph called forth from Fred J. Melville, who was then editor of The Postage Stamp, the following comment: "We trust the promise will be carried out, after the stamps have been removed."
Encyclopaedia of Rare and Famous Stamps by L. N. Williams published by David Feldman, Geneva
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