Monday, 25 July 2011

Initial Steps - How to Write Up the Material

I like to have a "house style" so that my material is written up consistently.  It makes for a nice looking display at a local Society meeting.  On the other hand I'm not interested in Exhibiting, so do not need to be ultra-precise on how I show things.

I normally display my stamp collections on reasonably heavy (100 gsm) white A4 paper and use glass clear A4 pockets to put the pages in binders for storage, and for display at a local Society meeting. I see no reason to do anything differently for Postal History.

I've written up my stamp collections using Word and again see no reason to change this.  Using "View - Header and Footer" one can insert things like borders and headings into the standard layout for a page, so I end up with a fairly plain style, with a ruled border around the edge and a heading at the top left, either "SOMERSETSHIRE" or the name of a major Post Town (eg. "BATH").

The other major thing I setup (having learnt from past experience) is a separate directory on my PC to hold the write-ups, and I decide to create an initial set of documents to at least hold the more minor places - so I've got files for A, B, C....U/V, W, Y.  No "Z" because I haven't found anywhere in Somerset beginning with Z, and I merged "U" and "V" because I only found one possible place beginning with "V".

Here's an example (click on the image to expand it):

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Initial Steps - Taking an Inventory

OK, I've taken the plunge and bought two large lots of Somerset Postal History at an auction.

I bid sight unseen so was pleasantly suprised when a large cardboard box arrived with five binders of material; one for Bath and four for the rest of Somerset.  As per the description, most of the material is post 1840, with a lot of slogan and commercial cancellations from the larger towns.

So what do I do first ?  After a quick scan through I decided that I'd start with an inventory.  This appeals to the "stamp collector" side of my nature.

I've ended up building a spreadsheet of all the places in Somerset that I can find that might have had a postmark, based on the material I've just acquired, on the British County Catalogue (BCC), and on the "Postal Addresses, March 1972" publication from The Post Office.  This involved going through the latter page by page pulling out all the places in Somerset and Bristol (then weeding out the places under Bristol that were north of the Avon.

Then I've gone through the material I've got and indicate which places I've got postmarks from on cover or on piece.  I've ended up with over 500 different places in Somerset that might have had postmarks, with examples on cover from just over 25% of them.  Obviously that's not the end of the story because (nearly) everywhere will have had multiple different postmarks, but it's a start.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Somerset & Dorset Postal History Group

Having found references to the S&DPHG when looking for publications about Somerset Postal History, I ended up posting on the GBPS website to find out how to get in contact with them.  Mike Jackson posted up some details and as a result I ended up ringing three out of four of their officers (to find out about their publications, to join the Group, and to pay my subscription and for some of their publications).

I've also put their meeting on Sunday 23rd October 2011 at Hornsbury Mill, Chard in my diary - I'm going to pick up (& pay for) the back numbers of their Journal.

They don't seem to have a web presence - maybe I'll volunteer to put up a simple webpage for them.

Their contact details are below:

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Moving from collecting Stamps to collecting Postal History ?

I think that by nature I am a "stamp collector" - I like completeness.

I collect a number of mainly European countries. I enjoy getting them to an affordable level of completeness using a fairly specialised catalogue (I do shades, perforations, watermarks and sometimes different papers) but I don't go to the ultimate level.

I enjoy putting the stamps into a historical framework, for example identifying the political changes that are going on in parallel with the stamp issues. Once I've done this I like to have a story to tell, that I can use for an evening's display at my local philatelic society.

I have also had a small collection of Postal History based around postmarks from the town in Somerset that matches my surname.

I am now thinking seriously about expanding this sideline to collect "Somerset Postal History" which brings me to a number of questions:

What is "Somerset Postal History" ?

Unlike stamp collecting there is no definitive list to check off so I know my desire for "completeness" is going to be frustrated. However on the other side, I know that I'm always going to be able to find affordable items to add to my collection.

I think Postal History is different from just "stamps on covers", at least for me.  Aspects that occur to me include:
  • Postmarks from all the different places in Somerset
  • All the different postmarks from a single place in Somerset
  • Postage rates illustrated on cover
  • Other cancellations, instructional marks
  • Postal routes
  • Slogan and commercial postmarks
I'm also interested in how things look, so postcards showing views of the places come in scope too.

How does one structure a postal history collection ?

Is there a general approach that can sketch out a framework that I can slot my postal history items into ?  Otherwise I'm going to end up with lots of boxes (which I'm sure is one tried and trusted approach !).

What reference books are there ?

Books I have found to help somewhat for Somerset:
  • the British County Catalogue Vol 5 (Willcocks & Jay)
  • British Post Office Numbers (Brumell)
  • Publications from the Somerset & Dorset Postal History Group (UDCs & Steel Impressions)
  • Postal Addresses March 1972 (The Post Office)
  • "Collecting Postal History" by Prince Dimitry Kandaouroff, translated by William Finlay; and published by Peter Lowe in 1973.
  • The Rossiter Trust at
I've also acquired a set of Ordnance Survey maps (pre-motorway vintage), though Google Maps is very good for working out distances (as long as you alter the routes to avoid motorways).