Victorian Post Office Curiosities

Date: 31 March 2015
Author: RPSV

Pre-publication orders for Victorian Post Office Curiosities: A Treasure From The Archives, by Eric J Frazer and Max B Watson, are now being taken.

The Archive Record

Victorian Post Office Curiosities is a collection of more than 200 curious, unusual, and “difficult-to-deliver” covers assembled by Letter Carriers at the Melbourne GPO over the period 1894-1911 housed in a leather-bound ledger volume. It also includes a number of newspaper clippings related to the collection itself, the postal service of the day and other odd items.

The Letter Carriers had to deal with foreign languages, incomplete and unintelligible addresses, and indecipherable handwriting. Some letters had obviously been addressed to test the Post Office; these included addresses in code, pictures or maps. The postal staff and Letter Carriers were extremely proud of their work and wanted to display their perseverance, dedication and problem solving skills. Hence, the delivered covers were begged back for display.

The ledger volume was transferred from the PMG Victorian Administration to the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in 1958 but, because of its fragile condition and uniqueness, was available for reference only under closely supervised conditions. Fortunately, the volume underwent preservation treatment in 2006 and became one of the first of the Archives’ treasures to be digitised and made available on the web. This NAA record can be located using the Advanced Search function at via its Title or Series number (MP311/103).

The Book

For the first time since its digitisation, Victorian Post Office Curiosities will be made available with complementary background research and detailed commentary on every item. It is the story of the Archives record itself, the Letter Carriers who created it, the handling of curiously addressed mail in Victoria and overseas, and the covers themselves.

Every detail on every item has been transcribed including the address, postmarks, backstamps and endorsements; some of this information is on the reverse, or written on the ledger itself, so is not available in the digitised version. Each addressee and address has been researched to reveal something of the lives involved and/or history of their location. A significant number of entries relate to European immigrants, particularly Italians, who began arriving in Victoria from the 1850s. It is a fascinating journey during which we encounter judges, miners, deserters, debtors and even the “Post Office Cat”. Some stories even touch on great events like the Boer War, the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the Victorian 1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition. Some items are sad, some are mischievous — all are fascinating!

This book will be of interest to postal historians, students of Melbourne & Victorian history around 1900, and some archivists and genealogists. Relevant entries are cross referenced and the volume’s content and format allows the reader to dip into any page of the detailed commentary. The book is fully referenced and features almost 250 historical images in addition to those in the NAA volume itself. It also contains a comprehensive index listing people, place and ship names for those interested in further research.

Printing, Ordering & Delivery

This hardback book will comprise about 360 pages in full colour and the initial print run will be limited to pre-publication orders. It is anticipated that the book will be published in mid-2015 and despatched soon thereafter to registered purchasers.

Orders received by 15 July 2015 will be accepted at the special pre-publication price of A$85; reprints at A$100 will only be available if there is sufficient later demand. Postage and packing will be A$15 within Australia, and at cost for overseas purchasers. Please send orders by post to: Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria Inc, PO Box 490, Ashburton VIC 3147, Australia or by email (see order form below for details). Orders for delivery within Australia can be also be paid by A$ cheque; please remember to add $15 for postage and packing.

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