British postal stationery

Postal stationery was introduced in 1840, at the same time as the Penny Black. It consisted of prepaid postage on an envelope or sheet of paper for a letter.

The Postal Museum collections contain trial material, artwork, and essays or proofs. The first stationery was designed by William Mulready.

It was severely caricatured and had to be replaced almost immediately in 1841. The R M Phillips Collection contains several examples of Mulready stationery.

Envelope depicting Britannia in the middle with people from different countries to her left and right. Many of the other characters are delivering post.

Caricature by John Leech, May 1840

After that, envelopes came with an imprinted stamp which was embossed. For those items that are post-Queen Victoria, we have metal punches as well as the other material. The range of postal stationery then expanded to include registered envelopes and stamped-to-order paper, also embossed.

In 1870, imprinted postcards were introduced, printed letterpress. We also have the metal dies for these. They were followed by other items such as:

  • reply-paid postcards
  • letter cards
  • telegrams
  • newspaper wrappers

The first type of postcard, 1870

More modern types included airgraphs during World War II, and then airletters or aerogrammes.