The Penny Black

The world’s first postage stamp was a simple idea, but revolutionary.

“… A bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash”

Rowland Hill’s booklet Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability, 1837

This was the first mention by Rowland Hill of what became the world’s first adhesive postage stamp. He was answering the questions of a parliamentary enquiry into the Post Office in February 1837 shortly after the publication of his pamphlet Post Office reform; Its Importance and Practicality.

In this pamphlet Hill had challenged the high, extremely complex and anomalous postal rates then in force. He suggested a low uniform rate of postage based on weight and prepaid. At this time the high rates were based on distance and the number of sheets in a letter, and normally they were paid by the recipient. Many letters were also carried free.