PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate letters

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PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate letters

Post by bowulf »

Hello everyone,

I am seeking information about what seems to have been a widespread practice in nineteenth-century letter writing of writing letters in duplicate (and triplicate, and quadruplicate...) copies.

I think it was particularly common to do so when sending inter-continental mail (and especially with business correspondence)

An example from my collection:

Image

Image

A letter from the British missionary Walter H. Medhurst in Batavia, sent 6 October 1826 and arrived in London 21 May 1827. On the front is marked 'Dup(licate)' and inside is written 'Duplicate!'. This letter, which pertains to business transactions, was probably duplicated by Medhurst himself.

As I understand it, Medhurst posted original and duplicate letters by different ships or routes to make sure the correspondence reached destination as quickly as possible. (the above letter took over seven months to reach destination and it can only be hoped that the original letter arrived earlier!).

My questions:

Am I right that the marking 'duplicate' means that at least two identical correspondences were sent by different routes/ships?

Does anyone have other such duplicate letters to show here?

Does anyone have or know of a double-survival where both original and duplicate letters can be compared?


Has anything been written in the philatelic literature about this phenomenon?
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by jjarmstrong47 »

As I understand it, Medhurst posted original and duplicate letters by different ships or routes to make sure the correspondence reached destination as quickly as possible. (the above letter took over seven months to reach destination and it can only be hoped that the original letter arrived earlier!).
The practice was apparently common in the early mail from Australia to England due to the number of shipwrecks. By sending important mail by more than one ship, you improved the chances that at least one would get there. Batavia to London would have been similar.

Six months from Sydney to London was not uncommon and the ships that went to Batavia would have been often trading vessels and their times could have been longer as they had to dispose of cargo and then find a cargo (often spices) for the return journey.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by aethelwulf »

In international shipping, several copies of the bills of lading (B/L) were sent, "just in case" one was lost. They would usually be marked "first", "second", "third". I believe the USA had revenue stamps for bills, and the stamps were in turn inscribed "first of exchange", "second of exchange"...
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Interesting replies. Aethelwulf, with the bills of lading are you also referring to the early-mid nineteenth century, or is this more recent?

It would be interesting to be able to compare an original and duplicate copy of a letter to see what route they went by and difference in transport times. However, companies were likely to archive only one letter and dispose of the rest, so this could be difficult to find.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Image

And now to the quadruplicate!

This entire is dated Batavia 5 November 1838 and sent from the Dutch trading firm Suermondt & Co. in Batavia to Nantes in France.

It seems that this is one of four identical letters sent to Europe by different ships. Inside is a note in pink that documents the four vessels.

Image

Quatruplicata
Triplicata - Goed Vertrouwen
Duplicata - Majestueux
O(riginal). - Mercurius via Middelburg


I'm not sure which one of these four my letter is. Obviously the trading company Suermondt & Co. in Batavia saw this correspondence as particularly urgent. This is the only 'quadruplicata' letter I have seen. Might a 'quintuplicata' also be possible?

Any comments about the postal markings, ships, routes etc. will be appreciated. I can't say I've quite figured this one out yet.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Here's another duplicate letter, Batavia 1849 - London. as usual it's from a major trading firm, the Dutch Metzendorff Wilmans & Co.

Handstamped Batavia 25 June 1849 and bearing the very unusual notation ‘via Ceylon and Southampton’. Received in London 23 August 1849. The entire went via Singapore where the square ‘Singapore bearing’ transit cancellation was applied (date unreadable).

Image

The letter is dated inside 25 May and 24 June 1849, and has the note pr. Overland Mail/Duplicate.

Image

Inside the letter I found a four-page trading bulletin. I have never seen this preserved before. It lists prices for imports/exports and vessels that have passed the Strait of Sunda (betw. Java and Sumatra) May-June 1849. A lucky find!

Image
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by kuikka »

bowulf wrote: Image

Quatruplicata
Triplicata - Goed Vertrouwen
Duplicata - Majestueux
O(riginal). - Mercurius via Middelburg


I'm not sure which one of these four my letter is. Obviously the trading company Suermondt & Co. in Batavia saw this correspondence as particularly urgent. This is the only 'quadruplicata' letter I have seen. Might a 'quintuplicata' also be possible?

Any comments about the postal markings, ships, routes etc. will be appreciated. I can't say I've quite figured this one out yet.
For two reasons I believe your copy is the fourth one. First, it doesn't mention the route of the fourth letter. Second, as the ships didn't travel regularly (I suppose) it was not possible to plan ahead which ship was used to send letters, so those had already been sent.

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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Yes I believe you're right that it is the fourth one. The others will have already been shipped off by the designated vessels/routes.

A few things I'm pondering:

Did the other letters also go through the established postal system, or did they travel privately, via forwarding agents, or any other means?

Is it possible to find the same correspondence in original and duplicate so we can compare transit means and times? (Probably the trading firms disposed of letters and kept only one copy in archive, so this may be difficult to find)

Was the duplication of mail only used with inter-continental mail between America/Europe/Asia/Australia? I have only seen this. And I collect Netherlands Indies so those are my examples.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by rossi »

bowulf wrote: Handstamped Batavia 25 June 1849 and bearing the very unusual notation ‘via Ceylon and Southampton’. Received in London 23 August 1849. The entire went via Singapore where the square ‘Singapore bearing’ transit cancellation was applied (date unreadable).

Image
I think that the notation via Ceylon and Southampton meant to say that the letter should be shipped by specific packet route.

Below is a list I've found on the Edinburgh PO directory of 1849:

Image

By private ship, ship letter, the charge was 8d.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Is the tariff marking on front an 8?

So you mean this letter went by private ship and not by the British packet? I see the directory says 8d for letter under half ounce from India East by private ship?

And what about the note inside per overland mail/duplicate?
If this went by Ceylon and Southampton it didn't go by overland mail, which I understand by overland through Europe most often via Marseille. Or maybe it was the duplicate of this letter which went by overland?

Sorry if I'm missing something obvious here.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by rossi »

bowulf wrote:Is the tariff marking on front an 8?
It's an 1/-, and I wrote it but then I edited the post and lost that part. :oops:

So according to the table by packet via Southampton.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Got it, by packet via Southampton!

The letter is very light, written (copied it seems) on very thin rather translucent paper, and even with the trading bulletin inside it would have passed at under half ounce. The journey for the sea route to the UK took about two months.

I assume that the note inside refers to the duplicate which travelled overland.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by aethelwulf »

bowulf wrote:This is the only 'quadruplicata' letter I have seen. Might a 'quintuplicata' also be possible?
There'd have to be enough mail ships leaving the origin in a reasonably short period of time for you to send the mail out...would you want to post a couple copies of the letter, then wait a few weeks and post a couple more? Also a consideration is the cost--mail costs 'in the olde days' were pretty high.*

*An anecdote I read recently in a book related that idea...supposedly, Rowland Hill was at a PO one day, in the pre-philatelic days, and there was a lady in front of him. The clerk told her she had a letter waiting, and it would cost 2 shillings to collect. The woman said she didn't have the money. Hill offered to pay it for her, and she declined...she told him later that the letter was from her son, in Australia. His system was to write once a month, but she never actually collected (and thus paid for delivery of) the letters...the fact that a letter arrived was a way of telling her everything was OK with her son. :idea:
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Yes there were quite few ships. So duplicate mail was of course common. I have only seen this one quadruplicate. I remember seeing a triplicate letter sent from Dutch Indies to France, but I forgot to get a scan of it.

Good anecdote about Rowland Hill!

I read in a remarkable book about the 16th century Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci that the Jesuits in China sent letters in two copies, one via Mexico on the Spanish galleons out of Manilla, and one via Goa on the Portuguese carracks leaving Macao. Ricci accepted six to seven years as the norm for receiving answer to a given letter.

Ricci laments that "people have moved from life on Earth to another sphere: and often when I call to mind the number of lengthy letters that I have written about this place to those who were already dead, I lose the strength and spirit to write any more."

(J. Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, p. 66)
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by aethelwulf »

bowulf wrote:Ricci accepted six to seven years as the norm for receiving answer to a given letter.
Every year Hong Kong hosts an arts festival called 'Le French May'...which stretches from May on into June, but oh well...

The Macau Museum of Art features a French exhibition every year as one of the events...last year was about the French port town L'Orient, where vessels came from China with tea and porcelain. The exhibition said in the days of sail, the record for the fastest journey was 13 months, and that was I believe just 1 way.

It took Magellan (and his crew, as he was dead by the Philippines) about 3 years to circumnavigate the world?
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

Here's another duplicate letter, sent from Kingston, Jamaica January 4 1827 to Madeira.

As is common there is no indication of duplicate on the front but it is noted inside, in the top left corner.

This letter is the duplicate and I'm not sure by which vessel it went. The original went by Lady Wellington packet. As I understand, the packet indicates that the vessel belonged to the British Post Office; it was not a privately owned ship.

I'm confused because the letter is dated inside January 4 1827, but the (archival?) note on back has Jamaica March 17 1828, received June 2 1828.

Any more information appreciated

Image

Image
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by jjarmstrong47 »

Must have carried it in his pocket for a year before he found a post box. :D
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

I am reviving this thread to see if anyone can clarify the tarif marking 1/4 for me. Was 1s 4d the rate for under an ounce or under half ounce in 1826?

How long did this rate last?

Also does the handstamp 'Deal/Ship Letter' indicate if the ship this letter travelled with was a post office packet ship or a private merchant ship? Perhaps it could have been either?
bowulf wrote:
Image

Image
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by rossi »

The charge, 1/4 ie 16d, was:

+ 8d, shipping letter rate

+ 8d, inland rate Deal - London

The postmark Deal/Ship Letter tells two thing at London.

The letter was a ship letter and that the inland rate to London had to be calculated from Deal.
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by vikingeck »

bowulf wrote:Here's another duplicate letter, sent from Kingston, Jamaica January 4 1827 to Madeira.


I'm confused because the letter is dated inside January 4 1827, but the (archival?) note on back has Jamaica March 17 1828, received June 2 1828.


]
I think the answer is a simple error on the part of the writer . For all of the previous year he has written dates "1827" and this is one of the first of the new year . old habit .....................he wrote "1827" automatically forgetting it was now the new Year 1828! Especially if he was a clerk writing the duplicate copy for a letter which had been prepared a few days before in December 1827!

The duplicate letter may then have had to wait a few weeks for a second ship to take it on to Madeira
whatever it is -------it's better than a poke in eye with a wet umbrella !

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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

rossi wrote:The charge, 1/4 ie 16d, was:

+ 8d, shipping letter rate

+ 8d, inland rate Deal - London

The postmark Deal/Ship Letter tells two thing at London.

The letter was a ship letter and that the inland rate to London had to be calculated from Deal.
Excellent, thanks for this! As far as I can see this is the rate for letter under half ounce.

Is it possible to break down the one shilling rate for this letter below also? This one does not have a ship letter postmark, but maybe that was because it was sent by post office packet ship?

Image
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Re: PREPHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lette

Post by bowulf »

vikingeck wrote:
bowulf wrote:Here's another duplicate letter, sent from Kingston, Jamaica January 4 1827 to Madeira.


I'm confused because the letter is dated inside January 4 1827, but the (archival?) note on back has Jamaica March 17 1828, received June 2 1828.


]
I think the answer is a simple error on the part of the writer . For all of the previous year he has written dates "1827" and this is one of the first of the new year . old habit .....................he wrote "1827" automatically forgetting it was now the new Year 1828! Especially if he was a clerk writing the duplicate copy for a letter which had been prepared a few days before in December 1827!

The duplicate letter may then have had to wait a few weeks for a second ship to take it on to Madeira
Yes this is quite probably a clerical error. I have seen such before.

This letter must be the duplicate and the note inside 'original per Lady Wellington packet' indicates how the other letter, the original, travelled. Probably one letter was sent by post office packet and the other, this one, by private merchant ship, which could explain the lack of postal and tariff marks.
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by stampingpaws »

Bringing this procedure up to date; well up to 1974 when I was travelling through India with my wife.

Our trip was by train for a period of nine months, during which time we sent letters back to my parents in Australia. We travelled extensively, visiting may places off the beaten tourist track including small towns and villages.

Letters to Mum and Dad were posted where ever we found a post box of any sort. A red box hanging on a tree in the centre of a market was more the normal than not.

To ensure our news got home we repeated that from our previous letter, then added our new news. This made sure that news of our journey was received even if the occasional letter never arrived.

Best wishes

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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by rossi »

bowulf wrote: Excellent, thanks for this! As far as I can see this is the rate for letter under half ounce.
On 1826 the postage rates where calculated not by weight but by number of sheets.
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by rossi »

bowulf wrote: Is it possible to break down the one shilling rate for this letter below also? This one does not have a ship letter postmark, but maybe that was because it was sent by post office packet ship?

Image
Can you post a better scan of the postmark at top left ?

Also I cannot read the year, can you read it ?
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

rossi wrote:
bowulf wrote: Is it possible to break down the one shilling rate for this letter below also? This one does not have a ship letter postmark, but maybe that was because it was sent by post office packet ship?

Image
Can you post a better scan of the postmark at top left ?

Also I cannot read the year, can you read it ?
The year is 1849. The letter left Batavia June 25 1849 and arrived/was received in London August 23 same year.

The postmarks you mention are very unclear but here's another scan. The boxed Singapore bearing is very unclear, but I can read the month July. The circular red mark, which I assume is a London cancel, has 'AL/23AUG/1849'

Image
Last edited by bowulf on 17 Jun 2016 18:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

rossi wrote:
bowulf wrote: Excellent, thanks for this! As far as I can see this is the rate for letter under half ounce.
On 1826 the postage rates where calculated not by weight but by number of sheets.
This letter of 1826 is one single sheet.

When did they go from calculating by number of sheets to calculating by weight?
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by rossi »

bowulf wrote: The year is 1849. The letter left Batavia June 25 1849 and arrived/was received in London August 23 same year.
Thank you. The charge was 1/- and it was the postage rate for letters from East Indies by packet (so not a private ship!) via Southampton for a weight under ½oz.
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by rossi »

bowulf wrote:
rossi wrote:
bowulf wrote: Excellent, thanks for this! As far as I can see this is the rate for letter under half ounce.
On 1826 the postage rates where calculated not by weight but by number of sheets.
This letter of 1826 is one single sheet.

When did they go from calculating by number of sheets to calculating by weight?
For inland letters from 5 December 1839.
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

Thanks for all your help with this, it's much appreciated (and I hope you don't mind more questions later). This important subject of duplicate mail seems quite under-studied to me.
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

stampingpaws wrote:Bringing this procedure up to date; well up to 1974 when I was travelling through India with my wife.

Our trip was by train for a period of nine months, during which time we sent letters back to my parents in Australia. We travelled extensively, visiting may places off the beaten tourist track including small towns and villages.

Letters to Mum and Dad were posted where ever we found a post box of any sort. A red box hanging on a tree in the centre of a market was more the normal than not.

To ensure our news got home we repeated that from our previous letter, then added our new news. This made sure that news of our journey was received even if the occasional letter never arrived.

Best wishes
Well this is clearly a kind of duplicate mail! Certainly it's copying to safeguard against loss or major delay, not unlikely in that region and time I should imagine.

The last printed reference I have found to duplicate mail is from 1917, from the end of the war when several ships were lost in naval warfare. Then British post offices offered to send out duplicate letters by different routes/vessels against the payment of a special fee.
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by Joy Daschaudhuri »

bowulf wrote: Image
This is Giles type 5 Bearing all-India type oblong tripartite (slide) dispatch mark of Singapura which was also used as transit mark on external mail, used from 1842 to 1859.

This postmark type was originally introduced in 1837 and it was always struck in black following the Rule 5 of the "Rules for Stamping Letters 1837", annexure to Indian Post Office Act 1837 (Act XVII of 1937).

It must be mentioned that the postal services of all Straits Settlements including Singapura was under the Indian Post Office till March 31,1867.

Singapura GPO was under administrative control of Kolkata GPO till 1861 after which it came under Myanmar Circle.

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jkrabbenbos
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by jkrabbenbos »

bowulf wrote: Well this is clearly a kind of duplicate mail! Certainly it's copying to safeguard against loss or major delay, not unlikely in that region and time I should imagine.

The last printed reference I have found to duplicate mail is from 1917, from the end of the war when several ships were lost in naval warfare. Then British post offices offered to send out duplicate letters by different routes/vessels against the payment of a special fee.
In a book about the mail in Zeeland (not New Zealand) it is written that the captains of merchant ships had to write letters containing also a duplicate of the previous letter. Sometimes it was ordered (by the owner e.g. VOC) to send multiple copies via different routes.

The book I refer to is by the Po&Po, the Dutch postal history club, title is "De Zeeuwse brievenposterij" by Kees de Baar (2015). The subtitle is (translated) "Mail services for the merchant".

EDIT: The link to the information about the book in Dutch: http://www.po-en-po.nl/publicaties/posthistorische-studies/phs-32-zl-brievenposterij.
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Kind regards,
Jan
Collecting: Netherlands, pre-decimal New Zealand, Canada
Special interest areas: Canada Admirals, NZ Adsons, Antarctica, E.H. Shackleton

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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by rossi »

bowulf wrote:Thanks for all your help with this, it's much appreciated (and I hope you don't mind more questions later).
Sure !!!
No-one ever said it was easy. If it was it would be boring!

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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

jkrabbenbos wrote:
bowulf wrote: Well this is clearly a kind of duplicate mail! Certainly it's copying to safeguard against loss or major delay, not unlikely in that region and time I should imagine.

The last printed reference I have found to duplicate mail is from 1917, from the end of the war when several ships were lost in naval warfare. Then British post offices offered to send out duplicate letters by different routes/vessels against the payment of a special fee.
In a book about the mail in Zeeland (not New Zealand) it is written that the captains of merchant ships had to write letters containing also a duplicate of the previous letter. Sometimes it was ordered (by the owner e.g. VOC) to send multiple copies via different routes.

The book I refer to is by the Po&Po, the Dutch postal history club, title is "De Zeeuwse brievenposterij" by Kees de Baar (2015). The subtitle is (translated) "Mail services for the merchant".

EDIT: The link to the information about the book in Dutch: http://www.po-en-po.nl/publicaties/posthistorische-studies/phs-32-zl-brievenposterij.
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Jkrabbenbos, I am very interested in knowing more details. Do you have this book? And can you perhaps help me with some translation from the Dutch?

I am writing an article on this subject and would like to include this account and reference.
Collecting Netherlands Indies postal history 1818-1900
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by jkrabbenbos »

Hi Beowulf,

Yes, I have this book. And I can also help you with translations from Dutch into English of texts in the book.

BTW I'm not home at the moment. And that is were the book is. I will be back home next week. Please let me know what info you want from the book.
Kind regards,
Jan
Collecting: Netherlands, pre-decimal New Zealand, Canada
Special interest areas: Canada Admirals, NZ Adsons, Antarctica, E.H. Shackleton

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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

jkrabbenbos wrote:Hi Beowulf,

Yes, I have this book. And I can also help you with translations from Dutch into English of texts in the book.

BTW I'm not home at the moment. And that is were the book is. I will be back home next week. Please let me know what info you want from the book.
Thanks Jan, I will email you with specifics.
Collecting Netherlands Indies postal history 1818-1900
http://www.allanwestphall.com/stamps

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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

Here is a newly acquired 'original' letter dated inside Batavia 16 January 1822. A notation in the letter says 'original p. Amity/Capt. Gray'. There is no note of the route/vessel for the duplicate letter. Also on the letter front we read 'P. the Amity/Captain Gray'.

I know of the famous ship Amity which played an important part in the settlement of Australia and Van Diemen's Land. According to Wikipedia, this ship - a brig - was built in Canada 1816. Did my letter travel on the famous Amity or another vessel by that name? Does anyone know how to find out?

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Collecting Netherlands Indies postal history 1818-1900
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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by bowulf »

Image

Picture of the back.

I don't know if you can see the image - I'm getting some sort of error message to update my account 'to enable third party hosting'. Photobucket is still struggling it seems...
Collecting Netherlands Indies postal history 1818-1900
http://www.allanwestphall.com/stamps

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Re: PRE-PHILATELY: duplicate, triplicate, quadruplicate lett

Post by rossi »

No-one ever said it was easy. If it was it would be boring!

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