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This small collection contains postal material illustrating the early days of the postal service initiated in the reign of Charles II with Henry Bishop as Postmaster-General. Following a number of complaints from users of this early post, he initiated the dated hand stamp, a “Bishop Mark” showing the Day/Month of posting.
An entire letter from 1697 shows an example of a rare early Bishop Mark set inside a capital “E” to identify the post town of origin. A letter of 1702 shows a more typical Bishop Mark with the date of posting set in a small circle, but here showing an unusual layout having the two letters of the month conjoined. A similar Bishop Mark can be seen on a letter to the Muster Master General in 1705. This item carries the first known example of a straight line BATH mark. It has the postage set at 8 pence, which included a charge of 2 pence in Scotland. Both letters show the use of the double year date. A tortuous postal route is described for a 1706 letter between Minehead in Somerset and Kilkhampton in Cornwall. Lastly, a copy of a London Gazette of July 1709 announces the introduction of a post between London and Tunbridge Wells daily, and between Oxford and Bath 3 times a week.