To mark its sixtieth anniversary in 2018, the British Postmark Society embarked on the digitisation of its publications since 1958, with the aim of making the archive of its Quarterly Bulletin (now its Journal) and postmark-related books available to a wider audience. The digital (PDF) versions also have the advantages of taking up less space and of being searchable, enabling collectors and students to more easily find references to a particular theme or location.  The first series of books to become available for download are the five volumes covering Special Event Postmarks used between 1851 and 2013.


The title page of Volume 1 of Special Event Postmarks of the United Kingdom refers to the book as “a catalogue of postmarks used on mail posted at congresses, exhibitions, shows, etc., and for anniversaries”. For many years this was the case, with postal facilities or at least a posting box being provided at the event concerned. From the 1960s onwards, however, more and more ‘special’ postmarks related to new stamp issues. Slogan ‘First Day of Issue’ postmarks applied by cancelling machines were introduced in 1963, followed by ‘FDI’ handstamps in 1965.

In the following decades, the number of Special Event Postmarks mushroomed, with many being sponsored by First Day Cover producers or other commercial interests. Over the same period, changes in the way mail is handled has reduced the provision of postal facilities at or even near event locations. The application of Special Event Postmarks is now carried our at only three Special Handstamp Centres – London (Mount Pleasant), North (Edinburgh) and Wales & The West (Cardiff).

The numbering of Special Event Postmarks started by George Pearson has continued in the volumes compiled by Colin Peachey, John Swanborough and Alan Finch. These ‘Pearson’ numbers provide a convenient form of reference to such postmarks and may be freely quoted, but acknowledgement of the source would be appreciated.

Please click on the highlighted volume numbers below to open each PDF in your browser and save it to your device.

Volume 1 (1851-1962) by George R Pearson – Fourth Edition, compiled by Colin Peachey and John Swanborough, published 1991. Includes supplements published in 2006 and 2016.

Volume 2 (1963-1983) compiled by Alan Finch and Colin Peachey, published 1996

Volume 3 (1984-1993) compiled by Alan Finch and Colin Peachey, published 1994

Volume 4 (1994-2003) compiled by Alan Finch and Colin Peachey, published 2004

Volume 5 (2004-2013) compiled by Alan Finch and Colin Peachey, published 2014

Later postmarks are recorded in the quarterly British Postmark Society Journal. Searchable PDF copies of annual volumes since 2012 are available free of charge to BPS members on request, pending digitisation of the entire archive since 1958.