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.
Special Event Postmarks
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
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. For collectors of first day covers, all First Day of Issue postmarks from their introduction in 1963 up to 1983 are listed in Twenty Years of First Day Postmarks by Brian Pask & Colin Peachey.
Messages printed on machine-cancelled letters, in place of the customary wavy lines, started in 1917 with “Buy War Bonds” exhortations, aimed at boosting government funds during the First World War. Such slogans were followed in the 1920s and 30s by designs to publicise events such as the British Industries Fair and the British Empire Exhibition, to encourage use of cable and telephone services, and to encourage posting early - in the day, and for Christmas. During and after the Second World War, more public information messages appeared in slogans, relating amongst other topics to road safety, salvage, blood donation and national savings. In the 1950s, the first ‘local’ slogans appeared, marking civic anniversaries, and the range of national and local events marked by short-term slogans expanded. However, it was not until 1963 that ‘local publicity’ slogans promoting tourism and/or investment were introduced, to be used for longer periods. The large number of places involved and the use of pictorial designs led to great increase in these and other postmarks in the 1960 and 70s.
Eventually, the mechanisation of the postal service led to reduction in the number of towns and cities cancelling their local mail, and later the use of ink-jet cancellations in place of the metal dies in general use previously. However, slogans continue to feature in the ink-jet cancellations of modern Mail Centres, while the ‘traditional’ dies get limited use at some centres, most often during the Christmas period. Slogans in use between 1917 and 1999 are recorded in five volumes compiled by BPS members Cyril R H Parsons, Colin G Peachey and the late George R Pearson and published by the authors. Digitised versions of these books are now available for free download by clicking on the links below:
For specialist collectors of slogan postmarks, and for collectors of the postmarks of specific towns, cities and/or counties, in-depth listings of all the localities in which multi-town slogans were used are listed in four volumes covering 1960 to 1999. These 'In Depth' listings by Colin Peachey can be downloaded in PDF format free of charge by using the links below:
A further volume, compiled by Martin Grier, relates to the pre-1960 period. This is a work in progress, and collectors are invited to download 'the story so far' in the hope that they can add information about the locations where each slogan was used.
Page updated September 2023