Notes from the Past

Disinfected Mail

From the fourteenth to the early nineteenth century it was common practice in many parts of Europe to disinfect mail which had originated in or passed through an area considered to be disease-infested, particularly the Middle East.  This was done by fumigating the letter through slits cut in them, or by splashing or even immersion in vinegar.  Each country had its quarantine stations through which all mail from abroad had to pass.  The system was in use in Britain from about 1671 to 1850.  Various disinfection markings were applied to mail thus treated, but these are not postal markings in the true sense since they were the responsibility of the public health authorities and not the Post Office.  In the light of modern medical knowledge the practice of disinfecting mail in this manner is now known to have been almost completely pointless, but letters which show signs of disinfection are keenly studied and collected by postal history enthusiasts.
 
 
- R. J. Sutton 6th edition revised by K. W. Anthony
The Stamp Collector's Encyclopaedia
Published 1966
 Posted January 18, 2000 

Index of 507 Notes from the Past

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