BOOK REVIEW - British and Islands Postal Stationery Provisionals, by Dr John M Gledhill
from the August 2017 issue of the Postal Stationery Society Journal
Did you know that despite the advance publicity for UK decimalisation in 1971 no registration envelopes were available for sale with the correct postage rates imprinted on them?
Did you know that when compensation rates increased on registration envelopes there were sometimes over 6 million items in stock needing amendment rather than pulping?
This book, inspired by the GBOS books "Overprinted British Airletters" and "Overprinted British Postal Stationery" (2015), fills the remaining aspect not covered by those two books,
by examining the various amendments and overprints applied by the Post Office to postal stationery for use within the country.
It is not easy to pick up from the fairly simple listings in the major catalogue of British postal stationery (Huggins & Baker), necessitated by their approach, just how many overprints and corrections emanate from the Post Office.
Many of these arose because of errors in the instructions on the items, or accidental retention of obsolete information. A major area, not rectifying mistakes, was the Post Office's need to bring into use
large stocks of postal stationery rendered obsolete by increases in postal rates, or forces envelopes at the end of World War I: indeed in some cases residual stocks of obsolete items are recorded to amount to several million copies.
Postal stationery is not cheap to make, and the prospect of pulping such large stocks led to the obsolete items being uprated by the overprinting of either a further stamp image or a device showing the additional payment now due.
Tracking this through the various provisional issues highlights the occasions on which the post office found that the rates had risen faster than they could make new head-dies, or, on one occasion, rates were actually reduced after
large numbers had been printed and sold for the old rates, and customers needed a rebate. These items have not been subject to detailed study before this book.
The opportunity was also taken to include coverage of the postal stationery provisionals issued by the Post Offices of the UK islands of Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey, which issue their own stationery,
and on which there seems little coverage in catalogues. Their treatment of "rescuing" obsolete material reflects many of the approaches of the UK Post Office (Royal Mail), but more frequently.
If you like British (and Islands) postal stationery you will find this book a fascinating trek through the urgent steps required by the authorities to save pulping huge stocks of obsolete items,
and at the same time actually creating adequate stocks with the current information.
198 pages hardbound, comprehensively illustrated. ISBN 978-0-9931878-3-4.