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about this site...

John Leach asserts his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of all work on this site.

I am pleased to receive constructive feedback at any time, especially if it contains or directs me to new research.
You may contact me by using my blog.

Postal encyclopaedia

This concept began in the early 1990s, before the internet, when I began to record information about countries that have issued stamps. At first, the notes were handwritten and then some got typed but I soon began to transfer them onto a word processor. I remember that the word processor I used at that time was Manuscript (whatever happened to that?) but a few years later I shifted everything onto Word for Windows. Now I have the Internet and HTML so Iím gradually moving the information into this website.

The basic purpose of the work was to list, in alphabetical order, every stamp issuing authority that has existed since 1840. Hence the original choice of title was The Stamp Index, and the alphabetical index remains the essential core of the work.

A mere list is of little practical use and I began to record useful information about each authority so as to create an encyclopaedic record rather than an index. As for what constitutes useful information, the first rule is to keep it simple. Standard layouts have been used and the narrative sections are in precis form. Each section begins with the title of the authority and the dates during which stamps were or have been issued. The titles of the authorities are in the following main categories:
  • place names (e.g., nations, cities, colonies, provinces, states, territories);
  • groups of countries with common issues;
  • occupation forces;
  • foreign post offices;
  • names of regimes;
  • international organisations.

Entry Types

Four classes of entry have been defined.

Major: signified by preceding bullet point, it is basically an independent stamp issuing authority, usually of long standing; or one which is seen to have been particularly important for other reasons.

Group: signified by preceding bullet point, it is an amalgamation of specific entries which are closely related and which, individually, are not considered important enough to warrant major status.

Specific: stamps have been issued and the entry is either (a) a major entry in its own right; or (b) part of a group entry.

Minor: no stamps issued but the entry is included because it is considered useful.

These can be illustrated by using the various British entries as examples. England has had no issues in its own right and has always used stamps of Great Britain. Scotland does have its own distinctive issues although they are part of Great Britain Regional Issues along with Wales and Northern Ireland.

Great Britain and Scotland are both specific entries (i.e., stamps have been issued) but, whereas Great Britain is a major entry (i.e., an independent stamp issuing authority of long standing and great importance), Scotland is not. Scotland does not have postal independence and its stamps have a close relationship with those of Wales and Northern Ireland. Postally, the three countries are of no great importance and so they are classed as specific entries only. As such, they belong to a group entry, which is British Regional Issues.

England has issued no stamps and it is therefore a minor entry. A minor entry would normally contain a cross-reference to one of the other three types, in this case to the major entry for Great Britain.

The concept of four classes of entry is derived from what are envisaged as the criteria for an ideal stamp album, in which each major entry and each group entry would have its own page. Specific entries would be included as part of a group entry page. Minor entries would not be included except to provide useful further information.


The cross-reference types have been standardised.

Includes: appears in all group entries and lists specific entries grouped there.

Album: appears in all non-major specific entries and refers to the appropriate group entry.

Refer: is used mainly with minor entries to avoid duplication especially where information is provided under a major, group or specific entry elsewhere.

See also: is optional and can appear in any entry to indicate related topics.

Group Entries

Foreign post offices and occupation issues are the best examples of grouping. The group entry in such cases will have a reference Includes: which lists the specific entries whose stamps are grouped here. Conversely, any specific entry which appears in an Includes: list has itself an Album: reference to the group entry.

It follows that multiple entries have been avoided. These are especially a problem with occupation issues and foreign post offices. Occupation issues typically rely on the overprint to emphasise the fact of occupation. Overprints are regarded in this work as independent issues. Where a country such as Britain, Germany or Italy has issued new stamps or overprints in an occupied territory, a group entry appears as a summary of all such occupations and refers the reader to specific entries under the name of the occupied territory. This has been done to avoid a succession of entries commencing British Occupation of, German Occupation of, etc.

Similarly, with foreign post offices, there is a group entry which refers the reader to specific entries under the various location names. With post offices, the same stamps tended to be used at them all with exceptions using local overprints: this is particularly true of the many foreign post offices throughout the Turkish Empire. If a local overprint was used, there is a specific entry for that office. Otherwise, the office is usually dealt with as part of a general entry for all post offices in the same country.

General Content

Where the authority is a country or territory, the capital or chief town has been included unless one cannot be identified. Whenever stamps have been issued and dates are given (i.e., specific entries), the currencies have been included. The narrative varies according to the scope of the entry: e.g., there is obviously much more to say about Great Britain than about Amur Province. As a rule, the narrative begins with a brief statement about the location and some geographical information. This is followed by historical background. The narrative is concluded by a discussion of the stamps issued, sometimes in very general terms but with emphasis placed on issues of particular interest.

Chronological Section

NB: an ongoing project which will hopefully be included in the site by the end of 2009.

The chronological section is designed to present a different perspective. The index is essentially geographical in outlook but a more historical view was sought and it was decided that a list of events by year would be useful. In this section, the information is straightforward: year, first issues, last issues, background events. It would have been easy to start at 1840 but that would ignore the long period of postal development before the Penny Black.


Essentially, the index includes everything that appears in the indices of the Gibbons catalogues and other publications concerned with philatelic geography and history. Also included are inscriptions and overprints which refer to authorities or territories. The index does not include general philatelic terms or words used in inscriptions which relate to postage, currency, etc. Where an inscription is in native script, it has been included where possible but, in any case, the English translation is given.

This work is of course a major undertaking and some omissions and errors may be inevitable. The intention is to update the information on a regular basis.

I hope the stampsite will be seen as a useful reference guide by anyone interested in philately.

Cricket histories

With the stampsite up and running, it was easy to think "what else?" and I've always been interested in cricket history so I decided to build the stumpsite. There isn't much else that I can or should add here because I've written a full introduction to From Lads to Lord's and short intros within the additional cricket pieces, so I'll refer you to those if I may.

I hope the stumpsite will be seen as a useful reference guide by anyone interested in early cricket.

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Date last modified: 01/18/2009 10:51:20
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