Papal States: Deciphering Postal History

This folded letter was sent from Perugia, the capital of the Papal State of Umbria to the Vatican City in the mid-1800’s. The cover features two hand stamps dated 4th and 9th of June (‘GIU’, Giugno). However, the years are difficult to decipher, one suggesting 1852 and the other 1862.

Perugia is mid-way between Florence and Rome and is approximately 100 miles from the latter. The year is of interest because this is the period of Italian unification, although the Papal States were not definitively unified until 1870. For this reason, this letter carries a Papal States imperforate stamp. The postmark is heavy on the stamp’s value but by comparison with other stamps in my collection, the original value is believed to be 3 bajoochi.

Papal States 1852 / 1862 content of letter sent from Perugia to Vatican City
Contents of the Letter

The paper, given its thickness and age, is very frail. The letter inside has script that is far from clear so the contents have yet to be revealed. The script of the letter itself appears to be incomplete and would suggest that there may have been multiple pages that are sadly now missing. Similarly, the addressee is unclear – is the letter addressed to a President of some kind?

On the reverse there is a red seal and what appears to be a destination / receipt postmark but the place name in the postmark is not clear. Almost certainly the letter would have been delivered the 100 miles by coach or horseback. Also, on the reverse is an impression (cancellation) most probably that of the actual recipient. This is interesting as it has some undecipherable text around the edge inside which appears to be a Bishop’s mitre and the initials RCA. What does this mean?

When this letter was purchased from a dealer in Switzerland the mention of ‘Pontifico’ was made in the item’s description, a term that is used to describe a yearbook for the Catholic Church that ceased publication in 1870.

Clearly, there’s more work to be done to reveal the secrets of this letter but it’s a great example of the joy that can be had deciphering postal history!

To view postal issues of the Papal States, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by billmandsphilatelycom

William (Bill) Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 60 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the British Commonwealth including most notably, the issues from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. However, he also has specialist interest in the postal history of Egypt, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Sarawak, Sudan and the Italian States as well as a fine collection of overprints.

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