Monday, December 22, 2014

In 1894, did the UPU printed-matter rate apply to mimeographed text? Maybe not! (But updated below.)

The mimeograph machine or stencil duplicater dates back to the mid-1880s.  These devices, which I remember from my high school days producing the school paper, worked by forcing ink through a stencil onto paper.  No typesetting or skilled labor was necessary.  In the late 1960s, mimeographs were gradually supplanted by photocopying and offset printing.

1889 Advertisement
for the Edison Mimeograph

And since we occasionally see postal cards with mimeographed text, a postal historian might wonder whether such text qualified as “printed matter” under the UPU definitions fixing the special printed-matter rates.  At least in the case below, it either did not or was not recognized as mimeographed printing:

Mähr. Ostrau-Moravská Ostrava,
15 Nov 1894
Rumelange, Luxembourg
17 Nov 1894

The 2-Kreuzer Bohemian-language Kaiser Franz Joseph postal card was taxed 15 centimes, apparently because the mimeographed text was not recognized as printed matter.


A kind correspondent writes that “[t]he key to printed matter is the definition:  anything can go as printed matter as long as it is not in the nature of ‘true correspondence’.  From the image you present, it would easily be taken for ‘correspondence’ by its layout as not everyone would be familiar with ‘modern’ technology in the period.”  

The writer also reminds me that another requirement for a card to go as printed matter was that any reference to “Postcard” or “Postal Card” had to be crossed out and the word “Imprimé” substituted.  This card failed that criterion.

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