The 1836 Anglo-French Postal Convention
How this agreement between Great Britain and France made it easier to send international mail from all parts of the world

By Geoffrey Lewis FRPSL

Click here to buy our book

Retail price £65, Members Price £59.

This book examines how the British and French postal systems handled mail under the 1836 Anglo- French Postal Convention (AF1836). The new system was beneficial for letter-writers in Britain and France, but it was also of benefit to letter-writers throughout the world. It became easier to mail letters worldwide as many letters passed through Britain and France, then the two most powerful countries in the world. Comparison will be made with the postal systems available before and after the AF1836 period (15 July 1836 to 31 May 1843), to see the impact and importance of these reforms. 

Geoffrey Lewis FRPSL

Many letters to France from overseas were carried by British ships to Britain. They had to be addressed to someone in Britain, usually a forwarding agent, so that the British Post Office could collect the postage fees for providing the shipping service.
The 1836 Convention allowed Britain and France to collect postage for each other. Although they each had different currencies and weight units, the major complexity was because the British system was based on the number of sheets of paper whereas France’s system was weight-based. If a letter from overseas was addressed directly to France, the British Post Office would write the accountancy amount due in the upper right corner. Each letter had to be rated individually. Similar accountancy procedures were used on many other types of mail passing between Britain and France, then the two most important countries in the world.
This book has illustrations of 250 covers, and these originated from no less than 56 different countries and colonies. Each cover is described in full detail, with particular emphasis on the rates and the manuscript markings.
For each type of mail, the development of rates and markings is analysed with reference to the illustrated covers. Postal procedures are compared with those operating before and after the Convention. Occasionally there were discrepancies between the observed postal procedures and the postal regulations.
The 1836 Convention was in force until 1843. This was a crucial period in the development of postal communications. The major British postal reforms took effect in 1839 and 1840, but to some extent some aspects were present in the Convention. Technological developments gave rise to steamships which could travel across an ocean. Unlike sailing ships which were at the mercy of winds, steamers could travel at scheduled times. Many regular steam services commenced: across the Atlantic to North and Central America; in the Mediterranean; between Bombay and either the Red Sea or Persian Gulf. The overland route to India was opened up via Alexandria and Marseilles.

Geoffrey is an Australian resident of Randwick, a suburb of eastern Sydney, New South Wales, Australia where he has lived for the whole of his life. His collections have included the postal history of Spanish Philippines, that of Cuba, of New Orleans and Stampless Mail entering Spain. He has won FIP Large Gold medals in Postal History with exhibits on the subject matter of each of the three continental areas: Asia, Europe and the Americas.

In 2013 he attained a Large Gold Medal for his well-written study entitled The 1836 Anglo-French Postal Convention – a difficult subject to cover in a readable form.

He was President of the Philatelic Society of New South Wales between 1998 and 2013, was Chairman of the Jury at Sydney 2015, and President of the Organising Committee of the National Philatelic Exhibitions held in Sydney in 2007 and 2011.

He has been appointed a Member of the Australian Philatelic Order and has received the Australian Philatelic Research Award.

Chapter 1
1.1 Overview
1.2 An increasing volume of international mail sent on British ships
1.2.1 International wars from 1756 to 1815
1.2.2 Increased volume of mail sent worldwide after 1815
1.2.3 How could Britain’s postal system cope with this increase in worldwide mail? Internal Mail Mail carried by Ships Letters passing through Britain in Transit
1.3 How Britain collected postage fees on transit letters to France
1.3.1 The differences between British and French systems
1.3.2 Solution 1. Use a Forwarding Agent in Britain
1.3.3 Solution 2. The 1833 Anglo-French Postal Convention
1.3.4 Solution 3. The 1836 Anglo-French Postal Convention
1.3.5 Solution 4. The 1843 Anglo-French Postal Convention
1.4 How AF1836 made it easier to mail letters worldwide
1.4.1 Letters processed individually
1.4.2 Bulk rates
1.4.3 Could bulk rates have been introduced in 1836?
1.5 What was the date of effect of AF1836?
1.5.1 References in philatelic literature
1.5.2 Official correspondence in France Background The contents of the correspondence Why did Britain delay?
1.5.3 The transition period Letters from Britain to France Letters from France to Britain Letters from elsewhere
Chapter 2 Use of Forwarding Agents for Mail via Britain to France
2.1 Introduction
2.1.1 Why Agents were needed
2.1.2 Different methods for sending letters to agents
2.1.3 Structure of this Chapter
2.2 Pre-AF1836 Letters to France using a British Agent
2.2.1 Letters mailed to a British Forwarding Agent
2.2.2 Letters sent under cover to Britain
2.2.3 From France’s neighbours via Britain to France “The Hundred Days” Covers
2.3 Analysis of mail using Forwarding Agents
2.3.1 Introduction
2.3.2 The Forwarding Agents
2.3.3 French Rates on mail from Britain Before 1828 French internal rates Weight progressions Rates from Britain to towns not beyond Paris Rates from Britain to towns beyond Paris 1828 to AF1836
2.4 Postage Paid to France
2.4.1 Covers
2.5 Use of British Forwarding Agents after AF1836 started
2.5.1 Covers
2.5.2 Analysis
Chapter 3 Mail from Overseas via Britain to France: AF1833 Convention
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Covers
3.3 Analysis
3.3.1 The AF1833 Postal Convention Article IV
3.3.2 Treatment in Britain Transition to AF1836
3.3.3 The exchange rate between the British and French currencies
3.3.4 Treatment in France French component British component Lack of documentary evidence
Chapter 4 Mail to France by Packet Service to Britain: AF1836 period
4.1 Introduction
4.1.1 Overview
4.1.2 Differing Accountancy Rates
4.1.3 Postage Paid or Unpaid
4.1.4 Structure of this Chapter
4.2 Worked Example
4.3 Covers to France carried by British Packet
4.3.1 South America
4.3.2 Caribbean Region
4.3.3 United States of America
4.3.4 Canada
4.3.5 Portugal
4.3.6 Norway and Sweden
4.3.7 India
4.4 Analysis of the Packet Letter Accountancy Rates
4.4.1 Accountancy Rates in documents The Accountancy Rates mentioned in the Convention The Accountancy Rates mentioned in French sources Postage Rates to Britain for mail carried by Packets from countries listed in the Convention 99
4.4.2 Accountancy Packet Rates by Region South America West Indies and Caribbean British and French Territories Other Eastern Caribbean islands Mexico and Cuba Venezuela Haiti Panama and the West Coast New Granada (Colombia) United States of America British North America and Canada Atlantic Islands Portugal Norway and Sweden Elsewhere in Europe India Routes to/from India Packet rates to/from India in Anglo-French Conventions Analysis of rates on covers
4.4.3 Summary of Accountancy Packet Rates
4.5 Aspects of British handling
4.5.1 Packet Letter markings
4.5.2 Postage Paid by sender
4.6 Aspects of French handling
4.6.1 French entry marks
4.6.2 French entry marks struck at Paris
4.6.3 French entry marks struck at Calais and Boulogne
4.6.4 Calculation of French postage
4.7 Use of Boxed Italic Packet Letter mark on other mail
4.7.1 On a letter addressed to a country beyond France
4.7.2 On Packet Letters subject to British agreements with other countries
4.7.3 Applied in error to Ship Letters under AF1836
4.7.4 On packet mail to Britain after AF1836
Chapter 5 Mail to France by Ship Letters to Britain: AF1836 period
5.1 Introduction
5.1.1 A Flat Rate
5.1.2 British markings
5.1.3 The places of origin
5.1.4 Structure of this Chapter
5.2 Examples of Ship Letters
5.2.1 South America
5.2.2 Caribbean
5.2.3 United States of America
5.2.4 Asia
5.2.5 Australia
5.2.6 Africa
5.3 Analysis of the origins of these letters 141
5.3.1 Mail from the United States of America
5.3.2 Mail from elsewhere
5.4 The Framed Ship Letter Mark with Italic Lettering
5.4.1 Why was it used on some letters only?
5.4.2 Exceptions stamped with Packet Letter
5.4.3 Other use of the framed Ship Letter mark
5.5 The Rate
5.5.1 The AF1836 Convention
5.5.2 The significance of a flat rate
5.5.3 Reductions in Ship Letter rates to Britain during the AF1836 period
Chapter 6 Mail from Overseas via Britain to France: Later Anglo-French treaties
6.1 Introduction
6.1.1 AF1843
6.1.2 AF1856
6.1.3 Structure of this Chapter
6.2 AF1843 Covers
6.2.2 CANADA Marks CANADA / &c ART.11 CANADA / &c ART.12

6.2.3 Prepaid AF1843 letters Prepaid covers Postage rates different if prepaid
6.2.4 The closed mailbag from Panama
6.3 Discussion of Aspects of AF1843
6.3.1 How the Article Numbers were allocated
6.3.2 The CANADA Article On mail from Canada / BNA On mail from Jamaica and British West Indies
6.3.3 British rates reduced in AF1843?
6.4 French aspects of AF1843
6.4.1 French internal rates
6.4.2 French entry port and French entry marks French entry marks on letters in mailbags for Paris French entry marks on letters in mailbags for other places The French entry port
6.4.3 French collection of accountancy rate
6.5 AF1856
6.5.1 The Accountancy marks show the bulk rates
6.5.2 AF1856 covers
Chapter 7 Mail from France via Britain to Other Destinations
7.1 Introduction
7.1.1 Five chapters or one?
7.1.2 The importance of the reverse side
7.1.3 Structure of this Chapter
7.2 Before AF1833
7.2.1 Sent under cover to an agent in Britain
7.2.2 Sent through the postal system
7.3 The AF1833 Period
7.3.1 Covers Sent under AF1833 Mailed to an agent in Britain
7.3.2 The Anglo-French Postal Convention of 1833
7.3.3 Comparison of AF1833 and AF1836 rates
7.4 Covers from the AF1836 Period
7.4.1 Covers to places other than the USA
7.4.2 Covers to the United States of America
7.4.3 Covers sent unpaid from France
7.5 Analysis of AF1836 covers
7.5.1 The accountancy rates
7.5.2 Packet accountancy rates observed on covers
7.5.3 The rates paid in France
7.5.4 Numerals in top left corner The French system of Nominative Lists Sequential numbers written on covers
7.5.5 The endorsement
7.6 The AF1843 Period
7.6.1 Covers of the AF1843 period Covers sent according to AF1843 procedures Covers sent via Panama Covers sent by an agent in Britain
7.6.2 Analysis of AF1843 period covers The rates paid in France PD and PP Routing endorsements
7.7 Why are there so few surviving covers?
7.7.1 Sending letters from France to the USA
7.7.2 Preference for French ships, or for ships departing from French ports
7.7.3 Survival problems
7.7.4 Recognition problems
Chapter 8 Mail between Britain and France
8.1 Introduction
8.1.1 Structure of this Chapter
8.2 Before AF1836
8.3 AF1836 Covers between France and Britain via Calais and Dover
8.3.1 Covers from France to Britain Unpaid Letters Letters Paid to the Frontier Letters Paid to the Destination
8.3.2 Covers from Britain to France Unpaid Letters Letters Paid to the Frontier Letters Paid to the Destination
8.4 Postal History aspects of mail between Britain and France during AF1836
8.4.1 British rates paid in Britain London Places beyond London Kent and East Sussex
8.4.2 British postal units
8.4.3 British rates paid in France
8.4.4 French rates
8.4.5 How accountancy amounts were recorded
8.5 Other aspects
8.5.1 Why was Boulogne an Exchange Office?
8.5.2 Other Cross-Channel services Authorised in AF1836 Convention Covers
Page viii
8.6 Other types of mail
8.6.1 Patterns of Merchandise AF1836 documents An example
8.6.2 Newspapers
8.6.3 “Recommended” Letters
8.6.4 Registered mail
8.6.5 Mail from elsewhere redirected between France and Britain
Chapter 9 Mail between Britain and Europe via France
9.1 Introduction
9.1.1 Structure of this Chapter
9.2 Covers from Europe to Britain before AF1836
9.2.1 Postage from Europe paid in Britain
9.2.2 Using Forwarding Agents
9.3 Covers from Britain to Europe before AF1836
9.3.1 Postage to Europe paid in Britain
9.3.2 Miscellaneous covers
9.4 Covers from Europe to Britain during AF1836
9.4.1 Postage from Europe paid in Britain
9.4.2 Covers paid to destination
9.4.3 British postage from Calais only
9.4.4 Registered covers
9.5 Covers from Britain to Europe during AF1836
9.5.1 Postage to Europe paid in Britain
9.5.2 Covers paid to destination
9.6 Analysis
9.6.1 British rates General comments Rates on mail to or from London British towns other than London British rates on mail to/from Austria British postal charges on registered letters from Europe British rates in AF1843
9.6.2 French markings On mail from Britain to Europe On mail from Europe to Britain AF1836 accountancy rates marked in Paris
9.6.3 Anglo-French accountancy Postage paid between Britain and France’s European frontier Paid to destination Unpaid mail
Page ix
Chapter 10 Mail from Overseas to Britain entering France by ship
10.1 Introduction
10.1.1 Structure of this Chapter
10.2 Before AF1836
10.2.1 Covers
10.2.2 Analysis
10.3 During AF1836
10.3.1 Entirely by the French Postal System Covers Analysis
10.3.2 Mailed by the French Forwarding Agent Covers Analysis
10.3.3 Mailed to a French Forwarding Agent Covers Analysis
10.3.4 Miscellaneous covers
10.3.5 Summary
10.4 During AF1843
10.4.1 Covers
10.4.2 Analysis
Chapter 11 Via Marseilles: Connecting the Mediterranean and India with Britain
11.1 Introduction
11.1.1 Scope of this Chapter
11.1.2 Thomas Waghorn
11.1.3 Structure of this Chapter
11.2 Before AF1836
11.3 Accountancy as per the AF1836 Postal Convention
11.3.1 Covers
11.3.2 Analysis
11.4 French Mediterranean Steamer Rate of 1s10%d
11.4.1 Introduction
11.4.2 Covers before 18 August 1837
11.4.3 Covers in period 18 August 1837 to 11 August 1839
11.4.4 Mediterranean ports, 12 August 1839 to 31 May 1843
11.4.5 French markings Mail from Britain Mail to Britain from Mediterranean ports Mail to Britain from India Exceptions
11.4.6 British rates
11.5 India and beyond, 12 August 1839 to 31 May 1843
11.5.1 The AF1839 Convention
11.5.2 Covers from 12 August 1839 to 4 December 1839
11.5.3 Covers from 5 December 1839 to 31 May 1843
11.5.4 British rates during AF1839 From 12 August 1839 to 4 December 1839 From 5 December 1839 to 31 May 1843
11.6 India and Beyond, AF1843 period
11.6.1 Introduction
11.6.2 Covers
Chapter 12 Between India and France via Marseilles
12.1 Introduction
12.1.1 Structure of this Chapter
12.2 Before AF1839
12.2.1 The 20 decimes rate from Alexandria to Marseilles Documentation Covers
12.2.2 The 10 decimes rate from Alexandria to Marseilles Documentation Covers
12.2.3 French marks Alexandria PAQUEBOTS / DE LA / MEDITERRANEE
12.3 AF1839 onwards
12.3.1 Covers in AF1839 Period
12.3.2 Covers in AF1843 period
12.3.3 Analysis Rates Markings
12.4 Mail from France to India
12.4.1 Covers
12.4.2 Scarcity
Chapter 13 Mail which transited both Britain and France
13.1 Introduction
13.1.1 Mail via Britain and then via France
13.1.2 Mail via France and then via Britain
13.1.3 Structure of this Chapter
13.2 By ship to Britain, and then via France to Europe
13.2.1 Covers Before AF1836 AF1836 period AF1843 period
13.2.2 Analysis Destinations and Origins Sent to a Forwarding Agent in Britain How the British postal rates changed over time Postage Prepaid to Destination Postage Paid at Destination
13.3 Via Marseilles to Britain, and then by ship to Overseas
13.3.1 Covers AF1836 period AF1843 period
13.3.2 Analysis
Appendix A1 French Internal Rates
Appendix A2 French distance rates from Calais for mail exchanged under the provisions of AF1836
Appendix A3 French Weight Ranges
Appendix A4 British Internal Rates
Appendix A5 French Entry Marks on Mail from London

  • On Mail in Bag for Paris
  • On Mail in Bag for Calais
  • On Mail in Bag for Boulogne

Appendix A6 Documents relating to Anglo-French postal conventions

  • 1833 Convention
  • 1836 Convention
  • 1839 Convention
  • 1843 Convention

Sources for the Documents

Sample Pages