Letters  from the Past

“To James Horn Esq. Writer to the Signet, Edinburgh,
from John Thomson Junr, Merchant, Leith, 1798 ”

This is a really interesting letter from a postal history point of view, as well as the social history.

There are the five postal markings:-
1) the LEITH name stamp in red ink, of which the earliest recorded are the straight line in one of two sizes 35mm and 26mm which were used mostly on Penny Post letters. This is partly blurred but measures about 33mm, which Willcocks notes is recorded in use 1794 and 1795 only, but this letter is clearly dated 1798.

4) the manuscript charge mark of 1 which was applied at the Leith office.

2) the Edinburgh receiving Bishop Mark type 3b dated MR 14 of the type in use from 1778-1806.

3) the Bishop Mark type 3a dated MR 15, which seems to have been applied when the letter was then stamped for delivery with the morning post, also apparently in the same period.

5) the Edinburgh “morning pp delivery” stamp applied in red ink at the Edinburgh Penny Post Head office.This was in use from 1795 to 1798.

This is also not well applied,(and upside down on the image, next to the name of the addressee), so I have copied this illustration from the catalogue to show the full mark.

Finally 6) the filing note written by the receiver of the letter (or his clerk) as a quick reference. See the top left of the image.It reads :-
Dated 14
Recd 15 Mar 1798
Mr John Thomson Junr
Mercht Leith
With Bond of Caution for him as factor on Provost Campbell’s subject (..illegible) Ansd 18th.

The paper is a good quality cream and has a watermark EDMEADS & PINE 1795 in two lines.

This watermark is really clear, and not one we have seen before. The image looks like blue paper, but that is because it was photographed, and then adjusted to show the watermark more clearly.

The letter content is also interesting, although I have not been able to trace any of the people mentioned. The addressee should be traceable, as he was a Writer to the Signet.

Sir,
Your letter of this date I recd with the Bond Inclosed. I return you the Same properly Executed.
Mr Watson is a Mercht & Fish Curer in Leith & the witnesses are my Clerks

I am Sir
Your most Obedt Servt
John Thomson Junr
Leith 14 March 1798

Then he adds a postscript which is intriguing, as an example of the commercial side of correspondence 200 years ago in Edinburgh and Leith.

P.S. Their is Bounty for three Ships due & the Debenture on the herrings that were shipt & rehanded & are now again to be sent as intended by Mr Campbell.

Obviously, the bond was not included in the letter in our possession, but it seems to be only a thin, flat single page, that does not look as if it has ever held an enclosure.


Reference : The Postal History of Great Britain and Ireland R.M. Willcocks.

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