To a philatelist, postal history of a country is more important than its political history. India has a rich and vibrant history of philately and that provides for a vivid, varied and wealthy treasure trove of information.

Handstruck stamps were applied on letters for prepayment of postage before the introduction of postage stamps. Basically, early postal history of India falls into two categories:

Collections can be built up advantageously on the following lines.


(a) Used in Bengal Presidency: This includes the handstruck stamps of Calcutta City proper, the whole of Bengal Presidency and the border states which later turned into United Provinces.

(b) Used in Bombay Presidency:

(c) Used in Madras Presidency: These include the handstruck stamps of Madras City Proper, the whole Madras Presidency and the Nizam's dominion.

(d) General Post: Handstruck stamps used outside the above mentioned areas.


Handstruck stamps used after the passing of the Post Office Act of 1837.

(a) Used in Bengal Presidency.

(b) Used in Bombay Presidency.

(c) Used in Madras Presidency.

(d) All India general types.


Handstruck stamps used from places which were not at that time under the domain of the company or the crown. i.e., ex-territorial post offices.


No Denomination



1/2 a*

White on white paper

1/2 a

White on Greyish paper

1/2 a

Blue on White paper

1/2 a

Scarlet on Shellac Wafer

* a = anna

These stamps were issued under the authority of Sir Bartle Frere. They became obsolete from 30th September, 1854. No S3 was embossed on sealing wax and usually found cracked. It was also only issued cut round. This issue was produced in England by M/s De La Rue & Co. Many forgories exist in all the three colors.

Indian Essays, Proofs, Specimen and Reprints

Before printing of a stamp, a design is contemplated and is drawn and the layout is called an Essay. Even in approved designs, major or minute alterations are made before the final designs are prepared, for the printing of stamps and hence there is always a differencd between a printed stamp and its essay.

When an essay is approved and design is transferred on stone or plate, impressions are pulled for finalizing the paper and the color of the stamps to be issued. These impressions are called Proofs.

There are two types of proofs that are known in philately. First are the proofs that are taken before the printing of the actual stamps. Secondly, proofs are also taken before the destruction f the dies or plates for the purpose of records or exhibitions etc.


Email me: