The Secret Language of Stamps

Tolles Posting auf Poemas Del Río Wang über Zeichensprache per Briefmarken, mit der man im ausgehenden 19. Jahrhundert kurze Botschaften – meistens Knutschereien und Liebesbekundungen und sowas – auf Grußkarten mitschickte. Das ist schonmal toll, aber hier ist es mir kalt den Rücken runtergelaufen: Das letzte Bild im Posting ist ein Briefumschlag aus dem dritten Reich, inklusive Hakenkreuz. Die Briefmarke ist um 180° gedreht, was zwar verschiedene Aussagen haben kann, aber laut dem Codeschlüssel oben vor allem das hier heisst: „I am not free“.

And along with [Stamps] disappear the customs once connected with them, including a most peculiar one: the language of the stamps, one of the several languages disappeared in the past century.

On philatelic and auction sites you sometimes find postcards which illustrate with small pictures, similar to naval flag signals, what it means if the stamp was stuck in this or that position on the card. The custom is probably as old as the greeting card itself, which started its world conquering tour from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1869. I’ve found the oldest mention of it in the 13 July 1890 edition of the Hungarian provincial weekly Szarvas és vidéke, which indicates that it had to flourish long before that date.

The new fashion spread rapidly, and after the turn of the century the rules of the language of stamps received their particular chapter in the etiquette books along with the languages of flowers, handkerchiefs and fans. Moreover, in many countries the acquisition of this language was assisted by particular manuals, such as George Bury’s Cupid’s code for the transmission of secret messages by means of the language of postage stamps (Ashford, Middlesex, 1899).

The language of stamps (via tywkiwdbi)