Philatelic and Postal History Treasures of the National Archives of Zimbabwe

Philatelic and Postal History Treasures of the National Archives of Zimbabwe


Author: John Landau, Ian Johnstone and Colin Hoffman

Publisher: National Archives of Zimbabwe jointly with Shannon Services (Private) Limited, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Details: ISBN 0-908302-08-8. A4 landscape 117 pages, card covers.

Price: Sold out


The book is A4 size, landscape format with over 100 illustrations of material – dating from 1854 to 1966 – in full colour. There is a short Foreword and Preface, and the Introduction explains the origin of the book and sets out details of other publications containing references to material in the National Archives of Zimbabwe. The remaining chapters deal with selected postal history and philatelic material in the Archives, comprising:-

  • 1893 cover to King Lobengula from a chief in Basutoland with strike of “Gubulawayo” as a receiving mark (which is illustrated on the front cover);
  • 1889-1892 covers from the Borrow correspondence, with exciting early frankings and postmarks;
  • line drawings of the first cancellers and red wax impressions of postbag seals used in the early 1890s in Mashonaland and BCA (Nyasaland);
  • possibly the earliest surviving letter to have been sent out of what is now Zimbabwe in 1854;
  • a note of the Archives holding of material about Marshall Hole currency cards;
  • information about the famous “Stamp Registers”, crucial for our understanding of quantities of stamps received in Salisbury and distributed therefrom in the 1890s and early 1900s;
  • details of the more important stamps held by the Archives; including
  • nearly complete sheets of the £10 and £20 “Arms” stamps of 1898 and the £5 overprinted “Rhodesia”, 1909;
  • complete sheets of the 1897 £30, £50, £100 and £200 revenues; and
  • metal dies for producing embossed revenue stamps up to £100 in value;
  • hand-painted essays for the partly pictorial definitives which were dropped in the end in favour of the 1909 “Rhodesia” overprinted issue and the 1910 Double Heads;
  • sheets of the BSAC Admirals to £1 and sheets of the SR Admiral 5/-, the 1/- Field Marshal (perf. 14) and the top-value £50 SR Admiral and Field Marshal revenues;
  • sheets of the KG VI 7/6 black and £50 revenues;
  • sheets of the 10/- and £1 Mardons Printings of 1966 (including one sheet of the 10/- trials).

There is a comprehensive list of Literature References and a full Index.

The book should be of interest to the philatelic, postal history and Africana markets.

This book has had a long history as Ian Johnstone one of its authors comments:-

“When I joined the National Archives in 1973 I had been collecting stamps for years, so was fascinated to find that the Archives had some unbelievable philatelic material – such as full sheets of some of the high-value BSAC revenues, and full sheets of the Admirals. In the course of my work in the Research Section at the Archives I found that the postal history holdings were equally amazing. Over the years I came to realise that there was sufficient material of sufficient importance, and of great visual appeal, to produce a book which would delight Rhodesian philatelists and postal historians worldwide, as well as stamp-collectors generally, Rhodesiana collectors and tourists. Although in the 1990s I raised the idea as a project for the Archives’s publications programme, there was not much hope, because to be effective the book would have to be both large-format and in full colour. This would put it into the most expensive category possible from the production point of view – beyond the means of the Archives’s Publications Trust Fund.

In 1999, however, when I retired from the Archives, I had some involvement in the production of John Landau’s book “A complete listing of the stamps of the British South Africa Co., Southern Rhodesia, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and the post-Federal period 1890 to 1980” (Harare, Shannon Services, 1999). It occurred to me that the Archives book might well be a project to interest John. This proved to be the case, so next it was a matter of approaching the Director of National Archives, Mr I Murambiwa. We did this in early 2000; he too was keen on the idea. After much time spent resolving bureaucratic matters an Agreement was drafted and, after approval from the Archives’s parent Ministry of Home Affairs, was signed by the three of us on 31 May 2001. In it John and I undertook to compile the text, and John’s company Shannon Services very generously undertook to finance the actual production costs. Copyright is reserved to the Archives. After publication, once Shannon Services’s production costs have been met from sales, any further royalties accrue to the National Archives.

With the Agreement signed, I was given access to the relevant collections and compiled a descriptive list of the material I thought would be worth illustrating. A preliminary photographing exercise was then carried out. The CD resulting from this was sent to John as a visual reference tool, to use in conjunction with my descriptive list in compiling the supporting text. Colin Hoffman kindly agreed to become involved as a third co-author, and he and John added further to the contents of the book. The draft text was seen and approved by the Director and by Home Affairs. John and Colin then flew out to Harare in 2002 accompanied by a photographer with highly sophisticated equipment, who scanned the images to be reproduced in the book.”

The stamps of Rhodesia have for over a hundred years excited the interest and admiration of stamp collectors internationally. Many of them know that the National Archives houses a wonderful collection of these stamps, but they have had little chance of seeing this material. Even collectors within Zimbabwe itself have little chance of seeing it, due to the rigorous terms applied for access to such a priceless and irreplaceable collection which is stored in top-security conditions. We are grateful to the National Archives for permission to make it easily available at last, in published format, to the world. The text itself includes archival information never before published, particularly the story behind the BSA Company’s plans for a partly pictorial set to replace the 1898 “Arms”, and its decision to produce a provisional set of “Rhodesia” overprints.

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