Important Rowland Hill letter headlines Littaur auction at $9,500

A highly important letter from Rowland Hill topped the Gavin Littaur Collection of British Postal History in London yesterday (September 13).

Rowland Hill William Wyon letter
Addressed to William Wyon, the letter responds to the ridicule of the Mulreadys

Rowland Hill was, of course, the man responsible for the British postal reforms that led to the creation of the world's first postage stamp, The Penny Black. However, during the lead up to the issue, he championed the elaborately designed Mulready stationary, which he believed would be more popular than any of the proposed stamps.

William Mulready's designs proved to be so extravagant that they were soon met with ridicule and lampooning from stationary manufacturers, whose business was threatened by the new envelopes. Just two months after their release on May 6, 1840, the Mulready lettersheets were withdrawn and a machine was designed to destroy the existing stocks.

The letter at auction was sent to William Wyon as chief engraver of the Royal Mint, whose City Medal was the model for the head on the line-engraved postage stamps. It reads in full:

"From some experiments which have been made I think we shall succeed in printing the envelopes with your stamp…let me know what would be about the cost of producing a stamp similar to that which you have already prepared but in lower relief & on a surface slightly curved? Also what time would be required."

Dated June 3, 1840, the brief letter displays a rapid response from Hill less than a month after the Mulreadys had been issued. Hill is inquiring into the preparation of the embossed postal stationary envelopes that would eventually replace the elaborate lettersheets.

Displaying a clear bold signature from Hill and showing a vital move in the evolution of British postal history, the letter sold for £5,800 ($9,398).

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a stunning selection of Great Britain stamps available. Among the many highlights is a superb example of the VR official, one of the rarest of its kind.

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