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Philatelic Collections: Introduction

The British Library Philatelic Collections are the National Philatelic Collections of the United Kingdom. The Collections were established in 1891 with the bequest of the Tapling Collection, and now about 50 important collections or Archives are held, all of which have been acquired by donation, bequest, or transfer from Government departments.

Mauritius: famous 1847

Mauritius: An example of the famous 1847 'Post Office' 1d. orange used on Ball invitation envelope. The Tapling collection

The total holdings consist of over eight million items, representing almost all countries and periods, and include:

  • postage stamps
  • revenue stamps
  • metal dies and plates
  • essays and artwork
  • die proofs, plate proofs, and colour trials
  • specimens
  • postal history (some pre-adhesive mail and later materials including entires, envelopes, and other covers)
  • airmails
  • booklets
  • railway letter stamps
  • postal stationery
  • telegraph stamps
  • meter stamps
  • local and private posts
  • 'cinderella' material including poster stamps
  • philatelic literature
France: 1853-61 1 franc carmine tête-bêche pair unused. The Tapling Collection.

France: 1853-61 1 franc carmine tête-bêche pair unused. The Tapling Collection.

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Such a diverse range of material, together with photographs, general reference material, maps, newspapers and official publications elsewhere in the Library, make the British Library one of the world's most important centres for philatelic research.

Jamaica: 1956-58 £1 chocolate and violet, prepared for use but unissued. The Crown Agents Collection

Jamaica: 1956-58 £1 chocolate and violet, prepared for use but unissued. The Crown Agents Collection

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Please note: Because of the range and scope of the Philatelic Collections and the way that they are organised, they are not catalogued with conventional shelf-marks. Therefore one of the functions of this website is to act as an introduction and guide to the collections.

Philatelic Exhibition
Collections Overview
Collections Articles
Research and Access for Researchers
Background Research Materials
Philatelic Rarities online exhibition
Services and Valuations
Collection Development Policy
Articles
Links