African philatelic material

You can study philatelic items from Africa at the British Library. Our collections include philatelic literature, postage stamps, pioneer airmails and revenue stamps. Some of these items are on public display in our exhibition.

About the collection

General philatelic coverage

We have a large number of African items across many philatelic collections. Some of these collections focus on British Commonwealth countries, but others are global in range. The collections include postage stamps, pioneer airmails, revenue stamps and die proofs.

Special coverage

Stamps from British Africa territories up to 1935

We have a notable collection of stamps from the British Africa territories up to 1935. We call this collection the Mosely Collection after its creator, Dr Edward Mosely of Johannessburg. You can see the collection on public display in the Philatelic Exhibition.

The collection has essays, proofs and specimens from countries including:

  • The Cape of Good Hope
  • Mauritius
  • Rhodesia
  • Orange Free State

Fine examples of pre-adhesive stamped covers from Mauritius and the Cape of Good Hope are among the highlights of this collection. Our collection of Cape of Good Hope triangular stamps is also outstanding.

You can see all the Bechuanaland Protectorate's issues from 1888-1935. We also have a complete collection from Gambia, Gold Coast and Lagos. Our Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika section is almost complete.

South African airmails and Libyan revenue stamps

You can study South African airmails from 1911-60. These are in the Monks Collection.

We have Libya Revenue stamps 1955-69 formed from material from the Bradbury Wilkinson Archive. These are in the Davies Collection.

What is available online?

The Global Philatelic Library provides many online resources. You'll find over a million digitised pages from our Crawford Collection of early philatelic literature.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The Mosely Collection of British Africa stamps is available on public display in the Philatelic Exhibition.

To see African philatelic items not on public display, you can use our Philatelic Reading Room. Our experts will be on hand there to advise. You’ll need to make an appointment to use this room. Please call us at least 10 days before your visit on 020 7412 7635 or email: philatelic@bl.uk.

Other Reading Rooms are available if you want to read philatelic books or journals. Search our catalogue, Explore the British Library, to find publications.

Further information

Read a detailed overview of the Mosley Collection on an archived British Library webpage.


How to guides

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How to get a Reader Pass if you are under 18

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How to order images

Instructions on how to order images of the British Library's collections from our Imaging Services