Postal window on history

A ship hand stamp on a cover sent to Constantinople via Malta, dated December 27, 1862

A ship hand stamp on a cover sent to Constantinople via Malta, dated December 27, 1862

The annual philatelic exhibition Maltex will open to the public tomorrow with a line-up of exhibits that demonstrate there is more to stamp collecting than meets the layman's eye.

While the hobby may seem to some a vestige of the last century, not only is it still very much alive in Malta but it is also one way of learning more about the past.

"Philately goes beyond collecting stamps. The spectrum is much wider than that. It also involves postal history," says Alfred Bonnici, president of the Malta Philatelic Society, which organises the exhibition. He gives as examples specialised areas of interest such as infected mail or prisoner of war mail, which can reveal hitherto unknown details about society or events decades or even centuries ago.

This year's exhibition is on the theme of Malta Mail, which dates back to the establishment of the Sovereign Military Order of St John nearly 500 years ago.

And the island, being in the centre of the Mediterranean, has always had a strong maritime mail sector.

Dr Bonnici himself is exhibiting a collection called Messageries Imperiales And Malta, featuring hand stamps and postal cancellations related to the Levant line that shipped passengers, freight and mail between Marseilles and Constantinople from 1851 to 1866, stopping off in Malta. The exhibit provides information such as routes taken and postal rates charged at the time.

In September, the collection received one of the top awards in the Postal History Section of the Vienna International Stamp Exhibition, run by the International Philately Federation.

Among the several other themed collections at the exhibition will be titles such as Saint Paul In Maltese Philately, Malta During World War I, Malta Maritime Mail and Humanitarian Response In Times of Conflict, subjects of interest not only to fellow philatelists but to those interested in Melitensia and Maltese and general history. The exhibition, at the Hotel Phoenicia in Floriana, will be open tomorrow and Saturday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon.

It includes a dealers' bourse with free valuations on one stand.

A Maltapost temporary post office will be open selling stamps and postal stationery.

An occasion card will be on sale with a commemorative hand stamp and stamp tokens will be offered to young visitors.

On Sunday, stamp designers of stamp sets issued over the last two years are invited to sign First Day Covers between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

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