Directional Handstamps of Tibet

by Wolfgang C. Hellrigl

In Postal Himal Nos,. 69 & 70, p. 24, Frealon Bibbins illustrated a Tibetan cover and asked for further information on the directional handstamp thereon and on this kind of markings generally.

I an happy to oblige by showing every directional handstamp I know of. Most of these were first published in an article I wrote for the German journal Indien-Report (cf. special jubilee number of 1980, pp.97-98 and No. 32, pp. 39-40). Since this list is probably not complete, members are invited to report any additional types.

While the directional handstamps of Tibet are interesting and unusual markings that enable us to easily identify the provenance and address of a given letter, it must be stressed that these types are of a strictly private nature. They were simply applied - in lieu of hand-written addresses - by senders, mostly traders, who regularly and frequently corresponded with the same addressees. Even the directional handstamp with incorporated registration details (Type 10) falls into the category of private markings that were not directly connected with the Post Office. Frealon Bibbins' directional handstamp is, of course, of Type 9 and proves that the letter in question went from Lhasa to Phari.

The majority of the engraved devices was struck in black ink while the more modern rubber handstamps are usually in violet. I do not recall having ever attempted to date the various types of directional handstamps, mainly because domestic covers of the 1950s and 1960s (roughly the periods of use of these markings) are rarely found.

Click here to view the directional handstamps

Finally, here are two forged handstamps found on a series of bogus covers, marketed by Mafatlal Sheth and others. First seen around 1991, they were perhaps intended as imitations of handwritten Tibetan addresses rather then as directional handstamps. At any rate, their presence is quite sufficient to condemn a cover:

Click here to view the forged handstamps

First published in Postal Himal No. 71, 3rd. Quarter 1993

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Last update on 30.09.10