DISINFECTED MAIL & PUBLIC HEALTH

Health precautions affecting couriers were first implemented in 1463 by the Republic of Siena, Italy; in 1490 the Duke of Milan issued regulations requiring a health passport for all couriers. In 1436 a French monarch who had thought he could escape contagion had barricaded himself in a monastery, but to no avail. Popular lore has it that he had contracted plague by opening the mail that was sent to him; and in 1499 a man was arrested in Rome for attempting to “kill” the pope with a letter from an area infected with plague. It is therefore obvious that at some point paper itself came under suspicion as a vehicle for spreading diseases. Such a possibility was ruled out in some places, but deemed a very high risk in others. One of the early procedures was to “perfume” letters by simply leaving paper in contact with sweet-smelling herbs; whence the term “profumata”. Fumigation of correspondence was a later development. By the late 1500s fumigation was carried out after the letters had been opened and perfumed as a simple procedure. But in the course of time fumigation became more and more elaborate when the fumes obtained from juniper berries, scented resins, storace, olive gum, incense, rosemary, myrrh, gum benzoin and camphor were used to disinfect mail. Another method consisted in the spraying of acids, chlorine, vinegar or sulfur on the pages of the letters. Dipping in vinegar and/or baking by charcoal fires was also used. The vinegar used for this purposed was mostly white wine vinegar which left traces resembling a large water stain if the letter had been dipped in vinegar or a series of small stains if the letter had been sprayed. The scholar has to exercise some caution before describing a letter as disinfected on the basis of some stains; in fact the staining may have been caused by floods or storage humidity. Disinfection of mail left signs which can still be easily seen. On some letters a brownish colouring and also a few signs of burning appears, wide white stripes reveal the use of special pincers with which the letters were held near the fire for fumigation. Acids and other chemicals left spots and at times partial or total discoloration of the paper, sometime blurring the handwriting. In some cases evidence of the opening and subsequent re-sealing of the letter is a good clue for detecting disinfection procedures. Rastel punch holes and slits are further evidence of disinfection as are endorsement indicating that the letter had been treated. Incidentally, slits to facilitate the penetration of the fumigant were first used in 1630 in Ferrara and later on in Venice and eventually throughout the Italian peninsula. The most evident signs, however, remain the handwritten notations, embossed seals, wax seals, handstamps and sometime the labels affixed by the various sanitary offices on the outside of a letter, and sometime inside too: Sporca di dentro e netta di fuori (Unclean inside but clean outside) — Profumata in Pontremoli (Perfumed in Pontremoli) — Sigillum Sanitatis (Seal of the Health [Authority]) — Desinfiziert (Disinfected) — PURIFIÉ FRIOUL (Purified at Frioul) — Purifié au Lazaret (Purified at the Lazaretto) — GEREINIGET (Purified) etc. Disinfection handstamps applied to pieces of mail had a dual purpose: firstly to inform whoever handled that mail at the next cordon or place of inspection that disinfection had been carried out, and secondly to reassure the addressee that all the necessary precautions had been taken. [copyright by Giorgio Migliavacca] ~~~~~ ***** IMPORTANT: it is a well-known and widely accepted fact that Disinfected Mail shows blemishes or defects such as, slits, punched holes, water or liquids damage, discoloration, blotches etc which is expected of this type of mail – therefore such inherent blemishes are no ground for returns

Showing 1–16 of 21 results

1811 VENICE MARITIME HEALTH MAGISTRATE hand-stamp TO NAPLES
$105.00

1811-1813 WRAPPER from VENICE TO HEALTH AUTHORITY IN NAPLES showing Venice postmark and Naples Postal …

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1816 FROM CAPUA TO FLORENCE DISINFECTED
$44.00

From CAJAZZO to Florence – gives vivid details about a stage coach robbery experienced by …

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1825 ENTIRE LETTER MALTA PAID TO ALEXANDRIA EGYPT DISINFECTED
$150.00

Nice Prix Courant of the MALTA STOCKMARKET to Alexandria, arrival cds on the back (has …

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1841 ENTIRE LETTER: CORFU – MALTA DISINFECTED – Purifie Au Lazaret Malte
$235.00

Fine oval (coat of arms) UFFICIO DELLA POSTA GENERAL CORFU, handwritten postal rate “3”, and …

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1849 ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG newspaper to BOLOGNA “DISINFETTATO PEL CONTATTO”
$145.00

Elusive disinfection mark, rare on complete newspaper – from AUGSBURG TO BOLOGNA where it was …

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1849 IL RISORGIMENTO daily Boxed “DISINFETTATA” struck at BOLOGNA
$80.00

October 1849 – elusive disinfection mark on complete newspaper

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1874 SANITA’ MARITTIMA GORO – Maritime Health Agency – ENTIRE LETTER
$30.00

Ensuring Quaranteen and Pratique were observed by any vessel approaching that side of the Adriatic …

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1875 SANITA’ MARITTIMA VOLANO – Maritime Health Agency – ENTIRE LETTER
$30.00

Ensuring Quaranteen and Pratique were observed by any vessel approaching that side of the Adriatic …

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CIVITAVECCHIA ANZIO 1849 QUARANTINE rule
$49.00

Letter (text only, no outer wrapper and no outer address panel) from HEALTH INSPECTORATE OF …

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DISINFECTED 1836 FORLI TO BAGNACAVALLO slits
$40.00

1836 letter from FORLI’ TO BAGNACAVALLO – disinfection slit taglio di disinfezione

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DISINFECTED ITALY RUSSIA BOJANA LAZARETTO YUGOSLAVIA
$240.00

Rare item
FROM DR. MIGLIAVACCA’S CERTIFICATE:
ITALY TO RUSSIA: 3 April 1853, entire letter from Genoa …

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DISINFECTED MAIL ITALY ONLY
$145.00 $115.00

DISINFECTED MAIL
Storia della Disinfezione Postale in Europa e nell’area mediterranea – History of the mail …

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DISINFECTED MAIL RUSSIA 1854 from ODESSA QUARANTINE
$650.00

Entire Letter 6 APRIL 1854 – from the GAVANO (Port) OF ODESSA …

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DISINFECTED MAIL TORRE S. LORENZO TO ANZIO 1854
$99.00

1854 ***ITALY DISINFECTED MAIL –
TORRE SAN LORENZO Tirrenian Coast to ANZIO
SERVIZIO DI SANITA’ MARITTIMA handwritten …

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Italy 1830s BOLOGNA HEALTH MEASURES
$39.00

4-page CIRCULAR REGARDING CHOLERA MORBUS issued in the early 1830s in Bologna giving the outline …

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