THE PORT OF LIVORNO Maritime Postal History by Alan BECKER
Catalog #: Sassone #0
Condition: THE PORT OF LIVORNO Maritime Postal History by Alan BECKER
Item Id #: 13104
18 in stock
Alan Becker, The Port of Livorno – A Survey of its Maritime Postal History — 17th to the 20th Centuries. in English, 74 pages (A4) spiral bound, color illustrations throughout. ***************
This book brings together into one volume the current knowledge of the postal history of the port of Livorno. Although touched on in several other more general works, the last book covering this specific subject was published some 50 years ago.
The Author is a long-time specialist of Livornoâ€™s maritime mail postal history with related extensive collections on the various aspects.
In 1676 Livorno was officially declared a free port, thus consolidating a pre-existing situation that dated back to the 1500s. During the ensuing decades many foreigners settled in Livorno forming sizable communities of French, Jewish, Dutch, Greek, Armenian and Levantine expatriates. In due course Livorno became the most important seaport of the Mediterranean, especially for importation of salted fish, cereals and grains.
The Author begins with the 1600s mail of the Medici era which illustrates the great postal interaction the port had with import-export traders all over the Mediterranean and throughout Italy and Northern Europe. The end of the Medici dynasty and the inception of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty characterized the 1700s; these were the years that saw the post office revenue increase substantially.
By the end of the 1700s, although the portâ€™s traffic is said to have slowed down, Livorno was attracting an average 5,000 ships of all kinds and descriptions each year. Contemporaries described it as a chronically crowded port. The British had warehouses and their presence was rather important since Livorno imported spices, fabrics and manufactured goods from Britain; at the same time it exported to Britain silk, wine, olive oil, olives, cumin, straw hats, cheese, capers, camel and goatâ€™s hair etc.
The Napoleonic period brought the first maritime postmark â€œCOLONIES PAR/LIVOURNEâ€ and a better organized postal service. The Lorraine Grand Duke was restored in 1814; from a postal history viewpoint the 1820s, 30s and 40s, saw greater maritime traffic and with it more mail and more maritime mail postmarks. In 1843, provenance, instructional, routing and accessory hand-stamps were introduced for mail carried to Livorno by French Navy Steamers. Indeed, Becker visits all aspects of maritime mail and succeeds in presenting a clear picture of a rather complex subject matter.
The 1859 Second War of Independence inflicted a severe blow on Austria and Tuscany went through a Provisional Government followed by a plebiscite that confirmed the wish of the people to have the Grand Duchy become part of the Kingdom of Italy.
The transition period resulted in the adoption of Provisional Government stamps followed by those of the 4th issue of the Kingdom of Sardinia and later on those of the Kingdom of Italy. This is reflected on the covers of the time which become even more interesting with maritime mail postmarks.
Mail disinfection was a major task for Livornoâ€™s four lazarettos; they certainly were busy with bigger tasks but the postal aspect was one that was at the top of the priority list of health authorities. From the 1600s to the 1800s the lazarettos were the first to handle and disinfect incoming mail. Becker examines health passports – a corollary collecting area that appeals to specialists of disinfected mail.
The steamersâ€™ age saw the opening of French, Sardinian and Neapolitan steamship agencies in Livorno. The Grand Duchy launched the Tuscan Steamship Company in 1834 with a fleet of two vessels operating routes to Genoa, Naples and Sicily. Many hand-stamps of the agencies used on their mail feature a steamship making them particularly endearing to postal historians.
With so many ships arriving every day of the week at Livorno, the port was also a major mail sorting hub; the lionâ€™s share was secured by forwarding agents – 160 of them so far recorded as operating at Livorno. Their activity is documented by their endorsements on the letters and in many cases by the use of hand-stamps.
The book ends with a very useful catalogue of cancellations used on maritime mail, and hand-stamps and seals used on disinfected mail.
The English-speaking reader has now the opportunity to benefit from information and research not available before in his/her language. The Author is well aware of the needs of those who would venture in a rather complex field. A one town postal history with focus on maritime mail may look like an easy task, but experienced collectors will tell you differently. In this specific case we have a cosmopolitan town and port interacting with North Africa, Mediterranean islands, the Near East, Turkey, France and quite a number of countries in Europe.
This is a fascinating book and an eye-opener for those who want to venture into new areas of research and collecting. [Reviewed by Giorgio Migliavacca]