Theophile Piry Collection

Scope and Content

Collection of private papers of Theophile Piry (fl. 1880-1915), Commissioner of Customs and first Postmaster General of the Imperial Postal Service, China, 1911-1915. This collection contains a range of material bearing on Piry's later career in the Chinese administration including drafts, notes, copies of correspondence, memoranda, reports etc relating to customs affairs in Lappa and Macao and, later, the establishment of the modern postal service in China from 1911 until Piry's retirement in 1915. Of particular interest are the various papers concerning the development of the Imperial Postal Service, most notably in relation to arrangements with foreign counties (the so-called Guest Post system) and the formalisation of relations with these countries both individually and through membership of the Universal Postal Union. Included can be found copies of postal agreements between China and France (1900), Germany (1905), Russia (1909) and Japan (1910), correspondence relating to China's entry to the Universal Postal Union, 1913-1915 and two historical notes and analyses concerning the development of the postal service (U-Tchau) in China.

Administrative / Biographical History

Government official serving under Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911) in the Imperial Customs Service of China. Occupied a number of official positions under Hart including Commissioner of Customs, Lappa, c1898. He went on to become the first Postmaster General of the Imperial Chinese Post Office when this was formed as a separate entity from the Customs Service in 1911. He held this position until his retirement from office in 1915.

Access Information

Open to consultation. Includes material in English, French and Chinese.


Description compiled by Clare McVeigh (RASCAL Project), entered by Deirdre Wildy, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Hand list available on request from the Special Collections Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to condition and copyright restrictions

Appraisal Information

The Piry Papers are a significant research source for students of late 19th and early 20th century China, providing an important commentary on the emergence of Imperial China as a modern state, particularly in terms of the development of its postal system. The collection is also important for students interested in the career of Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911). Piry was one of Hart's protege's in China in the Customs Service and the collection includes a number of official documents concerning Piry's official dealings with him.

Custodial History

The Piry Collection was purchased by Queen's University from Charles Blackburn, Piry's grandson, in April 1996. Earlier correspondence etc was destroyed during World War Two when the family home in Brittany was taken over by German forces during Occupation.



Related Material

Hart Papers (QUB)

Geographical Names