The Royal Mail Archive: Publicity: Printed publicity material

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Material consisting of posters producedby the Post Office since the creation of itsPublic Relations Department. Many wellknownartists and designers have beencommissioned by the Post Office.Subject matter ranges from publicinformation, staff instruction to sales ofphilatelic items.

This class includes artwork created by designers such as Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954), Tom Eckersley (1914-1995), Leonard Beaumont (1891-1986), F. K. Henrion (1914-1990), Barnett Freedman (1901-1958), and Vanessa Bell (1879-1961).

Administrative / Biographical History

The material in the Archive mostlyoriginates from within the organisationreferred to as The Post Office(the name in common usage for RoyalMail and its predecessor bodies). Inaddition, some material has beendeposited by outside agencies andindividuals and some has been purchased.Material relates to the operation, policy,development and social impact of ThePost Office.

The General Post Office was established in 1660 as a monopoly service, combining the functions of state postal and telecommunications carrier and spawning similar services across the British Empire. From 1660-1969 it was a State Department but in 1969 it became a statutory corporation named The Post Office. In 1981 the corporation was divided by function: into the Post Office for postal needs; and British Communications for other needs.

From early on the service was innovative for example, being the first known creator of stamps (Penny Post) in 1840. With the growth of communications The General Post Office became about more than paper deliveries within Great Britain but it was also this expansion which would see the Department split up. Design was a factor from the first, stamps required designing and the change of system required advertising. The power of advertising was used to promote The General Post Office as a service and necessity. As poster design began to expand in the early twentieth century The General Post Office increasingly used its medium and its rising stars.


At the beginning of the twentieth century, aclassification system was set up; recordswere divided into classes by both subjectand function or department. Within thisoverall classification system, individualseries of records were given a title and aunique POST class number. This numberis used to request material to be viewed inthe Search Room.

Conditions Governing Access

Material in the Royal Mail Archivecollections is classed as public recordmaterial; this is indicated on the online andhardcopy catalogues. The material issubject to a thirty year closure periodunless requested under the authority ofthe Freedom of Information Act (2000). Insome cases, where original material isconsidered fragile, surrogate material mustbe consulted in preference.

Some copies of the material areavailable to view in blackfolders on Search Roomshelves. A small number ofitems have been scanned intoJPEG format and are availablefor copying. Original material isproduced on special instructiononly.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue for this class not yet available. Catalogue for the Royal Mail Archive available on the website of The British Postal Museum and Archive

Conditions Governing Use

We offer a selection of reprographicservices, including scanning andphotocopying (both black and white andcolour copies). Users can utilise camerasand other hand-held media to make theirown copies, in accordance with ourphotographic policy.


Royal mail : the Post Office since 1840 by M.J. Daunton ; foreword by Asa Briggs. London ; Dover, N.H. : Athlone Press, 1985.