[Venetian “AQ” letter sheet.]

[Venice, 1647].

Single sheet printed on recto only, oblong folio, with woodcut of Lion of St. Mark at head, some light waterstaining which has affected legibility of letter penned on the sheet, light wear along old folds and edges, red mark at margin where document was sealed, address penned on verso; in a cloth folder.

£1400

Approximately:
US $1872€1586

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A completed example of the first prepaid letter sheet.

In 1608 the Venetian authorities began issuing these prepaid printed letter sheets, which are considered to be the first postal stationary sold officially – predating the British Mulready letter sheets of 1840 by more than two centuries. The letters “AQ”, a contraction of acque, were printed at the top of each sheet – they were issued to generate revenue for the repair and upkeep of waterworks in the city by the Collegio alle Acque. The text printed on the sheets reproduced the statute of 1608 under which the system operated, with a surcharge of 4 soldi on the cost of posting a letter. Each sheet has an identification number printed at the top left and the system remained in operation until the end of 1797.

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