Book Review: The Englishman That Posted Himself by John Tingey


W. Reginald Bray.  My newest hero.  In 1898, the 19 year old Bray decided to take it upon himself to test the British postal system by mailing a variety of things, in a variety of ways – to see if it would be possible and permitted according to the Post Office Guide of 1898.  He tried everything from writing the recipient’s address in verse, as a pictogram, backwards, or not at all (according to postal regulations all that was needed was a city and or county).  He also tried mailing a variety of objects including himself (more than once), his dog, a bicycle pump, a shirt collar, a turnip (the recipients address carved into it) and an onion.  He mailed postcards with a cigarette card with the recipients photo as the address and attempted to send postcards around the world with one stamp (there was a rule that if the postcard was re-delivered within 24 hours no additional postage was needed).  And then some.  Later, he began sending postcards to collect autographs.  He amassed over 15,000 autographs by the time of his death in 1939 earning him the title “Autograph King”.

John Tingey is a collector of Bray’s correspondence.  He does an excellent job of illustrating Bray as a man with a passion and quirky sense of humor.  The book is well thought laid out to demonstrate the vastness of Bray’s hobby.  The pictures of Bray’s work, interspersed between the biographical text, are vivid and beautifully replicated.  Due to the curious nature of the subject, I couldn’t put the book down until I had read it cover to cover.  I smiled, giggled, and some times laughed out loud.  I would have loved to meet Bray in person.  I will also look at paper ephemera at postcard and stamp shows in a whole new way.

John Tingey, the author, maintains this website of Bray’s curios.  And I stumbled upon this podcast from Futility Closet about Bray – and the book.

Title:              The Englishman That Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects
Author:        John Tingey
Date:             2010
Pages:           176 pages
ISBN:            1568988729
Difficulty:   1-Day*

*I am not a quick reader, and I do have a life that steals my attention away from books, postcards, and mail in general.  Use that as the gauge.

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