Most of us will be familiar with the Language of Flowers. In Victorian times flowers were often sent to convey messages. Even today roses still represent love and white flowers, a sense of purity. However few will be aware of the Language of Stamps.

Many letters posted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century had stamps affixed to envelopes and picture postcards in all sorts of odd positions and angles.

This was due to the development in England of a ‘language of stamps,’ which soon spread around the world. The position of the stamp on the envelope was supposed to relay a message to the receiver. I imagine that people who lived on the edge of Society found this a convenient way of expressing their feelings. I wonder, too, if spies or criminals had stamp languages of their own…

The problem of postmarking the stamps placed on various parts of the envelope finally became so great, that postal administrations of the world introduced regulations requiring the sender of mail to affix stamps in the upright corner of the envelope.

Language of Stamps

Collectors of postal history and picture postcards should be on the look-out for envelopes and postcards with stamps affixed in odd positions, as they could well form an interesting thematic/topical collection.

Note: Should PDb members have scans of such items in their collections, we should be pleased to publish them and include them with this article.

Here are some of the interpretations of the stamp language:

Stamp Positions & Meaning

Upside down, top left corner = I love you

Crosswise on top left corner = My heart is another’s

Centre of envelope, at top = Yes

Center of envelope, at bottom = No

Straight up and down, any position = Goodbye sweetheart

Upside down, top right corner = Write no more

At right angle, top right corner = Do you love me?

At right angle, top left corner = I hate you

Upright top right corner = I desire your friendship

Upright in line with surname = Accept my love

Upside down in line with surname = I am engaged

At right angle in line with the surname = I long to see you

Centred on right edge = Write immediately!