One of our most recent projects is the transcription of 44 receipts written and signed by William Blake. They present a few new problems, such as how to transcribe the markings between numbers — their version of a decimal point, which looks a lot like two commas. Another unique aspect is the stamp, which appears on 19 of the receipts. Initially there was uncertainty over how to classify the stamps, and they were referred to as ‘seals’ for a few months. However, consulting some reference works on philately told us that the correct term is ‘embossed revenue stamp’. These actually have a longer history than postage stamps, as they were used to denote the payment of tax on legal documents such as receipts, and before income tax became standard they were used by governments as a main source of revenue. They can be classed as either ‘documentary’ or ‘proprietary’; the latter describing stamps used for paying tax on goods, which are generally affixed to the item in question, and the former being stamps attached to legal documents. The Blake receipts carry documentary revenue stamps.
Revenue stamps have never been as interesting to collectors as postage stamps, however, and the largest catalogues …read more