Mauritius’s first stamps were issued on 21 September 1847 and are the most famous stamps in philatelic history. The 1d orange-red & 2d deep blue imperforate stamps inscribed “POST OFFICE” were printed on the island by a character called Joseph Barnard who produced a small printing plate with just one impression each of the 1d & 2d. The inscription was probably not a mistake as it simply followed the wording on the current postmark but it was changed the next year to “Post Paid” when a new plate of 12 impressions of each value was made, again by Mr Barnard.
There were 500 of each stamp available, issued in time to send out invitations to a ball at the Government House the following day. Of these 1000 stamps only 27 are known to have survived. The finest unused 2d is in the Royal Collection, purchased by the Prince of Wales (later King George 5th) and is the source of the famous anecdote “I know how interested Your Royal Highness is in stamps. Did you happen to see in the newspapers that some damned fool had given as much as £1400 for one stamp?” to which the somewhat tight reply came forth “I was that damned fool.”
Mauritius can offer so much to the stamp collector and postal historian from its evocative classics to the elegant stamps printed by De La Rue throughout much of the Victorian era which included a number of surcharges and many watermark errors amongst much else, the 20th Century with its own versions of the colonial key plates supplemented by unique designs, and from the 1950s the flourishing pictorials which amply illustrate this magical island. The postal markings have been well- documented and are of great interest to collectors, for those we would recommend “The Postal History of Mauritius” by Edward B. Proud.