Sources of information

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"If all else fails, read the instructions!"

A dissertation on sources of written information for research into Austrian Postal History, based largely on a presentation given by Dr H Moser to a joint APS-PKMI meeting at WIPA 2008 and on Andy Taylor’s personal experiences in some of Vienna’s less touristic corners. All the sources discussed are "public" in that anyone may read them. However, many are extremely rare, or are found only in an archive to which you must travel. Extraction and publication of the information is the goal of much work currently in progress. Note: all of the illustrations (except a map) have been resized as 800 pixels wide; some have had areas of white space removed. They are large enough even so!


Official sources

Non-official sources

The State Archives in Vienna Post-Almanach Maps Philatelic literature on Post Offices
The Laws on-line Ranking of Post Offices The 1931 Dienstvorschrift Philatelic Literature on Postablagen
The Laws and the Post Office Official Announcements in newspapers. Dienstbücher Görig
Postverordnungsblatt Intra-government correspondence Postvollzugsordnung Bartl
Postamtsblätter The Stempelprotokollbuch Post-, Nach-gebührenweiser Web sources
Zirkularverordnungen Directories and Lexicons Postbücheln Philatelistenklub Merkur Innsbruck

Part 1: Official sources


The State Archives in Vienna

The "Laws of Austria", or most of them, are made available to the public in two ways: on paper, and on line. Especially before 1900, a wide variety of titles was used for governmental laws, decrees, edicts and the like, such as Entschließung, Gesetz, Kundmachung, Octroi, or Verordnung. The official repository has at various times been called Justizgesetzsammlung, Reichsgesetzblatt, Staatsgesetzblatt, and Bundesgesetzblatt. The State Archives in Vienna contain paper copies of all that has survived. Their web site tells the persistent researcher what is there.

Every information source has its limitations and problems! Those for the State archives include:


The Laws on-line

There is an Austrian web site called "ALEX" located at which contains the laws of Austria arranged by year. It contains mainly Justice Ministry material up to 1848, after which its coverage expands.


The Laws and the Post Office

Until 1938, changes to the regulations governing the post were first announced in full in a Law approved by the Emperor, and then repeated (usually verbatim) in a variously-titled Decree from the Ministry responsible for postal matters. Indeed, in the beginning the law itself would be reissued in each state of the Austrian Empire, possibly with slight variations in wording and often reset (the photocopier hadn't been invented!). As the Laws are accessible on-line while the Decrees are not, it is easier to follow the changes as Laws; cross-checking against the Decrees is essential but not yet done.

The first Law is the BRIEFPOSTORDNUNG, "1838 RGB302" (which means: Reichsgesetzblatt number 302 of 1838). This prescribes in great detail all aspects of the letter post. "1850 RGB149" covers the introduction of adhesive stamps. Various changes were made by various laws, until 25 Nov 1899 when RGB231 prescribed the changes caused by the new currency and introduced an 8-page POSTTAXORDNUNG for inland mail, effective from 1 Jan 1900. Amendments in 1902 and 1905 were followed by a new 6-page Posttaxordnung, 1906 RGB251. Conveniently, it gives the RGB references of the previous Posttaxordnung and its amendments, which it repealed. It in turn was on 22 Sep 1916 replaced by the POSTORDNUNG of RGB317, which had grown to 82 pages; it repealed "all previous laws" without listing them. This "new starting point" may be why many subsequent laws refer back to it.

On 5 July 1922, a 64-page Postordnung appeared as BGB406, replacing the 1916 version and also repealing the amendments of 1918, 1919, 1920 & 1921. [A parallel series of Postordnungs and amendments dealt with the postage of newspapers.]

17 Nov 1926 saw the issue of 64-page BGB329, a new Postordnung listing and repealing its predecessors. One of its concerns was the change to Schilling currency. Amendments appeared in 1927, 1929, and 1930.

It seems that in 1931 the 1926 Postordnung was reprinted (perhaps for internal use only) in a version incorporating all the intervening amendments; see the discussion below under "Dienstvorschrift". Further amendments appeared until the Anschluss. Careful cross-checking of the text shows that (for the 1926 issue at least) each amendment applies to the Postordnung as previously amended; ie they are cumulative. That means that a researcher who misses an amendment can fall into error.

All of the above BGB were, we believe, reproduced verbatim as Post Office instructions, mainly Postverordnungsblatt. This practice persisted until 1938.

The next illustrations show the Verordnung des Handelsministeriums of 13 October 1909 giving the details of a rate reduction for Braille items in the inland post; and a subsequent Verordnungsblatt of 1910, extending it to Bosnia-Herzegowina. As the Verordnung des Handelsministeriums is dated 13 October 1909, was published on 31 October, and came into effect on the 1st of November, ie the day after publication, it is unclear how the postal staff knew in time. This oddity is quite often found, and remains without factual explanation.

The Reichsgesetzblatt of 31 October 1909 with the Verordnung des Handelsministeriums of 13 October giving the details of a rate reduction for Braille items in the inland post which came into effect on the 1st of November.


Postverordnungsblatt (PVOB)

These were issued by the k. k. Handelsministerium (the Ministry of Trade, responsible for postal matters) in Vienna.

Title page of the collected PVOB from 1876

The Post- und Telegraphen-Verordnungsblatt of 18 February 1910,
extending the special Braille tariff to Bosnia-Herzegowina.

Postverordnungsblatt have their problems too:

Postverordnungsblatt are a primary source for Austria-wide regulations, instructions, & international postal matters.
The Postal Directorate in Innsbruck issued its own versions of a few pre-1894 decrees. From 1895 these form an important secondary source for local events, useful for verifying the Zirkularverordnungen that are discussed below.

A virtually-complete series of Postverordnungsblatt is in the Library of the Vienna Technical Museum. It's essential to arrange (eg by email) for the volumes you need to be brought from the store to the reading room, which takes 2+ working days. Each year's book is typically 1-2 inches thick - don't be overambitious! Note also that the library's opening hours are less than those of the Museum; and that entry to it is free if you ask. As always, a passport can be useful. Photocopying is normally available: buy a card at the desk and ask for guidance on using the machine.

Example: PVOB of 4 April 1876 concerning the opening of a Post Office in Heiligenblut.
Note the Taxfeld and Taxquadrat numbers; these were used in the calculation of postage rates.



These are written records which were kept by individual post offices. Typically, they are a ledger or diary of anything deemed important. They bring many problems:

Postamtsblätter are a primary source; the Decrees etc referred to can be cross-checked from elsewhere.

Typical Postamtsblatt from Worgl


Zirkularverordnungen (ZVO) of the Postdirektion (PD) in Innsbruck

These instructions were produced by the Postal Directorate in Innsbruck from 1 July 1894; from 1911 they were published in the Amtsblatt of the k. k. Post- and Telegraph Direction for Tirol and Vorarlberg. Its particular problems are:

Zirkularverordnungen form a primary source for local postal history; sometimes they can be cross-checked with the corresponding Verordnungen in the PVO or Postamtsblättern. A comparison of creation dates of several Post Offices after 1894 between PVO and ZVO shows that the ZVO dates are mostly earlier than those of the same post-office given in PVO. Such ‘creation dates’ do not tell when an office started effective operation. Our conclusion is that the dates given in PVO may be considered as a more or less close estimate of the start of operations.

Because the Innsbruck Directorate covered Süd-Tirol, some instructions (such as this for the opening of a Postablage) were produced in dual-languages: German and Italian. These Instructions also served to keep postal employees in touch with their colleagues (promotions, retirements, dismissals and deaths appear) and to advertise posts to existing staff.



The Post-Almanach is a compendium of all the information that a postal employee might require. Up to 1877 it was called the "Post-Beamten-Kalender"; then it became the "Post- und Telegraphen-Almanach" or the "Post- und Telegraphen-Status". It contains much information of interest, difficult to find elsewhere; it is a surprisingly good source for the instructions for special duties. Dates and names need cross-checking elsewhere.

It seems to have been officially approved, but published as the private initiative of a senior official! The publisher was Wilhelm Krauss from 1870 to 1908, & Franz Czuba from 1909 to 1913. The Ministry of Trade took it over in 1914. Problems with the Post-Almanach include:

The 1881 Post-Almanach is 105x140 mm with 173 pages.

This page from the 1881 issue is part of the listing of "k. k. nicht-ärarische" (ie privately owned and run) Post Offices in the Postdirektion Innsbruck’s area

And this is the 1881 "k. k. ärarische" (ie state-owned and run) offices

Title page of Krauss 1899 issue, which is 105x140 mm with 359 pages

The above page is from the 1899 issue; it lists the k. k. nicht-ärarische offices attached to the Innsbruck Directorate (note the inclusion of Liechtenstein); their date of opening; the income in 1897 from postal and telegraphic transactions; and the name of the person(s) in charge.

Krauss’ last Almanach, for 1908. It was 145 x 190 mm; with 607 pages

A page of the 1908 list of Post Offices. Next to the year of opening of each office is the Class and Ranking, the name of the person in charge, and the numbers of official positions.


Ranking of Post Offices

Post Offices were ranked by income, and divided into three 3 Klassen (categories), I (the top), II, and III. The head of a class III post office was a Postexpedient. There is a subdivision (Stufe) from 1 down to 6, depending on the income of the office. A newly-opened post office was always III/6 and depending on its income in the following years it could progress up the ranking to III/5 & on to III/1. A prosperous post office could also jump straight to III/4 or III/2; it didn’t have to pass through every subdivision. At a certain income the head of a post office had to be a Postmeister (who had to pass additional exams). In Class II there were subdivisions II/4, II/2 and II/1. (A II/3 has not been seen so far.) Class I post offices had a similar classification from I/4 to I/1.

Title page of 1912 Post-Almanach, published by Franz Czuba. 160 x 230 mm; 611 pages.

A page from the 1912 issue. Next to the year of opening of each office is the Class and Ranking, the name of the person in charge, and the establishment numbers of office staff, town-, and rural postmen


Official Announcements in newspapers.

In Innsbruck a newspaper was produced called the "Bote für Tirol und Vorarlberg". It contained laws of the Tirol government, notices about postal matters, and similar material.


Intra-government correspondence

The Land Archives (eg the Tiroler Landesarchiv) often contain correspondence between local government, central government, and the local and central postal authorities. That is, between the Statthalterei (which later became the Landeshauptmannschaft), the Handelsministerium (Postal section), and the Postal Directorates. The correspondence can concern letters from communities asking for a new post-office and/or postal routes; the opening of a Post Office or Postablagen; the appropriate name for a new post-office or Postablage; orders for postmarks and others. One can find agreements between Postal authorities and private persons on a Special Post Office. Offices opened for military manoeuvres, and others whose opening was agreed but prevented by wars (especially in 1914) also leave traces in these archives. Useful index terms are Post, Telegraph and Telephon.


The Stempelprotokollbuch

This was a series of books in which strikes were collected of all cancellers issued through Vienna in the period 1880s to 1918. A full discussion of these is in the late Dr Christine Kainz article in Wurth’s Handbook volume XVI. Most regrettably, many of the books have vanished, some have been extensively robbed, and all are too fragile to be handled. However, thanks to Dr Kainz, photocopies of most of the surviving pages [Galicia, Bukowina, Dalmatia, Bosnia-Herzgowina, Kustenland, Krain] are in the possession of the APS and/or PKMI. A typical piece of these books is illustrated here:


Directories and Lexicons

Various members of PKMI in Austria and APS in GB and USA have identified several Directories and Lexicons issued to assist the work of postal staff and customers – and a few physical copies exist in our hands!

The 1906 book entitled Allgemeines Postlexicon was published by the KK Handelsministerium and contains 1568 pages. As well as listing localities and alternative names, it gives (inter alia) Province; Bahnhof; Bezirksgericht; Ortsgemeinde; and the nearest post office.

The Hungarian equivalent, A Magyar Szent Korona Országainak Helységnévtára, was published in 1907 by the Hungarian Trade (?) Ministry and runs to 1541 pages. The information given is similar; it makes use of "strange graphic symbols" that impede optical character recognition.

In 1910 the Trade Ministry published a Directory of all Post Offices in the Empire. This is a key reference work; unhelpfully it uses many unusual symbols which makes a searchable electronic version almost impossible to construct. The APS has published a CD containing enhanced scans of the 550 pages.

DateAuthor or sourceTitlePublisher
1851Cours-Bureau der k.k. Generaldirection für CommunicationenTopographisches Post-Lexikon des Kronlands Österreich unter der EnnsK.k. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei
1906k.k. HandelsministeriumAllgemeines Postlexikon der im Reichsrate vertretenen Königreiche und Länder und des Fürstentums Liechtenstein. Nachträge I, II, IV, XXIIIK.k. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei
1907 A Magyar Szent Korona Országainak Helységnévtára 
1910Postkursbureau des k.k. HandelsministeriumsVerzeichnis der Post- und Telegraphen-Ämter in Österreich, Ungarn und in Bosnien-Hercegovina sowie der österreichischen Postanstalten im Fürstentum Liechtenstein und in der LevanteDruckerei- u. Verlags-aktiengesellschaft vorm. R.V. Waldheim, Jos. Eberle & co.
1919D. ö. GeneralpostdirektionVerzeichnis der Postämter in Deutsch-österreich und Liechtenstein (mit Ämtern d. PD Aussig, Troppau und in Italien)Druck Paul Gerin, Wien
1928BM f. Handel und Verkehr, Generaldirektion f. Post- u. TelegraphenverwaltungPostlexikon der Republik Österreich 1928 Druck und Verlag der Österreichischen Staatsdruckerei
1941Reichspostzentralamt BerlinOrtsverzeichnis I mit Ergänzungsheft: Verzeichnis der Postämter und –amtsstellen sowie der Bahnhöfe der Eisenbahnen, der Schiffsanlegeplätze und Flughäfen in GroßdeutschlandReichsdruckerei Sept. 1941
1944Reichspostzentralamt BerlinOrtsverzeichnis I: Verzeichnis der Postämter und –amtsstellen sowie der Bahnhöfe der Eisenbahnen, der Schiffsanlegeplätze und Flughäfen in GroßdeutschlandReichsdruckerei Mai 1944
1944Müller FriedrichOrtsbuch für die Ostmark (Österreich). 3. Auflage, Januar 1944Post- und Ortsbuchverlag Wuppertal-Nächstebreck
1954BM f. Verkehr u. Verstaatlichte Betriebe, Generaldirektion f. Post- u. TelegraphenverwaltungPostlexikon der Republik Österreich 1954Druck und Verlag der Österreichischen Staatsdruckerei

1910 Post Office Directory: cover

1910 Post Office Directory: typical page

1907 Lexicon of "everywhere in Hungary"



A surprisingly large number of maps can be found in the darker recesses of the Internet. One of the most useful is the set of 1:200,000 maps of most of Europe, probably first made for the Austro-Hungarian Army. Note that:

  1. the master-map is in Hungarian, so for example Vienna is Bécs
  2. each map is a JPG of about 4Mb
  3. the "native size" is A2: print with care!
  4. some have been updated, and contain both old and revised country boundaries
  5. the zero meridian is Ferro not Greenwich
  6. copies of these can often be purchased at Freytag & Berndt, I.Kohlmarkt, Vienna.
  7. These maps are available on line at

Master map for the 1:200,000 series


The 1931 Dienstvorschrift

In 1931, a manual was published by the Trade Ministry, entitled "Dienstvorschrift für die österreichische Post- und Telegraphenanstalt / II. Abteilung 5. Band 4. Ausgabe / Die Postordnung". It contains a 12-page contents list followed by 223 sections in 170 pages, and according to Dr C Kainz was a reprinting of the 1926 Postordnung incorporating the subsequent amendments. As it is the 4th edition, there must have been previous editions (!), and sight of these could be informative.

It is not known to us if the Dienstvorschrift was issued routinely; nor what if any relationship it had to the Dienstbücher discussed next. At least one other Dienstvorschrift is known, issued in 1929 by the "BM f. Handel u. Verkehr, Generaldirektion f. Post- u. Telegraphenverwaltung" and titled "Dienstvorschrift f. d. österr. Post- u. Telegraphenanstalt II. Abteilung, 2. Band / Das Portofreiheitsaufhebungsgesetz nebst den Durchführungsverordnungen".

The first page of the 1931 Dienstvorschrift (see illustration) has at the bottom a printed list of the amendments to the 1926 Postordnung up to the date of the Dienstvorschrift’s publication. Careful cross-checking of the text shows that (for the 1926 Postordnung at least) each amendment applies to the Postordnung as previously amended; ie they are cumulative. That implies that a researcher who misses an amendment can fall into error. The amendments are:

1931 Dienstvorschrift: cover

1931 Dienstvorschrift: typical index page (XII)

1931 Dienstvorschrift: page 1 showing handwritten annotations



A variety of small booklets have been found, containing job-specific instructions to postal employees. It seems that there were many of these, perhaps 25; but few have survived. Those known to us are:

Click here for information on the PKMI Schriftenreihe



These are referred to, so must have existed somewhere!


Postgebührenweiser, Nachgebührenweiser

These are multi-page tables of rates for postage, for un- or underpaid mail etc. Many but not all are available; research continues on the question, "did the first issue after WWII exist?".



These are small booklets produced each Christmas for postal employees to give to customers (no doubt in hope of a tip). They contain basic information on rates and services, sometimes not available elsewhere. (They also contain adverts, essays and jokes.) The Vienna Technical Museum has an extensive collection (the 'English' button usually doesn't work)

Part 2: Non-official sources

A detailed and comprehensive survey and appraisal of the published philatelic political and historical literature would also be useful; but this is not it.


Philatelic literature on Post Offices (Müller, Klein, Sottoriva etc).

These are in most philatelic libraries. Specific problems:


Philatelic Literature on Postablagen

The book "Postablagen in Österreich" by Gerhard Kühnel, in the green-covered second edition, is the indispensible source here. All its entries for Tirol have been verified as correct. Work by PKMI in the ZVO & Postamtsblätter has revealed new aspects of Postablagen: details exist such as the route-connections with the postal system, the delivery areas and frequencies, and sometimes the operator and her or his income.


Görig’s lists

In 1960 Erhard Görig made and typed the "Postaemter-Verzeichnis der Republik Oesterreich", which is a 195pp list of all post offices within post-WWII Austria, extracted from the Post Office listings.

Then in 1963 he produced the 140-page 9527-entry "Verzeichnis der OT-Stempel die in der Gravuranstalt Joseph Schatz in den Jahren 1908-1938 ausgeführt wurden"; that is, "List of the cancellers created and/or repaired by Joseph Schatz' engraving works between 1908 and 1938". Schatz was one of the Official Canceller Repairers. As with the Stempelprotokollbuch, some of the cancellers were made and issued but seem never to have been used (eg the office didn't actually open, for reasons including "permanently lost to the Russians in 1918").



In 1906, Herr Johann Bartl published "Handbuch für den ausübenden Postdienst in Österreich" in competition with the Post-Almanach. Unfortunately, while it is very useful it is also very scarce!


Web sources

The JewishGen Communities Database and JewishGen ShtetlSeeker web site at provides useful resources to search for places by name in Central and Eastern Europe, using various search criteria; and to list all localities within a certain distance of a given latitude/longitude.

Many countries and regions have flourishing expatriate communities, notably in the USA. It’s always worth entering the name of some obscure location into sites such as Wikipedia or Google or and seeing what turns up!


Philatelistenklub Merkur Innsbruck publications

PKMI’s publications include some additional sources:

Postgesetz 1838 + Beilage 1850 (A3) – a collection of postal laws

Postgebühren 1851 (A3) – postal rate tables for 1851

Weis & Stern: Eröffnungsdaten der Postämter, Telefonsprechstellen und Telegraphenstationen in Nord- und Südtirol, Vorarlberg und Liechtenstein bis 1900. This uses data from "Boten für Tirol und Vorarlberg" to list the opening dates of post-, telegraph- and telephone-offices.

See their web site at for more details.

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