Wien Combined Town and Registration Cancellers

by H G White

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Although town marks were first used in the late 18th century, separate marks to denote Registered Mail were not introduced until the 1830s. Handstamps combining both town and registration also appeared at this time. However, Vienna pre-empted all others by introducing in 1824 a single line marking [Mü 1697 Ra] ('Mü' are references to E Müller's Handbooks; 'K' to Klein's: see the Library List.)


This was a modification of the late 18th century 'V:WIEN' cancels [Mü 1697 H and I] and, uniquely for a post-1818 cancel, it still includes the 'V' (for 'von').

Wien RecommandirtNote that in Müller's two books on early postmarks, the wording of listings in the catalogue sections are only simplifications of the cancel, and that the accurate versions with actual typescript, punctuation and so on are given in the illustrations in the preceding text. The straight-line cancel was followed in 1833 by an elaborate double framed oval [Mü 1697 Rb] illustrated on the left.

When the inclusion of dates in the hand stamps was ordered, a bold three-line cancel WIEN/RECOMMAND:/date: [Mü 1697 Rc] was introduced in 1837.


This 3-line version remained in use after postage stamps appeared in 1850, but almost at once circular date stamp cancellers replaced it. Three versions of these CDS were produced, varying in the type of lettering, the first two having a life of only 1-2 years before the third became standard in 1852. Initially, cancellations were in black but in 1857 the colour was changed to red and one can find dated examples on all of the first five Classic stamp issues until this circular type gave way to a vertical rectangle in 1863.

3-line version on a stamp [Mü 3214Ra]

CDS version 1 [Mü  3214Rb]

CDS version 2 [Mü 3214Rc]

CDS version 3 [Mü 3214Rd]

1863 rectangle [Mü 3214Re]

Arrival mark [Mü 3214Rf]

The last example above is an unusual oval arrival mark for registered mail, similar to the 1833 type above, which Vienna retained when the rule of placing the stamp paying the registration on the back of the letter ceased in 1866 and with it to a large extent combined town and registration marks. The envelope has the double-oval mark on the back; the front (shown below) has EXPRESSBRIEF and RECOM marks in red. The literature, incidentally, is unclear on express rates before 1900.


Plain ovals as illustrated to the left and below (WIEN/RECOMMAND) with day/month figures inside or a blank for the registration serial number [Mü3214Rg ie K6242c] followed. On the second example, the postmark was applied twice: once in red (wrongly, and crossed out in black) to indicate prepayment, then again in black to indicate no such payment, as this was an official letter for which no charge was made anyway. The manuscript '239' is the serial number.

Klein records many variants of the plain ovals, followed by CDS types which gradually incorporate the full day, month and year. A plain RECOMMANDIRT [K6264q] used in Vienna in 1876 is shown here; these were followed by CDS types which gradually incorporate the full day, month and year. One such example is on the back of this letter from DOBRA b. LIMANOV via SKOMIELNA-BIAŁA to MAHR. OSTRAU, redirected via Krakow station to WIEN, arriving 12/1/77 with Klein 6242j arrival mark.

The final type of marking [K6256c] was a half-framed RCMDT below which the serial number of the letter was hand-written.

There are many variations of this... ...which are spread over many of the Viennese sub-offices, and are also found from other cities.

In the late 1840s of the pre-stamp period, the Combined Town and Registration Marks in Vienna seem to be confined to the Head Post Office. Whereas ordinary mail handed in at the City Post Letter Collecting Agencies received the appropriate LCA cancel (often the attractive boxed ribbon type with the LCA name or number in the ribbon) on the BACK of the letter, the Head Office cancel was struck on the FRONT, especially if it was a distant letter. (A 'distant letter' is one with a destination well outside Vienna, as opposed to a local letter which may not even have gone through Head Office, thus by intent or idleness missing its front cancel.) I have not seen a registered letter handed in at a Letter Collecting Agency which then received the Head Office 3-line type then in use on the FRONT. See for example the 1849 letter illustrated below, addressed to GLOGGNITZ and handed in at a Letter Collecting Agency H BRIEFS No. 54 (ie Wieden) which is correctly back stamped but has only a single-boxed FRANCO and double-boxed RECOM on the front, which Müller states were used only by the City posts (Mü 1949b and 1949c).

Similarly, this registered letter to BUDAPEST was posted in 1874 at the sub-office of Franz Josef Quai with the ordinary CDS cancel and double-boxed RECOM: (with blue handwritten number underneath) exactly as in 1849.

Only after 1860 in the post-stamp era did six of the main sub-offices in Vienna receive the Combined Town and Registration Marks, mainly ovals. These included the well-known large oval K.K.BRIEF-FILIALAMT.

Even in Klein's post-1867 listing only seven offices are included, and then only on the 1867 issue since their usage was curtailed by the introduction of the U.P.U. labels in the 1880s (black type on yellow was chosen by Austria) which saw the end of the need for specific hand stamps for registration.

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©Andy Taylor. Last updated 3 Jan 2014