Twenty-five years after Christopher Columbus had set foot in the New World for Spain, Magellan and two associates presented the idea of western route to the “Spice Islands” to King Charles I in 1517. Excited by the possibility, Charles agreed and guaranteed the men five ships — the Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Santiago and Victoria. After building a crew of 270, the voyage departed on August 10, 1519 from Seville with Magellan at the helm of the Trinidad. Three months later, the group anchored in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to load up on supplies. Late in the year 1520, the ships reached Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point of South America. Now through to the South Pacific, Magellan guided his crew northwest. In March 1521, the expedition reached the Philippines. Attacked by native tribes upon landing at Mactan, Magellan and 30 crewmen were killed in fierce fighting. The remaining crew, just enough to fill up theTrinidad and Victoria, setting sail in May and landing in Borneo in mid-June. In November, the 115 remaining crew reached the Spice Islands (Maluku), just as Magellan had intended.
Ready to return to Europe, the remaining two ships split up. Victoria left In December 1521 with Juan Sebastian Elcano in charge. In May 1522, the ship turned north up the west coast of Africa with only rice to eat, causing 20 sailors to die of starvation. In September, Elcano had forced 13 others to disembark in order to save the 26-ton load of cinnamon and cloves. Having covered 42,000 miles of ocean, more than half of it completely unfamiliar — the leaking boat only managed to return thanks to the crew working day and night to pump water from within the hull. The 18 men remaining aboard, gaunt and fatigued, presented themselves to the court of Charles I days later. Completing the full trip around the world only occurred because Elcano, relatively unknown to history, decided to strike to the west. It is interesting to note that whilst on the Cape Verde Islands they had discovered that although all the logs on the boat showed that it was a Wednesday, the Calendars on land all showed it to be a Thursday. At first they puzzled over the mistake they thought they had made before eventually realising that by travelling a 360 degree circumference of the globe they had lost a day.
Before the use of adhesive paper stamps, letters were hand stamped or postmarked with ink. Postmarks were the invention of Henry Bishop and were at first called ‘Bishop mark’ after the inventor. Bishop marks were first used in 1661 at the London General Post Office. They marked the day and month the letter was mailed. A schoolmaster from England, Rowland Hill invented the adhesive postage stamp in 1837, an act for which he was knighted. Through his efforts the first stamp in the world was issued in England in 1840. Roland Hill also created the first uniform postage rates that were based on weight rather than size.
Earlier the charge was for each sheet of paper that a letter comprised, and for the distance covered. The receiver had to pay and not the sender! So a letter of two pages travelling one hundred miles would cost 18 pence or one shilling and six pence. From 1840 the same letter if it weighed under half an ounce cost the sender just one penny. The introduction of uniform penny postage resulted in increased trade and prosperity, with more people sending letters, postcards and Christmas cards than ever before.Though uniform rates began in January, the introduction of prepaid stamps and stationery took nearly four more months, becoming valid for postage on May 6, 1840.
Hill chose a printer, the leading security printing firm of Perkins, Bacon & Petch. He also selected a simple design that showed Queen Victoria’s profile. Perkins, Bacon commissioned the artist Henry Corbould to draw her image, basing his work on a medal by William Wyon. Hill chose black ink for the penny stamp, which became known as the Penny Black. For letters just over half an ounce, a two pence value was needed. Hill changed only the stamp color and lettering, creating the Twopenny Blue. The profile of Queen Victoria’s head, remained on all British stamps for the next sixty years. Hill’s stamps made the prepayment of mail postage possible and practical.