Mostly in the category of “markings.” One of these puzzles took a life of its own and now has a page of its very own in the ► javabs section. Here are some others, most of which now have pleasing resolutions, thanks to the learned.

CDS Notation?

Any idea about what the 1AS (or ...IAS?) means? We presume it is not for the Sealkote Institute for Advanced Study. By the way, the scan is the original of Séfi & Mortimer’s Type 10 drawing, p. 217, and is now curiously in our own possession. The cover, which originated at Jammu, was destined to Pind Dadan Khan via Jhelum, and was without British postage.

RESOLUTION: To the rescue again is Tony Bard, to whom the J&K fraternity owes yet another salute. The notation means “1 anna[s].” He adds that “the plural abbreviation is not unique amongst Indian postal markings.” Currency notation on postmarks, goodness gracious. Naturally, the postage actually carried in the case at hand was not 1 anna, just the ½a grey black circular cancelled with the Jammu purple of the day.

The Large Circle?

The arrow points to what to us is a mysterious large circle in native character. It does not seem to us to be the Srinagar Large Circle. The diamond bar obliterator is of Baramulla. There was once an early runner line, most active in the winter months, for mail run via Baramulla and Puńch (ref. Raina). That might suggests a Puńch or a Baramulla marking, but both are hard to argue for.

RESOLUTION: Several experienced commentators have by now affirmed the marking to be indeed the Srinagar Large Circle, applied with less than impressive finesse. Certainly the general size of the marking, the dating of the cover, and the philatelic context are all in full harmony with that. One of the ‘Srinagar blob’ bounces might be detectable where the arrow-head is pointing. The month, being jeţh, is rather plausibly matched to the central bit. The little circle there would be a Dogri version of the script element (ţha); in any case, not the (ta) seen here on the Jammu cds at the left. The day-dating is compromised by the hashings arrayed around the edge of the stamp. Consensus: the Srinagar Large Circle it is then. Thanks, all.

A Masson Notation?

What, pray, is the point of that cover annotation in red that is seen on many a cover? It comes usually in red from one hand, thereby evoking the name Masson as the likely culprit. The more careful renderings look like “nil,” and I would swear it is not a tricky bit of nastaliq. The covers (all J&K?) span a goodly stretch of years: the earliest we know of is April 1866, early indeed. The latest for us happens to be 1886 so far. That year is the latest we know for any Masson notation, so we take it as more evidence that this is his too. That the notation appears on covers originating in both Jammu and Srinagar over a two-decade duration also jibes. The marking comes in pencil as well, and these (possibly) from a different hand, though Masson is well-known to have had curiously different handwritings. Some of the items are major rarities, such as a “sugar wove” cover, and a mere bisect or two. That the marking is not postal is made rather clear from the second scan. It is a thin, almost transparent, piece, yet the notation appears on both sides. What for, just what for?

RESOLUTION: Anthony Bard to the rescue yet again. The notation is indeed Masson’s, and it is indeed a “nil,” used to indicate that the cover had no date to be deciphered from the Persian. “Obvious” when you know, eh?

That Notorious Monogram

And then there is that quaint BL or LB monogram that also appears from time to time on covers from all periods in violet ink. An enclosing circle is sometimes partially visible. One strong clue that it is a personal seal-of-possession by an collector of yore comes from a cover for which the impression is located partially under the opened envelope flap. Even if the happy stamper was a bit vandal, he was one of evident resources and chutzpah, for the seal appears on several notable rarities. In this it bears similarity to the red ‘nil’. I never had the presence of mind to notice whether the two ever appear on the same cover. For a time we conjectured that this might have been from Masson’s Bank of Lahore, but seems not (his bank was in any case The Punjab Banking Company Limited.) That obviously leaves only Ludwig of Bavaria or the worthy Bird-watchers of Lausanne.

Business Cancellation

And here is a little early oddity on piece with a “Compagnie des Indes, Kashmyr, [Maison] Verdé de Lisle & Cie” seal. Les frères received the Legion of Honor and other medals for their celebrated lace manufacture, which was exhibited at the Paris Exposition in December 1867.

The Kashmir ¼a black watercolor was extant since the summer of that year, so we like to suppose this item was somehow in aid of their show. But why were they in the postal obliteration business too? Is it tantamount to a perfin function? Perfins proper were invented only the following year in Britain.

RESOLUTION: Anthony ‘The Encyclodpedia’ Bard adds that these gentlemen were shawl merchants in Srinagar. Their company stamp was used on business-related mail, probably as a means of ensuring that any stamp removal was obvious, and there would be less chance of their visitor-clients being charged postage due.

Forgery Overprinted “SPECIMEN”

A ¼a forgery with a mirror-reversed SPECIMEN overprint obscured by an obliteration, presumably on purpose. The design of the stamp is variously wrong. A multidimensional zany in the Lunn collection.

Decipherment, If You Please

Séfi & Mortimer remark that the marking shown above on the left is seen on New Rectangulars remainder-stock. Perhaps some headway can be had in reading it from these images, which are clearer than usual. Since the marking appears in mirror-image form on the stamp, we have reversed it for easier viewing in the second image and have also done some makeshift reconstruction using the upper piece. It is dated 1293 ~ 1876, and thus antedates the New Rectangulars themselves by a couple of years. The circle in the center looks like a ‘5’, purpose unknown.

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