Notes on feathers, message flimsies & papillons

Feather letter, 1811. Source: The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, Maurice Rickards, 2000.

i. Volante; volantissime! [Fly; as fast as you can!]

ii. Per postas, cito, cito et fidelis.
[By post, swiftly, swiftly, and faithfully.]

iii. Birds as emissaries: imperial despatches in ancient China were carried by homing pigeons.

iv. The feather = speed

v. A feather flight in your seal:
- Symbolic of urgency, and used to indicate army mobilization orders in China in the first century AD.
- Express post in Scandinavia from the 1780's.
- Birds printed on the inside of contemporary envelopes still indicate speed, efficiency and lightness.

vi. Tiny written scrolls attached to besiegers' arrows and fired to agents within the city walls of Potidaea, 5th century BC.

vii. Siege of Metz, 1870, defenders of the city flew messages out of the city via balloon. The notes, written on flimsy sheets of coloured paper were named papillons - butterflies, or just called flimsies.

viii. Pigeongram / airgraph / aerogramme / catapult mail / rocket mail

ix. Dead letters: 'Stamp found eaten off by snails', Looe, Cornwall 1946. 'Destruction by tomtits', Exeter, 1957.