Mauritius. Meeting of the Queens in Berlin
This unique international exhibition unites most of the surviving legendary Blue and Red Mauritius postage stamps at the Museum for Communication Berlin
The Blue Mauritius and its ‘sister’, the Red Mauritius, are among the rarest and most precious postage stamps worldwide. These rarities symbolize everything that makes historic stamps attractive and mysterious, not only for experts, but also for amateurs, i.e. their amazing value, rarity and a fascinating story surrounded by myths and legends. Twelve Blue and fifteen Red Mauritius stamps have survived to date, each one with its own history of rediscovery and successive owners.
From 2 to 25 September 2011, the Museum for Communication Berlin will hold an exhibition entitled ‘Mauritius. Meeting of the Queens in Berlin’, which will include about three quarters of the twenty-seven historic Mauritius postage stamps still in existence today. The museum owns two of them (one red, one blue) and will present them together with others in this unique show – internationally unique because it brings together the largest number of these ‘crown jewels of philately’ ever exhibited under one roof. They were issued over 160 years ago by the British Crown Colony of Mauritius and will be on loan from the Royal Philatelic Collection of Queen Elizabeth II, the British Library, the postal museums in The Hague and Stockholm, the Blue Penny Museum in Port Louis, Mauritius and from a number of private collectors. The accompanying exhibits and the catalogue will explain the historic background to the ‘Mauritius myth’ phenomenon, and will document the special history of reception of these most famous postage stamps of the world. The documents will include two original test-printed sheets of stamps as well as the printer’s original quotation.
The Mauritius Myth
The blue two-pence and the red one-penny (500 of each) were issued in 1847 in the British Crown Colony of Mauritius. The engraver modelled the design on the very first postage stamp of the world, the British ‘Penny Black’ with the head of young Queen Victoria in profile. The stamps of this first issue bear the overprint ‘Post Office’ and are thus distinguishable from the less valuable later ones with ‘Post Paid’ printed on them.
These ‘Mauritius Post Office’ stamps became coveted collectors’ items because they were initially regarded as misprints. This ‘legend’ was held to be true until the original printing
plate was discovered in 1912. Another legend has it that Lady Gomm, wife of the English Governor of Mauritius, ordered the stamps to be printed for her to enhance her invitations to a grand ball with stamps from the island colony itself.
History of the ‘Mauritius Post Office’ stamps in the Museum for Communication Berlin
After buying a Red Mauritius in 1901, the Reichspostmuseum Berlin acquired a Blue Mauritius in 1903 in exchange for a number of postage stamps from various colonies. Although the post office had delivered the letter in 1847, this two-pence specimen had not been postmarked. Both were combined on a tableau which, after World War II, was thought to be lost, but in 1976 it turned up again at a postage stamp fair in the United States. As both German states claimed ownership of the tableau, the American customs authorities refused to return it to either and kept it in custody for almost thirteen years. It was only in 1990, after German reunification, that the specimens were returned to Germany, to the Federal Ministry for Post and Telecommunication. Since the reopening of the Museum for Communication Berlin, the former Reichspostmuseum, in March 2000, the valuable postage stamps have been on display there.
Mauritius. Berlin Meeting of Queens
2 – 25 September 2011
How to get there
U-Bahn (underground) U2 to Mohrenstrasse; U6 to Stadtmitte; Buses M48, 200 and 265