The successful sale to the public of government shares in Maltapost is the latest salient episode in Malta's postal history which, some researchers say, is unrivalled by any other country of an equivalent size.

Despite the lack of precise knowledge on the origins of mail in Malta, the work of a number of dedicated postal historians has contributed towards piecing together information that can enlighten postal enthusiasts on the happenings throughout the centuries, going back to the Order of St John.

The notable dates that follow have been sourced from the limited edition publication of 500 copies entitled The Malta Stamp Collection 1964 - 2004, issued by Maltapost plc. Acknowledgement is due to the late Anthony Fenech who wrote the chapter entitled Stamping Our Mark On The World.

Prior to 1530: Business letters carried privately for a fee by masters of small sailing vessels such as the Speronara (featured on the 7c European 1979 issue) between Malta and Sicily.

Circa 1532: Earliest known letter from the period of the Knights from Grand Master L'Isle Adam to the Bishop of Auxerre dated June 14, 1532.

Circa 1708: The high cost of running a postal service prompts the Order's Treasury to establish a fixed postal tariff based on the weight, the number of sheets in a folder and the destination of a letter.

July 20, 1708: A commission proposes that the Grand Master appoints a Commissary of Post to be responsible for the running of the postal service. Such a postal service seems to have been carried out in Piazza Tesoreria from a building serving as La Casa del Comun Tesoro in Republic Street now housing the Casino Maltese.

Circa 1755-1791: First postal marking hand stamps recorded on Maltese mail; the MARS mark thought to be an abbreviation for Marseilles.

June 18, 1798: During his short stay during the French Occupation of Malta, Napoleon focused his attention on the financial sector of the postal services and a decree was issued in which article 13 contemplated the reorganisation of the post in a manner to cover expenses through a charge on postal matter.

October 7, 1799: Alexander Ball issues a notice from his headquarters in San Anton Palace, stating the setting up of a regular mail delivery service and reserving a few rooms in San Anton to be used as a post office. The notice also stated that mail would be conveyed by boat to Sicily every Thursday.

July 3, 1806: A Packet Service was established to carry mail from England to Gibraltar and Malta through privately-owned vessels on contract to the Post Office sailing from Falmouth on the first Wednesday of each month.

August 20, 1806: The first Packet Boat arrived in Malta.

February 1807 onwards: The earliest hand stamps used by the British Packet Agent in Malta date from this time and consisted of the word MALTA in cursive script within a curved box.

Circa 1841: The Packet Office, which together with the Island Post Office had operated from rooms at the Casa del Comun Tesoro, was transferred to 197, Strada Mercanti, Valletta.

April 1, 1849: The Island Post Office is also relocated to 197 Strada Mercanti and the two offices commence operations under Richard James Bourchier as Postmaster.

June 8, 1853: A notice issued heralded the commencement of an experimental free daily postal service as from June 10, 1853 for letters and newspapers between Valletta, Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Senglea, the Casals and the island of Gozo by daily post.

August 1857: A supply of British stamps was sent to Malta and this was made available to the public later that month.

September 1857: The first of three types of M hand stamps known to exist was sent to Malta from London.

February/March 1858: A Post Office Notice of February 1, 1858 by order of the Postmaster General, John S. Coxson, stated that the prepayment of postage on letters would be compulsory from March 1, 1858 onwards.

November 16, 1860: Malta Government Gazette No. 2061 dated November 16, 1860 announces the forthcoming daily delivery of inland mail in Valletta, Floriana and Sliema.

December 1, 1860: A red-letter day in the annals of the Malta Post Office signifying the birth of the first Maltese postage stamp, the Queen Victoria Half-Penny Yellow, which could be purchased from the Post Office, police stations and at principal stationers.

July1, 1875: Malta joins the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

November 1, 1880: Roger Duke given the title of Imperial Postmaster and assumes Superintendence of the Island Post Office.

Circa 1883: The British Imperial government consents to the transfer to the Post Office to the control of the local government.

January 1, 1885: Roger Duke appointed Postmaster under the new law for a period of one year. UK postage stamps were no longer valid for payment of postage on correspondence posted in Malta and Gozo.

January 1, 1886: Ferdinando Vincenzo Inglott succeeds Roger Duke as Postmaster.

May 17, 1886: The General Post Office starts functioning from its new leased headquarters in Palazzo Parisio, in Strada Mercanti.

Circa 1891: Police stations in 27 mainland villages were permitted to sell postage stamps thus becoming postal agents.

1894: As part of its re-organisation to improve postal services, the General Post Office creates postal districts and re-classifies letter carriers and auxiliaries into First Class and Second Class Postmen who were also given a personal hand stamp to mark all letters on the back before delivery.

September 13, 1897: The first hand stamp bearing the name Valletta CO was introduced.

August 1899: Five values of the postage stamps of 1885 issued for fiscal use.

July 10, 1900: 28 single circular date stamps are despatched to Malta from the GPO in London for use in the villages in Malta and Gozo.

1903-14: Various stamp issues were released between these dates, notably; the King Edward VII head issues of 1903-04, 1904-06 and 1907-11 showing the profile of the king. King George V definitive stamps were not issued until 1914 when the King Edward VII stamps ran out.

March 1919: The GPO released for sale the 10/- Black Stamp inscribed Postage And Revenue, depicting St Paul's Shipwreck, nowadays considered by philatelists as Malta's rarest and most expensive stamp in a Malta collection.

1921: The Post Office set-up was reorganised towards the latter part of 1921 where all the village hand stamps were withdrawn.

1922: The Melita Definitives set of postage stamps to commemorate self-government to Malta in 1921 was issued.

1931: Direct flights from Malta become possible.

1935-1963: The Malta Post Office issued various commemorative stamps, which were also emulated by a good many British colonies.

April 24, 1942: Palazzo Parisio, the headquarters of the General Post Office, is hit by enemy action and the GPO transfers its activities to Ħamrun primary school at Villambrosa Street.

1954-1981: After World War II life started returning to normal and in less than a decade the Post Office had to start expanding its network to deal with the deluge of correspondence and the growing demand for its services. Branch post offices were opened permanently in various localities.

September 1957-1979: Over a 23-year period, artist Emvin Cremona designed some of the most noteworthy Maltese stamps covering historical events, renowned Maltese and foreign personalities, purely abstract forms and 16 Christmas sets comprising 62 sets of stamps.

November 12, 1963: The Parcel Post Office is relocated to a new building in Victory Square, Valletta.

July 4, 1973: After 87 years housed within Palazzo Parisio in Merchants Street, the General Post Office is relocated to the Auberge d'Italie and the Central Mail Room, the registered letter branch and the Poste Restante were relocated to the previous Garrison Chapel, Castille Place, which now houses the Malta Stock Exchange.

1994: The British Postal Consultancy Service recommends to the Malta Government that the postal services should be run commercially.

October 1, 1995: Posta Ltd is set up to run the General Post Office.

October 1997: The Parcel Post Office, the Central Mail Room, the Philatelic Bureau and the Postal Administration were transferred to 305, Qormi Road, Marsa. The Valletta counter services start to operate from Dar Annona in Castille Place.

May 1, 1998: Postal services, run by Posta Ltd, a private limited company, are taken over by a new public limited company Maltapost plc.

January 31, 2002: Maltapost plc is partially privatised with the Maltese government selling 35 per cent to Transend Worldwide Ltd, a subsidiary company of New Zealand Post Ltd with a view to prepare the company to meet the EU postal directives and further liberalisation of the postal market.

September 6, 2007: The government sells 25 per cent of its shareholding to Lombard Bank plc where Lombard Bank effectively became the majority shareholder in Maltapost plc with 60 per cent shareholding. The government undertakes to sell to the public the remaining 40 per cent of shares it owns by floating them on the Malta Stock Exchange.

January 8, 2008: The government announces the sale of 40 per cent of its shareholding in Maltapost in an initial public offering.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us