Catherine J. Golden’s delightful book, Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing, (University Press of Florida, 2009) has been re-released in paperback. Approaching postal history from literary and material culture perspectives, she examines the impact of cheap postage in Great Britain following the 1840 introduction of postage stamps. The transition of mail from a luxury only the rich could afford, to an everyday feature of Victorian life, which allowed “anyone, from any social class, to send a letter anywhere in the country for only a penny had multiple and profound cultural impacts.” In the second section of her book, “Outcomes,” Catherine examines the rise of postal related consumer goods such as illustrated envelopes and writing desks; the less desirable results of cheap postage ranging from a flood of unwanted mail to postal blackmail; and finally Valentines as a window on Victorian courtship and love. Her book received the 2010 DeLong Book History Prize for the best book on any aspect of the creation, dissemination, or uses of script or print from SHARP, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing.
Catherine is a scholar of the Victorian era and professor of English at Skidmore College. She presented papers, “Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?” and “You Need to Get Your Head Examined: An Analysis of the Unchanging Portrait of Queen Victoria on Nineteenth-Century British Postage Stamps” at the last two Postal History Symposia.
For a parallel look at the American response to cheap postage following the 1851 rate reduction and reforms, read David M. Henkin’s The Postal Age (University of Chicago, 2006).