Postal History


The civilian and military postal routes in the Ottoman State were laid out in three main routes. Taking Istanbul as the starting point, the routes were laid out in the form of right, central and left routes in Anatolia and Rumelia. They are connected to each other by secondary roads.

THE following amusing description of business at the Post office in Constantinople is from the Cologne Gazette. It may be remembered that the different European States have each their own postal establishment in the Turkish capital. The German office there however performs the postal service not only for subjects of the Emperor William but for the Turks themselves as well. The Turk is well known to be a lover of ceremony and how little this feature contributes to the despatch of business may be gathered from the following account of an incident of frequent occurrence at the German Post office at Pera. In London or any city of Western Europe the transaction would be concluded in half a dozen words: “Two shillings worth of foreign stamps please.”  “Change for half a crown.” “ Thank you!”  In Stamboul this sample transaction assumes the following form: –

Tughra 1 Piaster

As published in Stamp-Collector’s Magazine (Vol. V) August 1st, 1867

From Le Timbre Poste

To some of our readers the above title will probably seem an enigma. They may search, perhaps in vain, for the hand of which we speak. Yet it is there, though different in appearance from those we know. It is, in fact, the curious design occupying the centre of each of these stamps – its name ‘Thougra.’

The ‘Thougra’ is the signature of his majesty the Sultan, ordinarily written in black, sometimes in red, and frequently in letters of gold, and is found upon coins, passports, &c., as well as upon the stamps. The first sultans used to make rough impressions, with the five fingers of one hand, at the foot of their decrees, and Mahomet II placed his fingers, wet with blood on the columns of Saint Sophia, at the capture of Constantinople in 1453. Of these early finger seals, and of the impressions of the conqueror's fingers on the mosques, the arabesque pattern in the centre of the stamp is representative.



liannos city post

In early 1860, the postal service of the Ottoman Empire went through a dramatic reorganization to issue stamps and distribute the post. The speed of the reorganization had created distribution problems specifically in the areas where foreigners were living. The most important problem was the education of the postmen. The postmen of the Ottoman Empire did not have any problems reading or writing in Turish with the Arabic alphabet but they were having difficulty with addresses written in Latin alphabet. It would have not been fair to all the postmen to know multiple foreign languages and ability to read and write in Arabic and Latin. This situation forced the postal service to outsource the distribution of the post to a local Greek businessman Liannos. After completing all the paperwork in August of 1865 Liannos formed the local post distribution company “Liannos et Cie” to distribute the mail in Istanbul. The company signed a 6 year contract starting from December 1865.


This article was published by W. A. S. Westoby in the book "The Adhesive Postage-Stamps of Europe Vol. II" on pages 412-13. The book was published in London in the year 1900.

These are called Katchak, or contraband stamps, and the reason of their use is thus described. Male and female servants at Constantinople generally come from the provinces or the Greek islands of the Archipelago, and frequently bring letters for their friends. If these are discovered at the Custom House they are taken to the post-office, where double postage is charged on the letter, half of which goes to the detector, and the other half to the post-office. Stamps for the double rate are then affixed, and stamped with a hand-stamp of one of the above types, which reads "KATCHAK POSTA," denoting ''Smuggled Post." The first type belonged to the Constantinople Post-Office, and was used on smuggled letters from the interior only. It was withdrawn in 1877 and replaced by Type II., which was used till 1880, when Type I. was again brought into use.