The Ottoman Empire (Devlet-i Aliyye-i Osmâniyye — دَوْلَتِ عَلِيّهٔ عُثمَانِیّه,), also known as the Turkish Empire, Ottoman Turkey or simply Turkey, was founded in 1299 by Oghuz Turks under Osman I in northwestern Anatolia. After conquests in the Balkans by Murad I between 1362 and 1389, the Ottoman sultanate was transformed into a transcontinental empire and claimant to the caliphate. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror. During the 16th and 17th centuries, at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was a multinational, multilingual empire controlling much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. At the beginning of the 17th century the empire contained 32 provinces and numerous vassal states. Some of these were later absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy during the course of centuries.
With Constantinople as its capital and control of lands around the Mediterranean basin, the Ottoman Empire was at the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. Following a long period of military setbacks against European powers, the Ottoman Empire gradually declined into the late nineteenth century. The empire allied with Germany in the early 20th century, with the imperial ambition of recovering its lost territories, joining in World War I. While the Empire was able to largely hold its own during the conflict, it was struggling with internal dissent, especially with the Arab Revolt in its Arabian holdings. Starting before the war, but growing increasingly common and violent during it, major atrocities, such as the Armenian Genocide of 1915, were committed by the Ottoman government against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks. The Empire’s defeat and the occupation of part of its territory by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of World War I resulted in the emergence of a new state, Turkey, in the Ottoman Anatolian heartland following the Turkish War of Independence, as well as the founding of modern Balkan and Middle Eastern states and the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.
The Austrian Empire, as well as other European governments, maintained an extensive system of post offices in the Turkish Empire, motivated by the unreliable postal systems of the Turks. Austria gained permission in 1721 from the Ottoman Empire to operate a postal service for official correspondence only and subsequently this was extended to the opening of post offices and carrying mail for merchants. This resulted in 1748 with the establishment of a post office in Galata outside of Istanbul, and eventually extended to 65 locations throughout the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean. The oldest known cancellation is a double linear CONSTANTINOPEL in 1787.
Beginning in 1863, postage stamps of the Austrian possession of Lombardy-Venetia were used: 2 to 15 soldi, which can be recognized only by the cancellation. After the losses of Lombardy in 1859 and Venetia in 1866, having been turned over to the Kingdom of Italy, Austria had to issue specific stamps, identical in appearance identical to Austrian stamps of the same period, but valued in soldi. Lombardy-Venetia postage stamps used at Austrian post offices in the Turkish Empire are extremely scarce. In 1886 the denomination was changed to paras and piasters to match the Turkish money already used by other countries, by surcharging the existing stamps of the offices, with further issues between 1888 and 1907: values ranging from 10 paras to 20 piasters.
Two different printing methods were used, as in the 1867-1874 issues of Austria. This can be distinguished by the coarse or fine lines of the hair and whiskers in the portrait of Emperor Franz Josef and by the paper, which is more transparent in the later issue. Seven stamps were issued for the Austrian post offices in the Turkish empire in 1867 and are identical in design and color to the same issues of the Austrian Empire 1867 typographic coarse printings, except that they are denominated in soldi instead of kreuzer. The stamps denominated 2 sld., 3 sld, 5 sld., 10 sld., 15 sld., and 25 sld. are all perforated 9½. The 50 sld. value comes in perforation gauges 9, 10½, 12, 13, and compound.
Six different denominated stamps — fine printings — were issued between 1878 and 1883 which are identical to the 1874-1880 Austrian fine printing issues, except for the denominations. There are a few perforation varieties on these particular issues though. They are:
Perforated 9½: 2 sld., 3 sld., 5 sld., 10 sld., 15 sld., and 25 sld.
Perforated 9: 5 sld. and 10 sld.
Perforated 10½x9: 5 sld. and 10 sld.
Perforated 10½: 10 sld. and 15sld.
The Scott catalogue doesn’t assign minor numbers for these perforation varieties, however, nor does it even mention them in the standard catalogue. The 10 soldi value — today’s stamp (Scott #7F in blue) — was reprinted in deep dull blue, perforated 10½.
The 1883 Arms definitive stamp designs of Austria were also produced for the Austrian offices in the Turkish Empire, denominated in soldi. In 1886, the 1883 3 sld. denomination was surcharged 10 PARA 10 in Turkish currency. With the change-over to Turkish currency, new stamps were required for the Turkish Empire offices. In 1888, the Arms definitive stamps issued for Austria, denominated in kreuzer, were surcharged in Turkish currency, to supply these post offices. The surcharged Austrian stamps are all perforated 10. There is a variety of the 1 piaster surcharge, perforated 13 1/2, which is very rare.
Between 1890 and 1896, the Austrian Empire replaced the Arms definitive stamp types with a brand new series of definitive postage stamps, featuring the left-facing portrait of Kaiser Franz Josef on the lower values and a right-facing portrait on the high values. This, of course, necessitated the creation of a new series for the Turkish post offices. The new lower value surcharged definitive stamps feature the original kreuzer value numerals in the upper corners, and the new Turkish currency value numerals in the lower corners, with the new value name in between them.
At the end of 1899, Austria officially changed their currency from kreuzer and gulden to heller and kronen. This required that they modify their existing definitive postage stamps to have the new denomination names on them. For the post offices in the Turkish Empire, the surcharging format is the same as that used on the 1890-1896 definitive stamp issues. In 1901, the four lower value definitive stamps were printed on paper containing diagonal bars of varnish, in order to prevent their re-use.
Between 1903 and 1907, the surcharge format of the low denomination stamps was changed. Unlike previous issues, the new surcharges had the Turkish currency numerals and denomination names both at the top and the bottom of the stamps. The 1903 issue featured the varnish bar undercoating. The 1905 issue omitted this. The 1907 issue featured a new color for the 10 Para denomination and a new denomination, the 30 Para.
In July 1908, a new set of definitive postage stamps, denominated in the Turkish currency of paras and piasters, was issued to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Josef I. Though similar in appearance and style to the 60th Anniversary stamps issued for the Austrian Empire, these stamps for the Austrian post offices in the Turkish Empire are somewhat different. The 10 para through the 1 piaster denominations were typographed on surface-colored paper, and all of them feature the left-facing profile of Franz Josef. The 2 piaster through the 20 piaster denominations were engraved on surface-colored paper, and all of these feature a portrait of Franz Josef in royal robes.
In 1914, the 20 para scarlet on rose surface-printed paper (Scott #47) and the 1 piaster deep blue on blue surface-printed paper (Scott #49) stamps were re-issued on paper that was colored all the way through (Scott #57-58). On the surface-color paper printing, the back side of the stamp is “white”. On the color paper printing, the back side of the stamp has the same paper color as that of the front side. The surface-colored paper printings are the scarcer of the two types.
Between 1902 and 1910, the Austrian Empire also issued Postage Due stamps for use in the Turkish Empire. The 1902 issue consisted of the design type of Austria, with the basic stamp color changed from brown to green, and the stamps were surcharged in Turkish currency. The shades of the basic stamps of this issue range from yellowish green to dark green. The 1908-1910 issue consisted of the 1908 design type of Austria, with the basic stamp color changed from red to green. There were nine denominations in this set, ranging from ¼ piaster to 30 piaster. There were three different printings of the 1908-1910 issues. The first was printed on chalky white paper, the second on thick white paper, and the third on thin white paper. They also come in two distinct shades of green. The chalky white paper varieties are the cheapest.
The first items of postal stationery to be made available to Austrian post offices in the Turkish Empire were envelopes in 1863. A total of 10 different pre-stamped envelopes in soldi currency were issued up to 1877, these were valid for use until 31 October 1884. Only one envelope was ever issued in French currency in 1908 (5 centesimi for Jerusalem). Postcards were first issued in 1873 in soldi currency, in all five different soldi denominated postal cards were issued. In 1888 these were replaced by an issue in Turkish currency with a total of 13 different items were issued before these were replaced by postal cards in French currency in 1903. A total of 8 different postal cards are known in French currency. Only one 10 soldi lettercard was issued in 1886 while four different 1 piaster lettercards were issued in 1888, 1890, 1900 and 1908. During the period of Turkish currency, three different newspaper wrappers were issued in 1899, 1900 and 1908. One newspaper 5 centimes wrapper was issued in 1908 for Jerusalem.
The last remaining Austrian post offices in the Turkish Empire were closed on 30 September 1914.
My copy of Scott #7F appears to bear a cancellation from Kerassunde, spelt Giresun in modern Turkish, the provincial capital of Giresun Province in the Black Sea Region of northeastern Turkey, The city was known to the ancient Greeks as Cerasus (Κερασοῦς), which means “the place of cherries.” Its history goes back to the late 6th century BC, when it was founded by Greek colonists from Sinope, The surrounding region has a rich agriculture, growing most of Turkey’s hazelnuts as well as walnuts, cherries, leather and timber, and the port of Giresun has long handled these products. The harbor was enlarged in the 1960s and the town is still a port and commercial center for the surrounding districts, but Giresun is not large, basically one avenue of shops leading away from the port. Like everywhere else on the Black Sea coast it rains (and often snows in winter) and is very humid throughout the year, with a lack of extreme temperatures both in summer and winter. As a result Giresun and the surrounding countryside is covered by luxuriant flora.