The Mail Road across Land and Sea by Bo Andersson, Jan Andersson, Ulla Clerc, Gabriele Prenzlau-Enander, and Pernilla Åström. 128 pages, 5 ¾ by 8 ¼ inches, soft covers, perfect bound, in English, Postal Museum Publication No. 53, Stockholm 2004, ISBN 91-975051-0-2. Approximate cost $12 plus $12 mailing to the United States, from Postmuseum, Box 2002, 10311 Stockholm, Sweden.

 

            This book appears to be an expanded version of Jan Andersson’s The Mail Road across Åland, published by the Archaeological Section of the Åland Government and available from Åland Posten. The new book was released in conjunction with the Swedish Post Museum’s temporary exhibit last year of the same name. It is the story of the mail route established in 1638 to carry the mails from Stockholm across Åland to Turku, Finland.

            The route dates back to the Middle Ages but was declared for use in conveying mail two years after Sweden established its postal service in 1636. Various inns and farms along the route were responsible for providing food, lodging, and services to the postmen, including conveyance of the mail by sea.

            Dispatches were weekly with extra ones introduced from time to time. Mail service was interrupted during the Russian wars. The significant towns along the route from Stockholm to Grisslehamn are described first. Similar treatment is given to the remainder of the route across Åland and into southwestern Finland. Cannon were used to signal ice conditions between Åland and the mainland.

            The Finnish postal service began in 1638 and postage rates were set from Stockholm to Turku. During periods of cholera outbreak, special regulations were enacted for handling the mail and disinfecting the clothing of mail carriers.

            Again, the towns and villages along the mail road across Åland and from the coast of Finland to Turku are described. Many of the landmarks along the route are detailed in the text and with modern day photos. These are coupled with older photos, drawings, a few postal artifacts, and maps to bring the ancient post road to life.

            Today portions of the mail road are still preserved, some times parallel to modern roads, and are sought out by tourists for hiking and sightseeing. Each chapter ends with bibliographic sources. Although there is no index, there is an alphabetical geographic register.

            The book is a wonderful historic and cultural journey along a fascinating mail route in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It is an invitation for travelers to revisit an important aspect of Swedish and Finnish history of the mails.

 

Alan Warren