It is important to remember, however, that the display of stamps as works of art as they are presented here is anomalous to the lives of most stamps. For most of the last two centuries the context in which most of these stamps have been encountered has been on the back of an envelope or postcard.

The four salvaged letters translated and summarized in this section will provide a glimpse into the time and place that saw the creation of these miniature, mass-produced works of art. It is in these letters from the past that we can see something of the significance these stamps had for those who used them every day.