British Passport 1859 in unusual leather case

This remarkable British passport stands out due to its unique leather case protection. I’ve encountered numerous British passports featuring diverse leather cases. Some are even equipped with secret or hidden pockets and occasionally a small pen. These custom-made cases serve the dual purpose of safeguarding the thin passport paper and enhancing its durability. British Passport unusual case

British Passport 1859 with very unusual customized wallet

Presentation & Attention

Presenting a passport in an ornate, decorative leather case protects it and commands additional attention and respect from border control officers.

Passport Agents British Passport unusual case

Passport agents, responsible for managing the required visas for travelers, crafted these cases. However, such cases and services came at a cost, making them more suitable for those beyond the ordinary traveler. Yet, this passport case is exceptionally uncommon.

Earl of Malmesbury

Issued under James Howard Harris, 3rd Earl of Malmesbury, in 1841, this passport holds historical significance. Upon his father’s demise, Malmesbury, a Conservative, had recently won election to the House of Commons for Wilton. This victory led to his succession to the peerage.

Political Career British Passport unusual case

Malmesbury’s political career was marked by his service as Foreign Secretary under the Earl of Derby in 1852. He held the same position again from 1858 to 1859. Additionally, he assumed the role of Lord Privy Seal under Derby and Benjamin Disraeli between 1866 and 1868. Furthermore, he held the same position again under Disraeli from 1874 to 1876. In 1852, Malmesbury’s admission to the Privy Council marked him as an influential Tory within the House of Lords. This was during a period when Lord Derby and Disraeli were actively shaping the course of Conservatism. British Passport unusual case

During his two brief terms as Foreign Secretary, Malmesbury pursued a cautious, Conservative policy. His association with the exiled Louis Napoleon led to British acquiescence in the Prince-President’s decision to restore the Empire in 1852. Despite this, it did not deter Malmesbury from maintaining a relatively sympathetic policy to Austria during the events leading up to the Italian War of 1859.

Malmesbury expressed horror at Cavour’s behavior and the ease with which a small country like Piedmont could threaten European peace. His extensive life and the publication of his charmingly written “Memoirs of an Ex-Minister” in 1884 contributed to his reputation. These memoirs, filled with anecdotes and exciting historical material, remain his chief claim to remembrance.

Lord Malmesbury also edited his grandfather’s Diaries and Correspondence in 1844 and published “The First Lord Malmesbury and His Friends” in 1870. He died childless in May 1889 at the age of 82, succeeded in the earldom by his nephew, Edward Harris.

Vintage passports in leather cases


FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...