Early 15th Century passport (Safe Conduct)

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A small collection of documents including a rare and early Safe Conduct concerning the Dukes of Burgundy, in French and Dutch, manuscript documents on paper and parchment [England and The Netherlands, dated 13 July 1411, 1470, and 3 April and 28 May 1471] Early 15th Century passport

Five documents (those in Dutch forming two sets of attached double documents, joined at their lefthand edges): letter of ‘Sauf Conduit’, that is a passport giving safe passage, granted by Thomas Pickworth, lieutenant of Calais for the Prince of Wales (Henry of Monmouth, 1386-1422, later King Henry IV) to visit Thierry Gherbode, counsellor and archivist to the Duke of Burgundy, to discuss differences between the duke and the English, in French on paper, in 26 long lines of an Continental secretarial hand, elongated calligraphic cadels to ascenders of opening words, endorsed with scribal mark like an angular petalled version of the so-called ‘clover’ symbol at foot, embossed with red wax seal in blank margin at foot of document (30mm. diameter; with Pickworth arms with three pickaxes), endorsed on reverse in French by seventeenth- or eighteenth-century hand as well as Phillipp’s number (see below), 270 by 300mm., dated Calais 13 July 1411; (ii) four letters of Charles ‘the bold’,duke of Burgundy, to Caius, his lord “van den Raide”, on 24, 30, 13 and 21 long lines, respectively, in Dutch secretarial script, scribal mark of “Lodovicus” at foot of two of them (and all four in a single scribal hand), with red wax seals on face of documents in margin and on seal tags cut horizontally from feet, 210 by 350mm. and 240 by 360mm., both dated 1470, and 160 by 330mm. and 260 by 360mm., “Hollant” and dated 3 April and 28 May 1471; all with folds and small stains, else good condition, all laid down on three cards. Early 15th Century passport

Early 15th Century passport

The [tem here first emerged in the Southwell papers (the archive of Sir Robert Southwell [1635-1702] and his son Edward Southwell [1671-1730], both serving as secretaries of State for Ireland), these disbursed by the London bookseller, Thomas Thorpe, in catalogs issued from 1834 to 1836, with many acquired by Sir Thomas Phillipps (and thence sold by Sotheby’s, 4 April 1977, lot 140, and now University of Pennsylvania). Phillipps also owned this document, and it is endorsed by him with his acquisition number: “10165”, on its reverse. All three documents passed through the hands of E.H. Dring (1863-1928), and his son E.M. Dring (1906-1990), to the Schøyen Collection via the London book-dealership Quaritch. Early 15th Century passport

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...