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Exhibition in Berlin unite most of the legendary Blue and Red Mauritius stamps
The Blue and Red Mauritius stamp at the Bordeaux Letter is on display at the Museum fuer Kommunikation in Berlin September 1, 2011. The letter, valued around four million euro, is part of the exhibition 'Die Blaue Mauritius. Das Treffen der Koeniginnen in Berlin' (The Blue Mauritius: Meeting of the Queens in Berlin) showing 18 Red and Blue Mauritius stamps in total. The exhibition will be open from September 2 till September 25 in the German capital. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz.

BERLIN.- Only for three weeks and only in Berlin: This unique exhibition is the only one in the world to unite most of the legendary Blue and Red Mauritius stamps still in existence. For stamp collectors all over the world, just the thought of a Blue Mauritius is enough to set the pulse racing – and even for the casual audience, it symbolises everything that makes a stamp special: an astronomical price, rarity beyond compare, and a fascinating story that has inspired myths and legends. At the ‘The Blue Mauritius: Meeting of the Queens in Berlin’ exhibition from September 2 to 25, 2011, the Museum for Communication Berlin will be presenting around two-thirds of the 27 Mauritius ‘Post Office’ stamps still in existence.

In this unparalleled exhibition, the Museum for Communication Berlin, itself the proud owner of a Blue and Red Mauritius, is presenting the largest number of these philatelic gems ever shown together anywhere in the world. The exhibition is only running for a total of three weeks and tickets are limited. Tickets can be booked online at Timed-entry tickets cost €8 (concessions €5), and VIP tickets with no time restrictions are available for €22.

These renowned stamps, issued more than 160 years ago in the British colony Mauritius and now on display in Berlin, are on loan from the Royal Philatelic Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the British Library, the Postal Museums in The Hague and in Stockholm, the Blue Penny Museum (Port Louis, Mauritius), and a number of private collectors. An accompanying exhibition and a catalogue provide an insight into the historical background of the ‘Mauritius legend’ and document the continuing fascination with these famous stamps. The stunning range of exhibits include the original cost estimate for the printing of the stamps, the sole remaining test print from 1847, the year the stamps were issued, and three prints produced in 1912 from the original plate, now lost.

The two ‘Bordeaux’ letters
The show’s highlight is the ‘crown jewel of philately’: the ‘Bordeaux cover’ stamped with both a Blue and Red Mauritius, valued at around €4 million. This cover is paired here with a second letter from Bordeaux with its own unstamped Blue Mauritius, purchased in 1904 by Germany’s Imperial Postal Museum, now the Museum for Communication Berlin.

The ‘Ball covers’
One of the myths surrounding these stamps is that Lady Gomm, wife of the governor of Mauritius, had them produced especially to give the invitations to her fancy-dress ball a special touch. This exhibition will be the first public showing of all the last three surviving envelopes actually sent by Lady Gomm. Known as the ‘Ball covers’, each one bears a Red Mauritius, the orange-red One Penny ‘Post Office’ stamp. One of these covers is owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, another is kept in the British Library’s Philatelic Collection, and the third belongs to a private collector.

The Imperial Postal Museum’s Mauritius facsimiles
In 1897, French stamp dealer Théophile Lemaire sent the Imperial Postal Museum a Red and a Blue Mauritius on approval for a possible purchase. The museum soon realized it was unable to pay the asking price, but while the stamps were in its possession it had two copies made of the originals at the Reichsdruckerei, the Imperial Printing Office. When the museum later put these facsimiles on display, Lemaire was amazed and indignant. The display sparked ridicule and scorn abroad, especially in England, where the Imperial Postal Museum was mocked for not being able to buy the original gems and having to ‘rest content with paste’. These reactions no doubt played a part in the museum’s decision to buy the originals in 1901 and 1904 and exhibit them. This exhibition is showing the 1897 facsimiles for the first time since they were initially on display, and now they can be compared with the original stamps they were modelled on.

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