The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects

John Tingey

In many ways W. Reginald Bray could be considered a mail art pioneer, as he sent a bevy of interesting items through the post including, as the title reveals, himself — twice! He also posted his dog and various objects with addresses and stamps applied directly to them, as when he traveled to Ireland and dug up a turnip and etched his address into it (the turnip itself didn’t survive to be documented). His experiments seem more inquisitive of the abilities of the Royal Mail than artistic though. He sent postcards where the addresses were hidden inside poems or partially represented pictorially or written entirely in a mirror. The postcards included his own address and instructions for their return — taking advantage of the rule that unopened items could be redirected within a day of delivery at no extra charge. It’s only through the stamps officials would add that he would know how close the item got to its intended target. After his correspondence experiments with the Royal Mail he turned to autograph collecting.

Tingey comes at the subject of Bray as a philatelist who initially found some of his postcards at a stamp auction, and his interest is more about cataloguing the experiments than deconstructing them or creating a narrative. Thus the book is comprised of many more images than text and the writing is fairly dry. I think I would have appreciated this more if I had browsed upon it unexpectedly rather than seeking it out after knowing about it for a couple years.