The first impression of W. Reginald Bray (1879-1939) was one of an ordinary middle-class Englishman quietly living out his time as an accountant in the leafy suburb of Forest Hill, London. A glimpse behind his study door, however, revealed his extraordinary passion for sending unusual items through the mail. In 1898, Bray purchased a copy of the Post Office Guide, and began to study the regulations published quarterly by the British postal authorities. He discovered that the smallest item one could post was a bee, and the largest, an elephant. Intrigued, he decided to experiment with sending ordinary and strange objects through the post unwrapped, including a turnip, a bowler hat, a bicycle pump, shirt cuffs, seaweed, a clothes brush, even a rabbit's skull. He eventually posted his Irish terrier and himself (not together), earning him the name "The Human Letter." He also mailed cards to challenging addresses--some in the form of picture puzzles, others sent to ambiguous recipients at hard to reach destinations--all in the name of testing the deductive powers of the beleaguered postman. Over time his passion changed from sending curios to amassing the world's largest collection of autographs, also via the post. Starting with key British military officers involved in the Second Boer War, he acquired thousands of autographs during the first four decades of the twentieth century--of politicians, military men, performing artists, aviators, sporting stars, and many others. By the time he died in 1939, Bray had sent out more than thirty-two thousand postal curios and autograph requests. The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects tells W. Reginald Bray's remarkable tale for the first time and includes delightful illustrations of some of his most amazing postal creations. Readers will never look at the objects they post the same way again.
John Tingey started collecting stamps fifty years ago when his parents gave him his first stamp album and a 6d packet from Woolworths. He is married, with two children and two grandchildren, and lives in England.
THE ECCENTRIC ENGLISHMAN, New Yorker:
"The image that emerges from this antic and visually arresting volume is of a blithe English rogue, testing the system, stretching its limits; an experimenter, playing the most relentless, and amusing, of pranks."
— Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
Barns & Noble Book Review:
"A handsomely designed and illustrated biography... a volume which will surely fascinate any fans of quirky social history, any admirers of the unpredictable human spirit, and any curators of the odder corners of the art world. The book is simply a delight."
— PAUL DI FILIPPO
Very Short List:
"The most delightful, charming, beautifully put-together picture book we've seen this year."
"John Tingeys The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects is exactly what I think of when I picture nonfiction that can get teens excited. Beautifully designed, and heavily illustrated by Princeton Architectural Press, this is a book that certain readers will find good as gold. There is nothing else like it, and because of the inclusion of so many gorgeously photographed examples, Tingeys salute to this endlessly curious man will likely inspire everyone from amateur historians to artists."
"Profusely illustrated in color with dozens of examples of Brays handiwork, [The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects] provides an entertaining and informative biography of The Human Letter and The Autograph King."
aesthetic outburst blog:
"Not only is the story itself interesting, but the book is also quite pretty (look at those endpapers!)."
"The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects is a slim but lavishly illustrated volume that pays tribute to Bray's peculiar devotion."
Fine Books & Collections:
"Imagine my delight in discovering The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects, a gem of a book about W. Reginald Reg Bray, a British philatelist and autograph collector who also amassed a remarkable collection of postal curios in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. "
Letter Writers Alliance blog:
"A lushly illustrated book with interesting bits of text."
British Philatelic Bulletin:
"Weirdly wonderful items that recall the peculiar posting activities of the man known as The Human Letter."
Chasing Ray Blog:
"The book (from Princeton Arch Press) is gorgeous - first class design, paper, illustrations, and the story is so different and told in such a cozy (for lack of a better word) way that you fall under Bray's spell and start thinking about creating your own mail art long before the final pages."
"John Tingeys rollicking portrait of the Edwardian postal prankster will delight anyone whos ever been consumed by a hobby."
"John Tingey's The Englishman Who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010) may well be the best designed book of the year. Tingey's fascinating subject, combined with Deb Wood's excellent design, make this book not only a great read, but a treat for the eye and a wonderful example of how imagery, typography, and text can work together to create a beautiful, coherent physical book. For anyone interested in quirky history, postal art, or simply well designed books, I can't recommend this book more highly."
Football Postcard Collectors Club Journal:
"A fascinating insight into Brays hobby and obsession... hundreds of illustrations of many unusual items, documents, postcards, lettercards, etc. (including two footballers)."
Gibbons Stamp Monthly:
"Highly readable and informative... profusely illustrated with many of [Brays] creations."