Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

By Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2009,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2010,
    400 pages.

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Beyond the Book

The Story of Stamps
Penny BlackGreat Britain's "Penny Black" plays a significant role in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It was the first stamp, first issued on May 6, 1840. It cost one penny, was printed in black, and bore the profile of Queen Victoria. For the next 60 years (until her death in 1901), Queen Victoria's portrait was the only subject allowed on British stamps.

In the early days of the postal service stamps and envelopes did not exist. A letter was folded, sealed shut and, although it was possible to prepay, it was usually the person who received the letter who paid for the delivery costs. To avoid payment, many people refused to accept letters; others developed codes, placing secret marks on the outside of the letter that conveyed their message without the need to open it. In addition the rate for each letter had to be calculated depending on the distance it traveled. In short, the system was a mess and inadequate for a nation in the middle of an industrial ...

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