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The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  143 ratings  ·  36 reviews
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 bega ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published September 22nd 2010 by Princeton Architectural Press
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Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a well written and feel good fun story of a man who wanted to test the mail system. He ended up being known for this hobby and being one of the "fathers" of mail. The story was fun to read and I found it very interesting and fast paced. The images thorugh the book were beautifully copied added and great detail could be seen.

If you like reading about "oddities" and want a fast paced and interesting non-fiction to read, I highly suggest.

I will say I was drawn to this at first because I
Oct 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: philatelists, mail artists, eccentrics
Recommended to Ashley by: New Yorker
I simply loved, loved, loved this book. Not only is W. Reginald Bray a fascinating character-- a true English Eccentric-- but Princeton Architectural Press put together an incredibly beautiful book. The illustrations bring the text to life and gave me loads of creative ideas.

It's a short book-- most of the pages are dedicated to illustration-- but one that I'm sure I'll come back to for inspiration. It's not a detailed postal history, it's much more fun! I suggest you read it when you're feeling
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
This amazing and somewhat funny story about W. Reginald Bray's postal...adventures was an easy read. With LOTS of photos, it wasn't exactly a thick history book or biography, but wasn't a quick read either. If you're not interested in postal history or stories of interesting people, then this book probably isn't for you, but if you have some patience and can read it with a mindset of "what did he do this time?" then I think you'll find it amusing.

As someone who is interested in postal history an
Jun 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Loved this book. Reminds me of the times I would send items home to the small Kansas town where my parents lived. I would simply address the letter to Mom with the town name and zip code. They would always make it to the right place :-).
Angela Thompson
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Charming! A lovely piece of hidden history that makes you want to run out, buy a stack of postcards and explore the many ways you can play with the postal service. Hearkens back to an age where the arrival of the mail was highlight and treasured moment in the day - and a window on the world beyond the front doorstep. Bray was a playful, brilliant and creative spirit whose hobby evolved into a collection that not only amuses and fascinates, but has preserved lovely vignettes of both everyday hist ...more
Patrick Book
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
Mixed feelings, but mostly positive! This is a beautiful, impeccably-designed book. I’d have liked this to be more detailed, autobiographically speaking, where this is almost more of a visual presentation of Bray’s pieces. But there is plenty of charm in the text it does contain — and I suppose, if nothing else, the brevity is testament to the fact a philatelist wrote it; you can imagine Tingey is used to seeing a lot of information passed along in small spaces!
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
For those who enjoy odd, little books, you'll probably greatly enjoy this extensively illustrated book about a man with a most unusual hobby. Those who enjoy Postcrossing (an international postal exchange) might also be amused by the creativity of some of his posts. ...more
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
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.
Rob Atkinson
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
A slight but amusing account of English eccentric W.R. Bray, a practitioner of proto"Mail Art" a half century before Ray Johnson 'invented' the genre. Nicely designed and illustrated with photographs of his postal relics , but frankly there's not much here in the way of aesthetics. Bray's preoccupation wasn't with art but with testing the mettle of the Royal Post by sending prank challenges through the mail -- cards with pictorial/rebus/versified addresses and the like. After successfully mailin ...more
Jan 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
I picked up this book because, who wouldn't want to read about a man who tried to mail all sorts of cool things? The answer is, disappointingly, all of us.

The book, which has maybe 20 pages of text, is almost all images of the postcards and other artifacts from his life. Yes, what he did is curious and mildly interesting and would be well worth a magazine article or a human interest piece. But what he did is also shockingly wasteful of an decreasingly important civil service (he mailed himself t
Leah Lucci
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book takes about half an hour to an hour to read, depending on the speed of reading and how long you choose to stare at the pictures. It's mostly a picture-book. The first half details the Englishman himself's love of playing with the post office: he writes things backwards (mirror-style), ships his dog, ships himself, ships a skull, collages things together, tries weird ways of sending things from other countries to himself, sews addresses into starched cloth and tries to send that, etc. T ...more
Oct 14, 2016 rated it liked it
A beautifully illustrated book about a most intriguing Englishman. The first person to post himself by Royal Mail! W. Reginald Bray tested the Royal Mail to its limits, sending rabbit's skulls, turnips and other oddities through the mail. His expressed intention was not artistic, yet his projects seem like a forerunner of mail art and are quite inspiring. As a teenager I used to spend a lot of time in pubs and used beer mats as postcards - I'm not sure if the Royal Mail would deliver them nowada ...more
Jun 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mail art aficionados and philatelists
A fascinating and beautifully designed examination of the origins of mail art and pushing the (literal) envelope of what could be accomplished through the post. However, probably due to the fact that the story is told mainly through artifacts, clippings, and family legend several decades removed, there is a certain soul lacking in this account. Was there a reason for Bray's obsession with manipulating the postal system? We'll never know. ...more
Oct 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Only took me about an hour to read this...more suited to a coffee table than a bookshelf. Based on the title I expected more stories about the interesting adventures of posting strange things in the mail, but that only occupied a fraction of the book. I imagine it would be more interesting to stamp-collectors and historians interested in the turn of the century era.
Mark Flanagan
I love stories of individuals fascinated with odd pursuits. For W.R. Bray, the earliest pioneer of mail art, it was experimenting with the British postal service. [full review]. ...more
Henry Denander
Feb 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: letters, biography, art, mail
John Tingey's The Englishman Who Mailed Himself and Other Curious Objects (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010) is a wonderful book for anyone interested in mail art, this guy was before Ray Johnson and did some fantastic mailings! I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in mail art & postal art. The book is beautifully designed, full of illustrations! ...more
Mark Fallon
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The perfect book with which to start the year. John Tingey's beautifully written, beautifully designed and beautifully illustrated book chronicles the story of W. Reginald Bray (1879 - 1939), who tested the limits of postal regulations by sending different unwrapped objects - a turnip, a bowler hat, his terrier, and yes, himself - through the mail.

Nov 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
I was mostly interested in his successes exploiting the British postal system mailing things that one wouldn't think could be mailed (including himself) rather than the longer section about his collecting autographs. The illustrations are excellent. ...more
Jake Cooper
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
What made Englishman Bray tick? He could be like Willy Wonka, with a method to his madness, but we don't find out. The book, like a poorly-done museum, displays bewitching objects without illuminating them. ...more
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
I love this biography. I don't like biographies, but this one was cool. Everyone's got to have a hobby, I guess, and posting strange objects and sending requests for autographs is just as good as any. Dude led and interesting life. ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
An interesting, fairly short biography. I enjoyed the photos included of some of the original mail that was posted. I would have preferred more photos of the unique mail, and less of the autographs.
Ellen Brown
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
A fun read for anyone with the collecting bug.
Nov 08, 2010 rated it liked it
I hate to say this but it was only okay. I wanted to know EXACTLY how he posted his dog and himself. I raced through it maybe an hour of so.
P.k. salter
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting to think of what he would have gotten up to had he lived in the Age of the Internet.
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Delightful quick read with many fantastic pictures of Bray's collection. Great for people interested in the mail, collecting, and ephemera. ...more
Norman Conquest
Jul 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The inventor of mail art.
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
a remarkable story. who would've guessed that mail art could be traced back to 1898??? ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
still fantastic the second time around!
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