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Small and large figures cancels in NORD.

The post offices in Nord.

To begin, I shall explain the administrative organization of France.
This country is divided in
1) Regions (Departments); which in turn are divided into 
2) Districts; and further subdivided into
3) Cities, towns and villages.

"NORD" is one of the many Departments of France. The chief city in  NORD is LILLE.
From a postal history point of view, Nord is one of the most important Departments. Its geographic location being near Belgium, the North Sea and the U.K. made that the Post Office  progress very quickly.


From the birth of the postage stamp to mid-January 1849 , the Post used a great variety of postmarks to cancel stamps. Starting about the middle of January, 1849 the first anonymous (dumb) grill lozenge reached most post offices and continued in use for about  3 years.

Lettre de Cassel affranchie avec un n°3
On Jan 12 1849, the post office of CASSEL did not use the grill cancellation but instead used its date stamp.
Oblitération grille "muette".
From mid January 1849 to December 31 1851, every post offices in France used the grill lozenge to cancel postage stamps.
Late in  1851, the Administration decided to update its list of post offices and decided to change means of cancelling.The change was planned for January 1st, 1852. But due to manufacturing delay, the post offices used there new  " Small Figures "cancels (In French "Petits Chiffres") about the second middle of january 1852.This cancel consisted  of a lozenge-shape of dots in the center of which was the number of the post office in the new list of post offices (ancestor of the zip code).The post offices already existing in 1851 were given a number  in a alphabetical order.The post offices created after 1851 were given number in a  chronological order.
Extract of the circular n° 77,  january 1, 1852.
After 10 years, a new alphabetic list was made in December 1862.On this occasion, a new cancelation was born: the Large Figures(in French "Gros Chiffres"). The post offices already existing in 1862 were assigned a number  in a alphabetical order.The post offices created after 1862 were given number in a  chronological order.
The postal authorities asked to use the new type of lozenge from January 1, 1863.But some post offices used it before, in the end of 1862.
The Administration also asked to exchange their small figures following the new 1862 list, but this order was respected by only a few post offices.These numeral cancels could be used in reinforcement or if the large numerals would be damaged or lost. These cancellations are called Small Figures of the Large Figures (in French "Petits Chiffres des Gros Chiffres").
On the other hand, from 1871 (after the French-Prussian war) and the annexation by Prussia of a part of the eastern departments, the numbers of the annexed post offices were redistributed in offices recently created in the rest of the French territory.
In several post offices we can notice Large Figures numerals which have not the same shape that the original copy. These cancels are not locally manufactured.These stamps were cast iron and could not be repaired locally.They were supplied by the Equipment Bureau in Paris at the request of post offices (to replace a damaged stamp or to have one of it more).The Equipment Bureau had at least one replacement Large Figures handstamp in stock. But several times the reserve handstamp had already been sent to the post office which asked for it and had not been replaced. It was thus necessary to appeal to a manufacturer (in contract with the Post Office).There was several manufacturers which worked for the Post Office.

From a manufacturer to the other one, it could have differences in the handstamps supplied to the Post office. The Large Figures cancels which have different shape of figures are called "remade" ("Refait" en French).
The French numerals period ended in the end of March 1876,
Instruction No.193 in the Monthly Bulletin No. 84 of March 1876 was received at different times from one post office to another. Therefore, the end date of  "Large numerals" can be different for each office. In general, it is considered that their use is late after March 28 and very late after April 1, 1876.

The regular ink for these cancellation is black. However, we can find green, blue en red ink.
In Nord, the green numerals cancels are unknown.
We can very rarely find blue and red Small Figures cancels. The blue strikes of Large Figures cancels can be met more frequently. Red strikes are rare. Concerning Small Figures of the Large Figures colored strikes are extremly rare.


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