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1505 __ Thurn and Taxis postal system
Comment : In 1505, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I established a postal system in the Empire, appointing Franz von Thurn und Taxis to run it. The Thurn and Taxis family, then known as Tassis, had operated postal services between Italian city states from 1290 onwards. Franz (Francisco) von Taxis (I459 - I5I7) had set up a horse based message transport system which had prooven to be so efficient that the Habsburg needed it to control their expanding empire in I490 Emperor Frederick 3rd offered a communications monopoly to the Bergamo/Italy based family. Following the abolition of the Empire in 1806 the Thurn and Taxis postal system continued as a private organisation, continuing to exist into the postage stamp era before finally being absorbed into the postal system of the new German Empire after 1871. Branches of the family operated local and national postal services in Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, and the Low Countries (now The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg), working both with and against other couriers.The family employed up to 20,000 messengers not only to carry mail but also to deliver newspapers. From 1852 they issued postage stamps. The last Thurn and Taxis postal system was purchased and nationalized by the Prussian government in 1867. A coiled horn, part of the family’s coat of arms, remains a symbol of many European postal services. (Compiled from various sources.)The epoch of the postal system known as literature, which had dawned in the name of individual education, found its master signifier in the name ir stills bears today in Germany : Goethe. [...] What appears certain, however, is what Heinrich von Stephan learned in 1874 from a Baltic historian in the rooms of the Imperial Postal Museum : “that Goethe had received from the princes [of Thurn and Taxis] the privilege of sending his letters free of charge in the entire Thurn and Taxis postal district, and that these letters always were sealed with black wax and authorized by Goethe’s initials”. [...] By granting the privilege of exempltion to his onetime neighbor, the postal prince merely lent truth to what the latter would write about the Taxis Post in “Poetry and Truth”, Goethe assessed the “widespread” expansion of “moral and literary exchange” as the establishment of a police of the heart (“A person would spy on his own and others’ hearts”), in the same way Klüber did - as a result of the fact that “the Taxis postal system was reliably swift, the seal secure, and the postage reasonable”. That was an esay thing for Goethe to say, since - with the most affordable postage imaginable for letters bearing the name Goethe - the Taxis indeed had promoted an expansion of literary exchange woth no other purpose than deifying the author and constructing an Age of Goethe. In the days before Rowland Hill, it was general practice that recipients paid the postage, rather than senders, in order to make sure they actually received the letter, and consequently it was not just Goethe’s letters that were free of charge, but also the letters of Goethe’s friends, Goethe’s readers, and Goethe’s admirers of every possible description. Only a year after the privilege was granted, this postal a priori already was sustaining “Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child” and the epistolary novel that came out of it. Bettina Brendano was permitted to write letters without end - and that means love letters - to Weimar every post day because the postal system had set aside a pstage-free channel for just such a relationship between feminine readers and the author. [...] Bettina said so herself. “Adieu. I am ashamed of my bulky letter, in whch there may be much nonsense. If you were not exempt from postage, I would not sent it”. [...] Literature as an epoch of the postal system ‘was’ such a charade; it allowed poetry, which was addressed to innumerable women, to function in the eyes of every feminine reader as though it were a private letter written to her and her alone. Established by the Taxis Post’s invitation for all women to post their readerly love, Goethe’s empire stretched beyond the Free City of Frankfurt, where Bettina wrote her letters, and Saxony-Weimar, where his postage-free address had created the center of attraction for all letters. Goethe’s empire also encompassed the following cities and states : Württemberg, Kurhessen, the Grand Duchy of Hessen, Hessen-Nassau, Saxony-Meiningen, Saxony-Coburg-Gotha, the principalities of Reuss and Schwarzburg, the Hanseatic cities of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck, the Hohenzollern principality, the principalities of Lippe-Detmold and Schaumburg-Lippe, and to top it all off, the cnaton of Schaffhausen. [...] That, at least, was the opinion of Clemens Brentano, a postal official by the grace of Goethe : « The writer must at the same time write to himself, since he must become acquainted with himself through the letter. You told me, after all, that the world seemed to infinitely vast to you and you felt lost within it. All of this comes from the fact that you are not yet acquainted with the person inside yourself. You do not yet comprehend yourself, but in letters you look into the mirror of your soul; this is why the deepest truth vis-à-vis yourself is such an urgent need if you are not to fall into error regarding yourself. Because the noble soul has a higher destination (Bestimmung) ! To obey this is its entire mission; the world is so full of events, it’s like a fabric in which the harmonious education of every individual must serve as a necessary and sturdy thread. ». In Goethe’s postal empire, letters passed at once through a route of transmission and a route of feedback. (Bernhard Siegert)
French comment : En 1516, la famille de Taxis dirige un service postal basé à Bruxelles qui est relié par courrier avec Rome, Naples, l'Espagne, l'Allemagne et la France. Les Tassis [Thurn und Taxis] sont connus pour avoir, dès le XIIIe siècle, organisé le transport de correspondances. Au XVe siècle, Ruggiano de Tassis a fondé un service postal en Italie. À Innsbruck, le 11 décembre 1489, son petit-fils Jeannetto de Tassis est nommé Grand Maître des Postes. Avec sa parenté, il commence l'établissement d'une poste internationale qui va fortement se développer grâce au travail de son frère François, basé à Malines puis à Bruxelles. L'empereur Charles V nomme Jean-Baptiste de Tour et Taxis maître général des postes en 1520. À Bruxelles une plaque en bronze commémore la création du service postal Thurn und Taxis, sur la façade de l'ancien bâtiment du Musée Instrumental, rue de la Régence. La famille va garder le monopole postal du service international pendant des siècles, tissant un important réseau d'influence ; elle va aussi créer d'autres entreprises.Originaires de Cornello dei Tasso dans la vallée du Brembo à proximité de Bergamo / Bergame en Italie, les Tasso (appelés aussi Tassis - Tasso signifie blaireau en italien) opéraient à la fin du XIIIème siècle un service de courrier entre plusieurs villes de Lombardie. Au XIVème siècle, ils participèrent à Venise à la création et à la direction de la "Compagnia dei Corrieri della Serenissima" (Compagnie des Courriers de la Sérénissime). Dans la seconde moitié du XVème siècle, Francisco Tasso créa pour le pape une liaison entre Milan (Milano) et Innsbrück en Autriche et attira ainsi l'attention de l'empereur de Vienne. Ensuite il germanisa son nom en Franz von Taxis et s'installa à Bruxelles pour étendre son service postal. En 1490, l'empereur Frédéric III, soucieux de disposer de bonnes communications pour maîtriser son empire alors étendu de l'Autriche aux Pays Bas, confia à la famille Thurn und Taxis (appelée en français Tours et Taxis) le monopole postal sur toutes ses possessions. La Poste Thurn und Taxis a longtemps été la plus performante d'Europe. Son principe de fonctionnement reposait sur des parcours fixes avec des relais pour les chevaux environ tous les 40 kilomètres. A son apogée, cette entreprise comptait 20 000 employés et plusieurs milliers de chevaux. Grâce à cette organisation, au XVIIIème siècle le courrier entre Bruxelles et Innsbrück était assuré en 5 jours. La famille Thurn und Taxis quitta Bruxelles pour établir le siège de sa Poste en Allemagne à Frankfurt am Main (Francfort sur le Main) en 1724 sur ordre de l'empereur Karl VI. Sérieusement écorné par Napoléon, le monopole postal des Thurn und Taxis s'étiola progressivement durant le XIXème siècle. En 1867, la Prusse nationalisa ce qui restait du service postal et la famille Thurn und Taxis se reconvertit dans d'autres activités. Presque 600 ans de service postal en Europe prenaient fin. Le cor qui est toujours le symbole de la Poste de Slovénie et de nombreux autres pays d'Europe, était initialement un des emblèmes de la famille Thurn und Taxis.A la fin du 15e siècle la famille Thurn und Taxis a commencé à couvrir le centre de l'Europe avec d'innombrables relais de poste. Mais aucun de ses membres n'avait probablement pressenti à quel point le transport de nouvelles serait réputé et lucratif. Le transport de message a été révolutionné : il était précédemment de 25 km par jour. Grâce aux messagers à cheval qui livraient leur chargement aux "stations de poste" comme un bâton de relais, la distance parcourue par jour est passée à 166 km. (Compiled from various sources)
Source : Siegert, Bernhard (1999), “Relays : literature as an epoch of the postal system”, translated by Kevin Repp, Stanford University Press, Chapter 7, pp. 62-73.
Urls : http://www.phonebookoftheworld.com/thurnandtaxis.htm (last visited )

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