2¢ Brown (113), horizontal pair and single, each with horizontally split grills, on cover originating in Nagasaki, Japan, and addressed in French to Shanghai, China, stamps tied on arrival by quartered cork cancels of Shanghai, docketed with Nagasaki May 12, 1870, origin from Pignatel & Co. (one of the largest of the Western trading firms at the time), sender's manuscript steamer directive "Per Costa Rica"
Fine overall condition; one stamp in pair creased before use, minor separations and wear along folds, two tape stains at sides have been expertly removed, small ink notation at bottom left also expertly removed.
Very few interconsular covers originating in Nagasaki are recorded, and all but one bearing 1869 Pictorial Issue stamps were prepaid 6¢ for the rate from Japan to Shanghai, China. This cover is the earliest recorded example of the reduced 6¢ interconsular rate and one of only two known covers with this rate paid by the 2¢ 1869 Pictorial Issue. It is a wonderful artifact of U.S. postal services between Japan and China.
During this period, consular mails were carried by Pacific Mail Steam Ship Co. branch-line steamers from Shanghai, China, to Yokohama, Japan, with intermediate stops at Nagasaki and Hiogo, Japan (and the reverse). The entire trip took approximately eight days. This cover was carried on a westbound PMSS branch-line steamer that originated in Yokohama and stopped at Nagasaki on its journey to Shanghai. The table of PMSS Co. branch-line trips in the Frajola-Perlman-Scamp book is, by the authors' own admission, based on incomplete records. A sailing of the Costa Rica (or any other branch-line ship) corresponding to the May 12, 1870 Nagasaki docketing is not listed. The likely reason for the stamps being cancelled in Shanghai instead of Nagasaki is the cover was posted too late to be included in the bagged mail from Nagasaki, or was posted directly to the ship purser.
Illustrated in Rose, United States Postage Stamps of 1869 (p. 34) and Frajola-Perlman-Scamp, U.S. Post Offices in China and Japan (p. 188). Ex Ryohei Ishikawa, Jonathan W. Rose and Edgar Kuphal ("European's Large Gold" collection).