In the history of the town of Vilnius is reflected the eventful history of Lithuania. The town was founded in 1323 by archduke Gediminas and becames the capital of the strongly expanding Lithuania. The personal union with Poland (1386) formed the great Polish-Lithuanian empire. As Lithuania in the east more and more crumbled off, Poland became more and more dominant in this whole. In 1569 the Union between Poland and Lithuania was formed, by which Lithuania became more a part of Poland.

In 1773 the eastern part of Lithuania, which formed part of the Polish-Lithuanian empire, became part of Russia. In 1795 the rest of Poland was divided -Third Partition of Poland- and the rest of Lithuania also became a part of the Russian empire. Lithuania was divided in three government areas : Kowno (Kaunas), Wilna (Vilnius) en Grodno (Gardinas). After 1815 the district Suwalki (Suvalkai) also came to Russia.
For a long time there no postmarks were used in the Russian Empire: letters were registered instead. Sometimes the weight and the received amount had been written on the backside of the letter.
However used already in some places, there came official postmarks in 1782, which were introduced as proof that the correct tariff was received.
In the postal regulations of 22 October 1830 it was decreed that all letters, both when sent and on arrival, must get a postmark with place and date.

From this pre-adhesive stamp period (or pre-philately) a letter from Vilnius, 1837, here below:

Picture (JPEG resized to 60 %) send by M. Lam

The seldom seen postmark:

The postmark in in an old spelling. Vilnius is to recognize very well, the second word is 'January' in a very old form.

The postmark was not only a sign that the mail was weighed and registered and the rate was paid, it was also an sender-postmark and in fact all letters were so registered.
Often by departure als a second postmark was given: the departure-postmark. In the place of arrival an arrival-postmark was used.

By the reform of 1830 only the post-offices of St.Peterburg and Mocow held a governing function. The new Government-postoffices, as Vilnius, resorted direct under the 'Head-Postadministration', which was a part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
By the reform of 1884 the post offices were classified in seven classes. This classification was done on base of rate of 'turnover'. On the top was KONTARA Class I with an turnover of at least 100.000 rubel.

With this also the necessity of cancellation comes into existence. In the beginning postmarks of the former period were still used for the date on the backside of the cover in combination with 'cancelling' by a writtencross in black ink. Of course this was not efficient and the cancellation could be removes for re-using the postage stamp until the introduction of number-cancellations.
The numbers "1" and "2" in circles of dots were introduced as number-cancellations for St. Petersburg and Moscow in circular no. 138 of 26 february 1858. The other towns had to use the old postmarks until the coming of new cancels.Circular no. 1847 of 31May 1858 introduced these kind of cancellations for whole Russia. The circular no. 157 of 17 august 1858 gives more details.
A number (3 to 60) surrounded by points in the form of three concentric circles belongs to capitals of "guberniya", centers of districts, centers of militar districts, S.Petersburg and Moscow. #5 belongs to Wilno as capital of Wilno gub. and #19 to Kovno, as capital of Kovno gub.

Alongside you see the stamp with number "5", the number indicating Vilnius. The stamp is Mi. 2x (10. kop.)
The number-cancellations were used a short period, 1857-1860, so we find them only on the first stamps of Russia (Mi. 1-7). For the backside also the old postmarks were still used. Postage stamps were used for mail to foreign countries not until 1864.

Original print size of this image: 1,973 x 2,633 cm (is something more as the postal item)
This picture and all pictures below on this page, if not mentioned otherwise: scanned about 300 dpi. Then set right and cut out - noted the actual print size-, resized 25 % of this image and saved as jpg. The image of the stamp above is not resized 25 %, but 50 %.

With circular 123 of 11 December came the end for the numeral cancellations in most postoffices. Only railway and post stations and ROPIT offices used the triangular numeral cancellations until 2 June 1877.
More about the other types of dotted number-cancellations:
see page about other places: numeral dot cancels and Pagelažiai