Germany's postal service has set a new record after a letter was delivered to the correct address 286 years late.

The letter from a Lutheran church official in the town of Eisenach was sent to officials in the nearby town of Ostheim in 1718, authorising them to pick a new clergyman after the death of the former holder of the office.

But it was delivered by mistake to a different Ostheim near Frankfurt, and ended up in the town archives.

Karl Schneider, 73, a local historian from Ostheim-vor-der-Rhoen which should have received the letter almost 300 years ago uncovered the mistake while discussing archive material with a colleague from the other Ostheim where it was mistakenly sent.

Schneider matched the letter with names and events in his own town's history, and the letter was finally delivered Wednesday.

In the early days of Germany's postal service mail delivery was done by cattle merchants, as the royal post only connected the main cities.

Schneider added: "It was probably the earliest example of a letter sent to the wrong address as well, but at the end of the day it didn't affect history too much.