Do people still send postcards these days…?
Although publishers have recently jumped on board the nostalgia bandwagon with production of an ever-growing selection of postcard boxed sets, from 100 Writers in a Box cards to 100 postcards ‘from the desk of Jane Austen‘, there are still scant few books about postcards themselves. Tom Phillips laid the gauntlet down in 2000 with his incredible collection in The Postcard Century, and Guy Atkins has now produced a much more accessible (and portable) collection in Come Home At Once, which is by far the best book on the subject since Phillips’ mighty tome.
Whilst there are a handful of other coffee table volumes about the art of the postcard, what Phillips and Atkins have realised is that deltiology is not, and never has been, just about the picture. We collectors all have our own niches, our own eccentricities and interests. For me its simply postcards from my home town, which I blog about separately over at Greetings from Carlisle, but they must be used. I know for some ‘mint’ and ‘postally unused’ are the be-all and end-all but for us the message is the key – some folk would be horrified to hear that I regularly send and write previously unused vintage postcards – but it’s the message that makes that card unique; every used postcard carries a personal piece of history.
Atkins’ collection is a fine line in Edwardian postcards, and in this inexhaustibly intriguing book he has brought together some of his favourite and most engaging finds. Each postcard is reproduced, front and back, and they provide a snapshot of Edwardian social life; messages of love and friendship, business and pleasure, gossip and news are all here, as are codes, puzzles and jokes… even the early 20th century equivalent of emoticons. This isn’t just a book for PC geeks, it’s an entertaining and dip-in-and-out-able conversation starter for all, but it is a perfect example of why collecting postcards is so compelling; there’s history in the handwriting, mystery in the mundane and a never-ending supply of stories from voices long since silent.