Book review: Messages on Edwardian Postcards

Just like we exchange What’sApp messages and memes in the 21st century, at the turn of the last century families, friends, and courting couples utilised the postal service and picttorial cards for communication and information.

Freda Gittos has collated several of these examples for her paperback collection, Messages on Edwardian Postcards. As a window into the social history of the life within the realm of Edward VII, both photographs and handwritten messages continue to fascinate.

Whether simple exchanges (“I will be there ..”/”Will you be there …”) or short stories taking up every inch of allowed space, this brings these long-gone folks back to life. There’s a young boy who writes to his mother from school to “come now “, and a teacher who invites one errant schoolboy to deign to come in.

There are love notes, elaborate codes from morse to mirror writing, and captures from daily life – the shops that suffered a fire in the night, a ‘knocker-upper’ in urban Oldham waking the mill-workers in the morning.

I would have liked a bit more context for each section, as the actual author’s text is sparse. Also, collecting is such a personal hobby, so what prompted Gittos to bring these examples together from far and wide, particularly the French Art Deco cards?

As a book of illustration, this is a lovely piece of work, and it is often an interesting task in itself to decepher the cursive handwriting of the past. Addresses, too, are instructive – “The Misses Lark”, a simple house name and town.

Perhaps a niche book, I liked flicking through this but was left wanting to know a bit more about what I was seeing and perhaps even a timeline of what was going on then, outside of the minutiae of daily life.

However, Messages on Edwardian Postcards is a valuable addition to what might be termed ‘unintentional mass observation’ after the detailed diarising of the early part of the 20th century.

You can purchase Messages on Edwardian Postcards by Freda Gittos here.

*** (and a half)