National Library of Australia, 2016, paperback $44.99 ISBN 9780642278777
The humble postcard enjoyed a relatively brief but spectacular place in postage history roughly from the 1890s to the 1920s. They were cheap and attractive and enjoyed a reduced postage rate. In 1906 alone the Sydney GPO handled more than 12 million of them. Many more which were not posted were tucked into postcard albums, to remind their owner of past travels or to impress visitors.
Jim Davidson, a postcard collector and historian, has now compiled what amounts to a social history of Australia as depicted in its postcards. In this handsome book, full of nostalgic glimpses of an earlier time, he displays close to 300 of them, almost all from the National Library’s remarkable collection. Grouped by themes such as the beach, country towns, disasters, hotels, the military and politics, he demonstrates how postcards reflected and recorded our country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Thanks to keen collectors, and libraries like the National Library, these small but important pieces of evidence about our past have been preserved when they could so easily have been jettisoned as more efficient forms of communication emerged and captured the imagination and interest of the public. Now we can all enjoy them and learn from them.