Messing about on the river
A postcard collection can have many ways of being organised – by places, subjects, artists, publishers – or by an individually invented theme that can straddle all those parameters. I’ve often thought of starting a collection based on the A1 road, for instance, and including postcards of characters and towns along the way. Such a linear collecting idea could, of course, be based on any route you care to name. Publishers Raphael Tuck must have had such an idea in mind when they followed up their earliest postcard series (24 artist-drawn London views) with a couple of dozen featuring the River Thames. Nos. 25-48 in the firm’s portfolio presented river views from the capital to Oxford, taking in famous locations like Richmond Bridge, Teddington Lock and Iffley Mill, along with the Regatta at Henley. Beautifully printed by a chromo-litho process, these undivided backs are often enhanced by a message on the picture side of the postcard (only the address was permitted on the reverse until the divided back was allowed in January 1902). Many collectors, though, demand that their cards be in pristine condition, and believe that perceived defects include writing on the front. Three of the cards I’ve illustrated in this series were used by the sender for a message – and that was the raison d’etre of a postcard. I personally think that, just as many postage stamps are enhanced by a cancellation and often rarer than their mint counterpart, a postally used card is far more interesting. Anyway, a Thames collection could soon grow, with a massive number of postcards published showing London river scenes and adjacent buildings, and could include cards of all the communities along the river. Arranged geographically from sea to source (or vice-versa!) that would be some impressive collection!