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The Postcard Century: 2000 Cards and Their Messages [Paperback]

Tom Phillips
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: 19.95
Price: 17.60 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 Oct 2000
This work tells the story of the 20th century using images and messages from 2000 picture postcards. The postcards depict the day-to-day life of people and what mattered to them, pleased them, shocked or amused them via the cards they chose to send. Year-by-year the book presents everyone from the high and mighty to the low and the worthy talking about the characters, events and hot spots of the century. Saucy seaside jokes, the disasters of the war, the hazards of travel, the caprices of life in work and leisure - all are pictured and discussed. Each year begins with postcard views of the New York skyline and of Piccadily Circus. Though centred on Britain and the USA, cards come from every corner of the world, from Los Angeles to Beijing, from Antarctica to Alaska. Themes which evolved with the century emerge including: transportation (aviation takes us from the Wright Brothers to the moon); cinema; the role of women; fashion; and holidays. Each postcard is accompanied by a caption which places its message in context.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson (30 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500975906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500975909
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 24.3 x 30 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 400,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

"Today I sent my first post cards--they are capital things, simple, useful, and handy. A happy invention". This prescient diary entry for 4 October, 1870 came three days after the Post Office Act legalised the sale of the first postcards, a form that would survive even the advent of email more than a century later. It would remain reliably constant, while in its small, rectangular way illustrating a century of human achievement. Occasionally enigmatic, sometimes passionate and frequently banal messages collectively narrate an intimate social history, usually expressed through a faithful, haiku-like formula--greeting, weather, health of writer, inquiry as to health of correspondent, and goodbye. While aviation, advertising, cars, wars, fashion, politics and ethnicity provide leitmotifs, Royal Academician Tom Phillips, whose own prolific art has recurrently embraced quintessential English mores, astutely celebrates the marriage of the democratic language of mundanity and the imagery of the monumental. From cards sent during the Blitz by senders more preoccupied by the rain than by the falling bombs, to Donald McGill's timelessly saucy ribaldry, the medium spans and connects a century it seems unlikely to outlast for too long.

Each year has four pages, the first of which shows a full-size reproduction, plus a brace of cards depicting Piccadilly Circus and New York (unconsciously echoing the publisher's name). The passage of time sees cards come from further afield, passing into gaudy Technicolor, and then the modern photographic image, but while the emblematic New York skyline glitters with an increasingly towering swagger, by 1999 its London counterpart is still a red Routemaster bus, perhaps a suitable reflection of respective self-worth. Phillips curates with a keen eye, on and within the card, ensuring no scrap of detail goes unnoticed in his pleasurably digressive notations, and, like photographer Martin Parr (a fellow collector who also relishes grubbing around at dusty fairs), he is compelled by a complicated affection. In the same vein as Parr's Boring Postcards, it re-affirms an underrated, rich medium of the vernacular, as well as Phillips' position as one of Britain's most versatile artists. --David Vincent

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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 13 Nov 2000
This is a brilliant and fascinating book. Whatever your interests you'll be entertained, amused, educated and moved by this unprecedented history of real life, changing times, personalities, social trends, fashion and the just bizarre. Months of browsing, and years of reference guaranteed!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Postcard Century 21 Sep 2010
As a veteran postcard collector, I hugely recommend this book. Every card is faithfully reproduced; the author gives us the messge on each (and the cards shown bear some very interesting ones!). Divided up year by year, this is both a pictorial history of the last century and also a collector's bible. There are not many subject areas that are not covered. I've been reading it non-stop since I bought my copy a week ago.....
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4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to enjoy - unless seated at a table! 10 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very enjoyable book content-wise, but very uncomfortable for an old, not very well man. No anticipation of its bulk and weight - probably my own lack of research.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just perfect 13 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought for my Dad who loves old postcards and history. 2000 postcards through the 20th Century with the senders remarks and comments. A fascinating insight and an ideal birthday gift.
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