A Hundred Years Distant

  • Early postcards

    The first official postcard was introduced by Austria in 1869, and was soon followed by a number of countries across the world. In the early years, a country had to sign individual postal treaties with each nation it wished to correspond with, a complicated system which was simplified and regularised with the establishment of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874.

    Early picture postcard formats carried both the picture and space for a message in front, with the back left free for the name of the addressee, the destination address, and the postage stamp. In 1903 (in Europe) and 1906-07 (United States), the UPU instituted a 'divided back' format, which remains the format used for postcards produced anywhere in the world today. The postcards in this exhibition all date from the early ‘Divided Back’ era.

    H. A. Mirza and Sons

    Picture postcards were intimately connected to the new and popular technology of photography, with most being reproduced from photographs using various mechanical methods of reproduction. There were even periods – such as between the two world wars – when photographs themselves were used as postcards as they were inexpensively and easily mass-produced. So the line between photographer and postcard-publisher was often blurred, as we find in the case of H. A. Mirza and Sons. Although better known through the enormous range of picture postcards they sold, especially of pilgrimage sites in Mecca and Medina (as well as other places across Asia and South East Asia) they were first and foremost an established photographic firm based in Chandni Chowk, Shahjahanabad (Delhi) although their photographs are extremely difficult to come by.

    The Technology

    All the postcards seen in this exhibition are collotypes (also called heliotypes), printed in Germany (the major centre). A photomechanical process described as ‘half-way between lithography and photography’ it was extensively used from the mid-1850s onward and was used for commercial reproduction of images.

    More about the Archive


    In 2008, the photographic materials held at the Pictorial Archives of the Maharanas of Mewar (PAMM) were digitized and archived. The Bhagwat Prakash Photo Gallery was established within the City Palace Museum in March 2009. It is today a centre for the dissemination of this rich holding of visual material culture with the collection being made available for research and scholarship, and through exhibitions such as these to the museum-going public and wider community.

    Exhibition credits

    Curatorial: Mrinalini Venkateswaran, Sonika Soni, S. Girikumar, Prashant Lohar, Pramod Kumar KG
    Collaterals Design: The BrandNew Co.
    Design & Online Promotion: Vinita Sharma
    Design & Printing Centre: Prince Kazmi and Team
    Contact information: We would love to hear from you! To get in touch with us about this exhibition or with any other queries you might have, click here


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