from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A postcard or picture postcard is a postcard with a picture print on the back, or she herself is a photographic paper image. Today there are cards that sometimes have additional images on the address page. In a broader sense, this includes not only printed, but also painted or drawn copies. The postcard is primarily used for written, illustrated correspondence , but is also used as a souvenir or collected as a historical pictorial document. The term picture postcard is sometimes used synonymously with postcard, but in some cases it is not identical, as there is also a separate form of postcard with this name.

Initially, postcard publishers commissioned artists and lithographers to create designs for their postcards. Later, the image material usually came from photographers, as is still the case today. Since the shipping costs of the postcard were usually lower than that of a letter, it was for a long time the cheapest form of written correspondence with illustration. The market for new postcards is tending to decline because more and more modern forms of communication (e.g. MMS or e- Mail ) can be used.

Collecting and researching postcards and picture postcards is referred to as philocartie .


Oldest known German postcard (forerunner) from lithographer Wilhelm Schneider, Worms .


When and by whom the first postcard was printed is not known for sure. The first possible manufacturer was the engraver Demaison from France , who, according to "L'Almanach de la Petite Poste de Paris", is said to have printed cards as early as 1777, possibly even with pictures. Neither of these cards exist today nor of the almanac , which is quoted in other sources with the information that “there are currently certain engravings of cards that are sent through the post with openly readable messages. The new invention comes from the engraver Demaison, and there is a lot of talk about it. "

As in 1840 for the first time in England , the stamps were introduced, there was sent a hand-painted map illustrated in the same year. This card sold for a total of £ 31,750 in 2002.

The first full-page illustrated German card that was sent without an envelope, as far as we know today, dates from 1866. It contains an invitation to the hunt, comes from the lithographer Wilhelm Schneider from Worms and was sent by post on December 5, 1866. This card printed on light green cardboard ran from Westhofen to Offstein with two 1-crown postage stamps ( Thurn-und-Taxis-Post ).

Before the postcard was first officially introduced in Austria-Hungary in 1869, there were other forerunners of the postcard, for example the so-called " open cards " in the old German postal areas . On them, however, only very rarely did an image completely take up a page of the map. However, this card was also printed and sent before the introduction of correspondence cards (postcards) and is therefore to be regarded as a forerunner. The oldest card of this type is an open card discovered in 2007 at a flea market with Berlin PE No. 12 of March 28, 1867 and a Prussian stamp 1 silver groschen (Michel No. 16).

First postcards

Originally, postcards were only intended for purely written correspondence without illustration, at that time they were still called correspondence cards. The Oldenburg printer and bookseller August Schwartz already printed a card with a woodcut vignette on July 16, 1870, 15 days after the official introduction of the correspondence card in the northern German postal area, and sent it to Magdeburg by post. Schwartz was the first German to print and mail an illustrated postcard. However, this card did not have a fully printed side, only a smaller image with an artillery picture . There are also some other alleged "postcard inventors", ie people who thought they had invented the postcard or were mistaken for it. Although this question about the "inventor" has been tried many times since the beginning of the philosopher's catalog, it has not yet been resolved so clearly. Depending on the national or local origin of the authors, different people have also been mistaken for it. It also depends on the definition of what counts as a postcard and what is not.

The oldest known Austro-Hungarian card was sent as registered mail (Reko) from Vienna to Zombor and back to Vienna on May 19, 1871 . The Serb Petar Manojlovic sent the card to his cousin, the lawyer Demeter Manojlovic. Postcards were not officially allowed in Austria-Hungary until January 1, 1885. The only known specimen has been lost since 1936, but was auctioned off at an auction by the Weissenböck auction house at the end of October 2009 for a price of 11,000 euros.

From 1871 the post office sold postcards and greeting cards. Since July 1, 1872, private motif postcards not produced by the post office have also been permitted in Germany.

From around 1885 we can speak of a tentative start to the postcard industry. Earlier cards are very rare.

Big boom

It took about 1896 for the big breakthrough of postcards in Germany. Outside of the German-speaking countries, they only became really popular a few years later. One reason for the increasing popularity of the cards was the use of chromolithography , which enabled colored cards instead of just black and white. Another reason was the increasing tourism that was created by mass traffic. Attractiveness in terms of price and mass production were made possible by the use of the high-speed press .

Until the outbreak of the First World War, postcards were mainly used for greetings from excursions and trips or for congratulations on a birthday, the turn of the year and other festive occasions. Traveling abroad was nowhere near as common as it is today. Therefore, the majority of the cards were sent within the country's borders. During the First World War, a large number of cards were sent as field post , and during the Nazi era they were often used as propaganda postcards . Many cards with chauvinistic or war-glorifying depictions therefore date from the time of the world wars. After this time, postcards were mostly used again for short messages about trips or as an increasingly international holiday greeting.

In Germany in particular, a distinctive printing industry developed that produced higher quality postcards than before and, compared to other countries, was also of higher quality and supplied customers worldwide. Important printing companies and publishers at the beginning of the 20th century that produced postcards far beyond their national borders included Emil Pinkau & Co. , Dr. Trenkler & Co. , Louis Glaser and Trinks & Co. in Leipzig, Römmler & Jonas and Stengel & Co. in Dresden, Knackstedt & Näther , M. Glückstadt & Münden , HAJ Schultz & Co Nachf. And Albert Aust in Hamburg, Brück & Son in Meißen, Purger & Co. in Munich, Reinicke & Rubin in Magdeburg, Photoglob and the postcard publisher Künzli from Carl Künzli-Tobler and successors in Zurich, Brunner & Co. in Como, Raphael Tuck & Sons in London and Neurdein Frères as well as Léon & Lévy in Paris.

With the development and increasing spread of modern means of communication (e.g. e-mail , social networks on the Internet) and image technologies (e.g. digital photography , MMS ), postcards are becoming increasingly less important, but they are still present in everyday life.

Different types of postcards

By types of images and intended use

Artist postcard from Hans Baluschek to Arthur von Wallpach , 1896
Topography maps
Images of cities, towns, landscapes or bodies of water. The images typically show famous buildings, well-known places, sights or characteristic views of the area visited and are intended to give an impression of where you are. Cards of this type have been the most common and popular since the beginning.
Motif cards
Cards with different motifs such as B. Animals, technology, art reproductions.
Artist postcards
Not only individual artists such as Joseph Beuys , Dieter Roth , Horst Janssen , Günter Brus , but also members of artist groups ( Wiener Werkstätte , Bauhaus , Brücke , Blauer Reiter ) created cards.
greeting cards
For greetings on different occasions such as B. Birthday, Christmas, wedding.
Promotional cards
As a marketing tool z. B. as free postcards .

Types according to time and printing technique

Rough classification of the most common types of printing for postcards according to time
  • until 1894: monochrome lithographs
  • 1895 to 1906: multicolored chromolithographs
  • 1914 to 1965: b / w real photo cards
  • from 1970: colored real photo cards

Other old printing techniques for postcards are e.g. B. Heliogravure (Heliocolorkarten), the woodcut and the autotype . Virtually all printing processes were used for postcards at some point.

Early cards and predecessor cards

The early days of postcards were dominated by blank cards. Early illustrated cards from the time before postcards became a widely used matter of course are now often referred to as "forerunners". It is better to avoid this literally incorrect use of the term, since a forerunner cannot be a postcard of the same kind. A better term is early postcards . These early maps are often printed on brownish-yellowish cardboard and almost always in one color, often using lithography . The image prints often take up a rather small area. Today they are rare collector's items that often fetch prices in excess of 100 euros.

Forerunners in the true sense of the word are the so-called "open maps" of old German postal areas, which are sometimes also illustrated. Another possible definition describes forerunners as cards that had to be sent in a sealed envelope, since until the introduction of postcards or "open cards", cards were not officially sent by post without an envelope or a cruciate ligament.


Lithography is an old, from today's perspective comparatively complex printing technique that could only be used for relatively small editions. Initially, lithographs were almost always monochrome, from around 1895 postcards were mainly printed as multi-colored chromolithographs . With multi-colored lithographs, different layers of color are printed on top of one another. Usually two or more single images of a place or a city were grouped around a main view or total view. Lithographs are often decorated with ornamentation , flourishes, frames, tendrils, flowers or leaves. Postcards from this era are not automatically all lithographs, as is sometimes incorrectly stated in online auctions. Typically for topographic lithographs from this time is a lettering on the picture side with place names: Greetings from ...

The era of chromolithography came to an almost abrupt end around 1906. After this time there was also a relatively clear change in the style of the postcards, because at that time Art Nouveau was coming to an end.

Cards made with this printing process are very popular with many collectors today. In the collector jargon they are often just as litho or plural as lithographs called. Litho cards are to be seen less from a photographic-documentary point of view than from an aesthetic or decorative point of view, since they were designed by lithographers .

Photo postcards

Until around 1920, black and white photo cards were often used in addition to collotype printing, and silver bromide printing . Later photo cards were usually produced with the offset printing that is still used today , initially in black and white. From 1960, color photo cards in four-color printing became more and more popular. Four-color offset printing is economical for runs of 1,000 or more; digital printing is also used for short runs of less than 500 pieces . In the past, when there was no real color photography, cards were often re -colored by hand - sometimes with stencils . Older photo cards have a matte surface and newer ones almost always have a glossy surface.

Photo postcards are in the English language as RPPC ( r eal p hoto p ost c denotes ARDS). In the German-speaking area, only the real photo postcard is unique. Photo postcards may also be used to denote printed postcards, i.e. not photographic postcards, because a photograph was used as the template.

Other features

Shared address page

Postcard from Iquique 1900, before the introduction of the split address page.

The address page was originally intended purely for postage stamps, postmarks and addressing. No message was allowed to be written down and the address lines ran over almost the entire width of this map page. Messages had to be written on the picture side. From 1905 the address side of the postcard was divided in Germany, with the left side being available for messages. According to the Official Gazette of the Reichs-Postamt in Berlin, Order No. 2 of January 17, 1905, from February 1, 1905 onwards, letters were written on the front of the postcards (= address side ) in domestic German traffic . approved on a trial basis. The vertical division bar was not allowed to cross the left half of the card. From April 1, 1905, the split address page was officially introduced, but only for postcards, not for all postcards and not for mailing abroad.

Introduction of the shared address page in other countries
  • 1902 England (January)
  • 1903 Canada (December 18)
  • 1904 France, Austria (November 23)
  • 1905 Netherlands, Australia (January), Switzerland
  • 1907 USA

This new subdivision was introduced in 1906 by the Universal Postal Congress in Rome on October 1st, 1907 for all types of postcards. Shared cards are therefore never older than the date of introduction of a corresponding regulation in the respective country. With undivided cards there is usually still unprinted space on the face side for a few words to the recipient.

Image description

Since the address side of the postcard was initially reserved for the recipient's address , in addition to the message from the sender , a description of the image (location, naming of the buildings, landscapes, etc.) and publisher information had to be placed on the image side. After 1905, the publisher's information was initially found more frequently on the address page, while - even with real photo cards - the description of the picture was still predominantly integrated on the picture page. Only in the last few decades has the image description been almost always printed on the address side.

Front and back

For Swiss Post, the address side is the front of the postcard and the picture side is the back. This stipulation also applies to German philatelic and philo-cartistic terminology and to all types of postcards. In English-speaking countries, for example, this is done the other way around for postcards.


Market description

Card stand for 120 different cards (shown on a postcard)
Detailed view of a card stand

The heyday of postcards is known as the "golden age of postcards" between 1897 and 1918. Many such cards were sent out during this time and there was a considerable selection of them. It has not achieved this great popularity since then because it was gradually replaced by more modern forms of communication such as telephone and later e-mail. In contrast to in the past, it is no longer worthwhile for publishers to offer maps of all locations, as the demand is too low these days. Instead, there are maps of regions or large metropolises with a lot of tourism. There are still some postcards to buy from well-known tourist places or attractions and many of them are also sold there. In shops there are now more genre photo postcards (e.g. exotic landscapes or animals), art postcards and greeting cards to buy instead of local topographical postcards, and humorous cards and saying cards are also popular today. There are only a few large postcard publishers left.

Some German and Austrian postcard publishers were also of international importance in the period before the First World War. At that time, many postcards from Germany were sold in the USA. B. obtained from the Munich publishing house from Ottmar Zieher . Various motifs (e.g. coin and postage stamp motifs or embossed cards) were produced especially for the American market. The reason for the top international position of these publishers was a leading position in printing technology.

Since a lot more manual labor was required at the beginning and the market was larger, the large postcard publishers at the time often had more than 100 employees.

A special market area are historical postcards that are purchased by collectors. It can be stated that the market has collapsed significantly in recent years: On the one hand, the area of ​​collecting has lost its popularity, on the other hand, the range of products and the competition between providers, for example due to the Internet, have grown significantly. The prices for individual pieces are based, among other things, on the frequency of the motif, the age of the card and its condition. There are points of contact with the collecting area of philately (stamps on the card) or the collecting of autographs (card written or signed by a known person).


Postcards are either made by specialist publishers or by local photographers, stationery and souvenir shops. Today everyone can have their own postcards with their own digital images printed as individual items from various providers on the Internet. Even before the Internet age, small numbers of postcards were produced by private individuals or they were painted as unique postcards, so there are cards drawn as unique items by some well-known artists.


Postcards are now often sent to friends and relatives during trips or excursions. Besides, they are also used for all kinds of congratulations and greetings. It is still considered a friendly and polite courtesy to write postcards while you are out and about or on certain occasions. They have long been used for all sorts of advertising purposes.

Old postcards are important historical and art-historical evidence, which often serve as sources for home chronicles and numerous other publications. Since private photographs of objects from this period are rare, postcards are often the only non-official photographs. They were used as a template, for example to restore buildings destroyed by the war to their original appearance. When dating a photograph copied as a postcard, however, it must be taken into account that an older template may have been used for the print. It is also possible that cards were only sold or used a long time after their production, so that the postmark or the date on which they were written on the card only provides a terminus ante quem . In addition to private individuals, museums and archives collect such maps, among other things for cultural, documentary and local history purposes.

See also


General literature

  • Günter Formery: The large encyclopedia of postcards: an encyclopedia of the Philokartie , Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2018, ISBN 978-3-928277-21-1 .
  • Günter Formery, Thomas Fürst: The world of postcard collecting. 3rd, unchanged edition. Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2015, ISBN 978-3-932198-91-5 .
  • Hanspeter Frech: History of the development of illustrated postcards. In: Michel-Rundschau. No. 10/1994, pp. 764-776.
  • Horst Hille: Collectible postcard. transpress Verlag, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-344-00401-8 .
  • Herbert Leclerc: Views on postcards. In: Archive for German Postal History. Issue 2/1986, pp. 5-65.
  • Arnold Linke: Views and maps are like postcards. Supplementary to the early history of the postcard. In: Post and Telecommunications History. No. 1, 1997, ISSN  1430-4597 , pp. 60-71.
  • Arnold Linke, Wolfram Richter: Guide for postcard collectors and those who want to become one. Salzwasserverlag, Bremen 2007, ISBN 978-3-86741-091-5 .
  • Anna Spiesberger: Postkarten , in: Südwestdeutsche Archivalienkunde , Landeskunde discover online (leo bw), 2017
  • Otto Wicki: history of postcards and picture postcards. Verlag Zumstein & Cie., Bern 1996, ISBN 3-909278-13-2 .

Literature on specific subjects or genres

  • Sándor Békési: The topographical picture postcard. On the history and theory of a mass medium. In: Relation. Contributions to comparative communication research. Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Online Special NF / n, p. 1 (2004), ISSN  1813-6885 , p. 403-426. (URL: )
  • Hans Dichand (ed.), Michael Martischnig: Art Nouveau postcards . Harenberg Kommunikation, Dortmund 1978, ISBN 3-921846-16-1 . (with postcards from the Wiener Werkstätte )
  • Kirsten Baumann, Rolf Sachsse, Bernd Dicke: modern greetings. Photographed architecture on postcards 1919–1939. Architecture Photography in 1920s and 1930s Germany. Arnoldsche Verlagsanstalt, 2004, ISBN 3-89790-019-X .
  • Michael Mente: Postcards are a matter of opinion - pictures, greetings and metadata. About the value of topographical postcards in archive holdings and insights into questions of their archival indexing . (Churer writings on information science; 81). Chur 2016 ( PDF )
  • Erasmus Schröter, Peter Guth: image of home. The real photo postcards from the GDR. Verlag Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, 2002, ISBN 3-89602-421-3 .
  • Otto May : From growing to leading. The postcard as a witness to a failure to educate people about democracy in the Weimar Republic. Brücke-Verlag Kurt Schmersow, Hildesheim 2003, ISBN 3-87105-032-6 .
  • Otto May: Staging of seduction: the postcard as a witness of an authoritarian upbringing in the III. Rich. Brücke-Verlag Kurt Schmersow, Hildesheim 2003, ISBN 3-87105-033-4 .

Related Links

Web links

Commons : Postcard  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Postcard  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual references, comments

  1. ↑ View postcard. In: Ullrich Häger: Large encyclopedia of philately. Bertelsmann Lexikon Verlag 1973, p. 23.
  2. ^ Journal of the Philatelist. 6 me série no. 9, 1909, p. 125, according to Kalckhoff 1911, again cited from the Brussels journal "Le Soir"
  3. ^ A b Franz Kalckhoff : The invention of the postcard and the correspondence cards of the North German Federal Post. Publisher by Hugo Krötzsch & Co, Leipzig 1911, p. 1.
  4. ^ Herbert Leclerc: Views on picture postcards. In: Archive for German Postal History . Issue 2/1986, pp. 6–9.
  5. Mirror, mirror, on the wall - who is the oldest in the whole country? A contribution to the history of the (picture) post (view) card (1). In: philatelie - the collector's magazine of the Association of German Philatelists. Edition 308, February 2003, pp. 49–52, with a detailed description.
  6. Postcard collector's letter. (= Newsletter of the community of interests of the view cards). No. 172, September 2009, p. 3.
  7. Oldest postcard sells for £ 31,750. In: BBC News. March 8, 2002, accessed June 6, 2010.
  8. A. Linke, W. Richter: Advice for picture postcard collectors. 2007, p. 17.
  9. ^ Postcard collector's letter. (= Newsletter of the postcard interest group in the Federation of German Philatelists). Special edition 2006/2007, with a detailed description
  10. ^ Worms newspaper. January 25, 2002, including a picture of the map.
  11. ^ Arnold Linke: Views and maps are like picture postcards. Supplementary to the early history of the postcard. In: Post and Telecommunications History . 1/1997, ISSN  1430-4597 , p. 63.
  12. Postcard collector's letter. (= Newsletter of the postcard interest group and the Philokartisten Union). No. 175, June 2010, p. 2.
  13. ^ Arnold Linke: A significant find. In: Ak Express. No. 123, April 2007, p. 54 f.
  14. Herbert Wolf: How long have postcards been around? (1st continuation) In: Greetings from. (= German newspaper for postcard and home collectors). Volume 1, No. 2, April 1983, p. 1.
  15. August Schwartz, inventor of the picture postcard. In: Retrieved July 15, 2019 .
  16. Amand von Schweiger-Lerchenfeld : The new book of the universal mail. Vienna / Pest / Leipzig 1901, p. 443 ff.
  17. ^ Rüdiger Wurth: 1885 - A Century of Illustrated Postcards - 1985. In: Austrian Yearbook for Postal History and Philately. 1986, pp. 128-131, with a detailed description
  18. a b Arnold Linke: Views and maps are like postcards. Supplementary to the early history of the postcard. In: Post and Telecommunications History . Issue 1/1997, ISSN  1430-4597 , p. 65, with source reference to: Philippen
  19. a b Herbert Wolf: How long have postcards been around? (2nd continuation). In: Greetings from. (= German newspaper for postcard and home collectors). Volume 1, No. 3, July 1983, p. 1.
  20. Kurt Marholz: new about the picture postcard. In: Collector Express. 19th year, issue 21, 1965, p. 491, (with reference to the source: Schweizer Briefmarken-Zeitung. April 1965) with a detailed description
  21. ^ Mirko Verner, Novi Sad : La première carte postale illustrée fut inventée par Petar Manojlovic de Srbobran in 1871. In: Schweizer Briefmarken-Zeitung . April 1965, pp. 107-109.
  22. ^ Rüdiger Wurth: 1885 - A Century of Illustrated Postcards - 1985. In: Austrian Yearbook for Postal History and Philately. 1986, p. 119 f.
  23. a b Arnold Linke: Views and maps are like postcards. Supplementary to the early history of the postcard. In: Post and Telecommunications History . Issue 1/1997, ISSN  1430-4597 , p. 66.
  24. The ABC of luxury paper. Catalog for the exhibition of the Museum für Deutsche Volkskunde Berlin, p. 85.
  25. ^ An introduction to old postcards and their history , accessed on May 1, 2010.
  26. ^ Howard Woody: International Postcards. Their History, Production and Distribution (Circa 1895 to 1915) . In: Christraud M. Geary, Virginia-Lee Webb (Ed.): Delivering Views. Distant Cultures in Early Postcards . Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington 1998, ISBN 1-56098-759-6 , especially chapter German Postcard Publishers , p. 13-45 .
  27. ^ Carlos Teixidor Cadenas: La Tarjeta Postal en España: 1892-1915 . Espasa Calpe, Madrid 1999, ISBN 84-239-9296-9 .
  28. ^ Bärbel Hedinger (Ed.): The artist postcard. From the beginning to the present. Prestel Publishing House, 1995.
  29. ^ Gerhard Wietek : Painted artist post. Cards and letters by German artists from the 20th century. Karl Thiemig, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-521-04073-9 .
  30. The ABC of luxury paper. Catalog for the exhibition of the Museum für Deutsche Volkskunde Berlin, p. 94.
  31. a b Terms & technical terms from the world of postcards and philocartie. Letter: V ( Memento of March 22, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on January 16, 2010.
  32. Horst Hille: Collect postcards. Phil * Creativ Verlag, Schwalmtal 1993, p. 19.
  33. a b On the history of the postcard. In: Amperland. (= Quarterly local history journal for the districts of Dachau, Freising and Fürstenfeldbruck). Volume 22, 1986, p. 208.
  34. ^ Glossary of Postcard Terms Divided Back. In: Susan Brown Nicholson: The Encyclopedia of Antique Postcards. Wallace-Homestead Book Company, Readnor, Pennsylvania 1994, pp. 230 ff, accessed September 9, 2009.
  35. ^ Glossary of Postcard Terms: Divided Back. In: Brain Lund: Postcard Collecting. A beginner's guide. Publisher: Reflection of a Bygone Age, Keyworth (Nottingham) 2008, p. 28.
  36. ^ History of Postcards in Canada. Archived from the original on October 31, 2009 ; accessed on September 9, 2009 .
  37. Thanks to information received from Postgeschichte, auction house Markus Weissenböck, Salzburg, via email
  38. ^ Australian Postcard History , accessed September 9, 2009.
  39. Kurt Moritz Käppelii: postcards. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . July 20, 2001. Retrieved June 13, 2012 .
  40. ^ Otto Wicki: History of the postcards and picture postcards. Verlag Zumstein & Cie., Bern 1996, p. 18.
  41. Horst Hille: Which side is the front. In: Collector Express. Issue 7/1988, p. 250.
  42. ^ Otto Wicki: History of the postcards and picture postcards. Verlag Zumstein & Cie., Bern 1996, p. 22.
  43. Horst Hille: Collectible postcard. transpress Verlag, Berlin 1989, p. 10.
  44. Christos Vittoratos, From a Second Look: Architectural Photography in the New Frankfurt. In: Modern on 10 × 15 cm: the postcards of the new Frankfurt. Frankfurt 2013.