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Postcard Glossary

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Some of the terms used to describe postcards by picture postcard collectors.

Applique - A term used to describe a postcard which has some form of cloth, metal or other embelishment attached to it.
Art Deco - Artistic style of the 1920s, recognisable by its symmetrical designs and straight lines.
Art Nouveau - Artistic style of the turn of the century, characterised by flowing lines and flowery symbols, yet often depicting impressionist more than representational art.
Bas Relief - Postcards with a heavily raised surface, giving a papier-mache appearance.
Composites - A number of individual cards, that when placed together in a group, form a larger picture.
Court Cards - The official size for British postcards between 1894-1899, measuring 115mm x 89mm.
Divided Back - Postcards with a back divided into two sections, one for the message, the other for the address. British cards were first divided in 1902 and American cards in 1907.
Early - A term loosely used to describe any card issued before the Divided Back was introduced.
Embossed - Postcards with a raised surface.
Hold-to-Light- Picture postcards often of a night time scene with cut out areas to show the light.
Intermediate Size - The link between Court Cards and Standard Size, measuring 130mm x 80mm.
Kaleodoscopes - Postcards with a rotating wheel that reveals a myriad of colours when turned.
Midget Postcards - Novelty cards of the size 90mm x 70mm.
Novelty - Any postcard which deviates in any way from the norm. Cards which do something, or have articles attached to them, or are printed in an unusual size or on strange materials. An example is cards made of leather
Oilette - A trade name used by Raphael Tuck to describe postcards reproduced from original paintings.
Real Photographic - Abbreviated to 'RP'. Used to describe postcards produced by a photographic rather than a printing process.
Reward Cards - Cards that were given away to school children for good work.
Standard Size - Introduced in Britain in November 1899, measuring 140mm x 89mm.
Topographical - A term used to describe postcards showing street scenes and general views.
Undivided Back - Describes postcards with a plain back where all of this space was used for the address. This is a term often used to describe Early cards, although undivided were still in common use up until 1907.
Vignette - Usually found on undivided back cards, consisting of a design which does not occupy the whole of the picture side. Vignettes may be anything from a small sketch in one corner of the card, to a design cover three quarters of the card. The purpose is to leave some space for the message to be written, as the entire reverse of the card could only be used for the address.


Historic photographic images and old picture postcards of the south west of England (Devon, Dorset, Somerset) with interactive maps of the town or village and area around as it is today. A virtual museum of the towns and villages of the west of England. Places to stay in the area. Buy vintage and collectible  postcards from our online postcard store.

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