In the summer of 1840, the playwright and novelist, Theodore Hook of Fulham, London, dropped a small piece of card into his local letterbox. On one side he had written his own address and, on the other, he had printed a somewhat absurd and unflattering caricature of twelve men, gathered dutifully around an impossibly gigantic ink well. Each man appeared to be as ungainly and repugnant looking as the next. Each one concentrating, bleary eyed, on holding his quill.
It was unheard of for items to travel through the postal system without an envelope at this time, so this little piece of card was sure to attract the attention of every postal worker who was obliged to handle it. What did they see? The men depicted on the card were, in fact, postal workers. The joke was on them. And so it was for the solitary pleasure of a rather eccentric man that the picture postcard was born, not two miles from where you stand.
170 years later, this ‘postal innovation’ has come to epitomize our aptitude for communicating through images. A picture speaks a thousand words, or so they say. It can inspire and remind us. Calm or excite us. Or indeed make us laugh. A marker in time and place the picture postcard might remain on the wall for a lifetime.