The word back when in reference to postcards has historically been a relative term. Because early government issued postals were only printed on one side, that side was originally referred to as the front and the blank unprinted side was called the back. Years later after pictures became a common sight on postcards, the illustrated side began to be called the front and the side with message and postage on it as the back. There were many transitional years when no consensus existed on definition.
Baden, established in the 12th century, was an independent country until it joined the German Empire in 1871. Reformed as a Grand Duchy, it became the Republic of Baden as part of the Weimar Republic in 1918. Many changes were made to its borders following World War Two. Baden is now a State (Baden-Wurttemberg) in the southwest corner of the Federal Republic of Germany. Baden first authorized the use of postcards in 1870. The printing houses of two of its cities, Freiburg and Karlsruhe, produced countless postcards.
Baryta is a white powdery barium compound consisting of barium sulfate mixed with gelatin used to size photo papers before the photosensitive emulsion is applied. It creates a smooth and sometimes glossy surface to enhance image quality by providing the maximum black density possible in a print. Toners can be added to baryta to change its color, and optical brighteners are also used to create bright whites. Baryta coated papers have been in use since 1885.
The Staatliches Bauhaus, founded by Walter Gropius, operated in Germany between 1919-1933, for the purpose of improving people’s lives by uniting art with technology. They had an egalitarian approach believing everyone was entitled to live with good art. Material shortages in the post war years were to be compensated with superior design that ignored precedent. Fine art was not differentiated from well designed goods, and they sought ways to produce products cheaply to bring them into everyday life. Unlike earlier movements that emphasized the handwork of craftsmen, the Bauhaus embraced mass production and machine made interchangeable parts. Ironically some of their best designs only exist as hand crafted prototypes. Their greatest influence was on architecture in the creation of the International Style. Seen as communists by the Nazi regime, most of these artists either fled or were exiled to the Soviet Union and the United States. Here their teachings continued to grow into an influential movement. For many however their ideas too often stressed utopian ideals while ignoring the realities of basic human desires.
Bavaria is a mountainous region of southeast Germany. It was incorporated into the German empire in 1871 where it was allowed to remain a Kingdom until the end of World War One. Bavaria then became a Free State of the Weimar Republic in 1919 until its collapse in 1933. Since 1949 it has been a State of the Federal Republic of Germany. The printing houses of Bavaria produced a tremendous amount of postcards most notably those from Nuremberg and its capitol Munich. Many old postcards make reference to their being printed in Bavaria rather than in Germany. Bavaria authorized the use of postcards in 1870.
Beading is the process by which an application consisting of a thick sticky varnish saturated with tiny glass beads, sometimes infused with glitter, is applied to postcards. The individual beads are too small for the naked eye to perceive but they created a bubbly iridescent effect. Beading was sometimes applied to cards directly by hand, but other cards were first printed with a varnish to ensure consistent placement.
A bed is the part of a printing press that the substrate to be printed is laid upon. More specifically it is the part of a platen press that the form is laid on, or the part of a flat cylinder press that a plate is laid on.
Bed and Platen
See Platen Press
Benday (Manufactured Tints)
Benday is a type of shading medium in which a clear film sheet is embossed with a pattern that can be rolled up with a greasy transfer ink, and then conveyed to a litho-stone. Because these sheets were transparent the retoucher could see where the pattern needed to be placed guided by the chalk drawing underneath, and by applying localized pressure to the back of the film the ink could be transferred to the desired areas either evenly or in varying degrees of intensity. It was often used in retouching work to add tone or color back into a drawing where it was absent such as in skies or had been removed when preparing color separated plates. The dots would print the same color as that of the rest of the plate they were added to. This was a patented process invented in 1879 by the printer Benjamin Day. While he produced over a hundred different printable patterns it was his dot patterns (benday dots) that were the most popular. At first glance benday dots can easily be mistaken for a halftone screen pattern, especially when both are used on the same plate. When observed more closely the density of benday dots tend not to change except for slight variances due to the pressure of application. They may grow blotchy as they get bigger but they will never form an optical bump that creates the checkered pattern so often found in halftones.
Though benday patterns were first developed to be used with chromolithographs, its relevance outlived this technique and it was used with many hybrid processes. It was such a popular product that all tint layering in dots became known as benday. Eventually benday patterns were printed onto clear film that could be cut out by retouchers (mechanical tints), then pasted directly onto negatives before they were exposed to photosensitive plates.
Bichromate is an older usage of the term dichromate, which is still often used synonymously.
Birch bark refers to the thin white bark from certain types of birch trees that have a tendency to shed off in large pieces. Being of similar consistency to that of paper, this surface has been used to write on for ages. It is only natural that this material would also be used to create postcards. Birch bark postcards are always homemade with hand applied inks or paint as there is no reliable source for this bark in a consistent condition suitable for commercial printing. Because of their fragility and tendency to curl, surviving examples of these types of cards are not common. Some publishers however have simulated this folk tradition by printing birch bark patterns as a framed border onto their postcards.
Birdseye or bird’s eye or birds-eye is a word that often appears in various incarnations on postcards. While we often use the term today to denote a view from an aircraft, it was traditionally used just to mean a view from a height. While this vantage point could be little more than a medium sized hill, the term was more often applied to views seen from a tall structure that rose above the tree line, the most common being a church belfry.
Bitumen is a a naturally occurring organic byproduct of decomposed organic mater. It is generally hard but can be made more viscous through the application of heat, and it can also be dissolved in petroleum distillates. It is often refined and sold in block or powdered form as asphaltum with various prefixes such as Judean or Syrian. This substance has had many uses over the past centuries but its dark coloration and waterproofing qualities have made it an ideal ingredient in acid resists such as those used in etching grounds. It can also be made into a light sensitive emulsion with the addition of a dichromate, allowing it to be used in printing processes such as photo-chromolithography.
The Black Arts
Many had long used the term Black Arts in reference to the practices of occultists, magicians, and witches. In the late 19th century this term began to be applied to the endeavors of printers who sought ways to reproduce photographic images without making use of a halftone screen such as in collotype, gravure, and photo-chromolithography. The results of these highly guarded trade secrets often seemed more magical than photography itself. Many of these techniques were kept so secret that their nuances have been lost to us today. In addition the term Black Arts may be punning the widespread use of black ink in the printing trades.
Black & White Photograph
A black & white photograph refers to one in which colors have not been created by a three color photo process. Almost all old photographs are a variant of brown, and even those colored by hand tinting or painting are still considered to be black & white images. We know that many old photos had an unpleasant natural color cast so they were toned in sepia or gold, while others were printed on tinted paper or were tinted afterwards. Albumen prints were often gold toned producing a purple brown color, and the Velox paper that replaced it was tinted to have a similar color, if only out of tradition. Photos with a gum dichromate emulsion often had pigments added to them, which also accounts for a number of color variations. Many unintentional factors also produce similar effects. There were no quality standards to control the purity of early processing chemicals that often left color altering residue behind. Early photo papers also lacked standards, and the could seriously yellow over time. When Kodak introduced a new type of Azo photo paper in 1926, it was the first time that photographers had a stable emulsion to print on. The modern papers that followed have optical brighteners added to their sizing that not only create higher contrast but the first truly black & white prints.
In printing a blanket refers to a fabric or rubber sheet used between a plate and a press cylinder to help equalize pressure while printing, and to protect the paper from excessive abrasive ware. The blanket can be laid over the back of a print or clamped around a cylinder. Blanket cylinders, coated with rubber are also used to transfer ink from the printing plate to the paper in offset printing.
A bleed is an image where the printing extends out to all the edges of the substrate. This is achieved by creating a printing plate slightly larger than the final printed surface to ensure that no white borders will show. In the United States and England this is usually 1/8 inch on all sides. Afterwards the paper is trimmed down to final size by cutting away a thin strip through the bleed area. High quality cards produced as a bleed required two cuts to separate them from each other when printed on a large sheet, and the trim between them is then discarded. It is more expensive to print an image as a bleed for excess paper and ink is discarded and it must be precisely trimmed. Many printers separated their postcard bleeds with a single cut leaving behind unsightly edges. The alternative to a bleed is to leave an unprinted paper border around the image.
Embossing was sometimes used without any ink to add imagery or decorative elements to a printed card. Some cards were embossed to such a high decorative relief that they required no printing on them at all. While this type of embossing could be made with dies they were also made with reliefed plates of wood or metal. Japanese printers sometimes added an un-inked cut block to their color woodcuts for the sole purpose of adding texture to the final print (gauffrage). Blind embossing became a popular technique in the 1890’s but its use on postcards ended before the First World War.
A blind signature is the name of a photographer or publisher of a postcard that is embossed into its surface rather than being printed onto it. Because the card could be embossed on a small hand press or with a an embossing machine including hand-held stamping devices it could lower the cost of production. Sometimes titles were also added onto cards in this manner. Blind signatures were most often used by photographers as a way of eliminating any need for placing printing on a card, thus keeping all production within the studio. These types of signatures can be found on a card’s border or within its image area, and are always read through the front side.
While most embossing techniques were designed to produce a raised relief the blocking method created a depression in the card’s surface. It is made with male and female dies just as in normal embossing only here the order is reversed. Blocking was almost always used in conjunction with foil stamping. Typically a sheet of gold leaf is placed between the paper and the male die, which pushed it into the embossed recesses where it receives heat from the opposite female die. The combination of heat and pressure adhere the gold to the paper and the remaining foil is dusted off for reuse. This embossing process became very popular in conjunction with bookbinding after a blocking machine was invented in 1832. It tended to be used in a linear fashion on postcards and can be found most often on greetings.
Blue photo is a term that is usually informally applied to cyanotypes. Blue photos may also refer to a type of deeply blue toned photo paper that became popular for stylized work, especially with portraits from the 1920’s. These were mostly made in Europe as real photo postcards on bromide paper and they often came with heavy hand coloring.
Blue sensitive (Monochromatic)
Blue sensitivity refers to photographic material, either paper, film, or gelatin, that is only sensitive to the blue and ultraviolet spectrum of light. All black & white photo emulsions were monochromatic until an orthochromatic emulsion that is sensitive to green was developed by Herman Vogel in 1873. While Frederick Ives created a panchromatic emulsion, sensitive to all light in 1881, blue sensitive film continued to be used by most photographers because of its lower cost.
Blue tints were a variation of the duotone process where the tinting plate was most often used exclusively to fill the sky, and this blue was also the only color used on the card. The tinting plate was usually created with a manufactured dot pattern, retouched to create lighter areas that would represent clouds. It was the second halftone plate printed in black that would carry the image. Any tonalities in the sky that originated from the key plate were usually carefully removed so there was no overlapping with the tint plate, but sometimes the tint would just be haphazardly placed. The final effect can be quite jarring and unappealing. These types of cards were published under various names such as Blue-Sky or Sky-Tint. While the term Sky-Tint was a trade name used by the Curt Teich Company it is also commonly applied to all postcards that exclusively utilized a blue tint.
Bluetone is a brand name for a monochrome postcard printed in a dark blue-green by the Albertype Company.
Booklet postcards are those issued in a series and bound together in booklet form. Each card had one serrated edge so they could easily be torn out and mailed. It is difficult to find complete booklets today as at least some cards have usually been removed from them unless saved intact as a souvenir. These booklets are based on earlier printed mementoes of views issued as souvenirs of tourist destinations. They became popular in Europe about 1903 but they were rarely seen in the United States until after World War One. There is currently a revival of this postcard format but the postcards are usually reproductions of earlier printed or photo images.
Bookmark Cards (Book Post Cards)
A bookmark card is a postcard that was manufactured for use as a bookmark. This type of novelty card was printed in England between 1903 and 1904, with some being printed in Canada about 1910. Their most common size is 5 1/4 by 1 3/4 inches. They are also referred to as panel cards.
Boustrophedon (literally, as the ox plows) is a style of writing which is read left to right, then right to left, and back to left to right on alternating lines. This type of writing was common in archaic text, lines of runes, and on scrolls. Eventually the style was incorporated into the visual arts as seen in the early narrative paintings in Christian churches. This style was latter used on a type of artist drawn postcard in which a procession of animals or people wind down the card from one location to another in an alternating fashion often upon a line. Most postcards that incorporated this rhythm into their designs were of the early Gruss aus type printed in Germany.
The Boxer Rebellion was an uprising led by the Chinese Boxer movement in 1900 against Westerners and those under their influence as a consequence of and reaction against Gunboat Diplomacy. Christian missionaries faced many of the early attacks but the Boxers went on to oppose all interests of foreign imperialism in China. After the Boxers laid siege to foreign compounds, relief forces were sent in by the United States, Japan, and European Nations that crushed the rebellion. This war led to greater foreign dominance over Chinese affairs and the eventual downfall of the Manchu Dynasty. While thousands of Americans fought in China, the postcard industry in the United States was still relatively small so most cards depicting this conflict tend to originate from Europe, especially Germany.
The Brandywine Tradition was realistic but imaginative style that formed the foundation for American illustration at the beginning of the 20th century. Howard Pyle was already an artist of reputation when he started teaching practical illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art in Philadelphia in 1894. By 1900 he opened his own school next to his studio in Wilmington, Delaware. Pyle’s curriculum was radical for his time; rather than engage his students in endless rendering, he stressed the projection of the artist into their art to create a more animated image. He charged no tuition but his students were hand picked. He helped to train a generation of illustrators with a strong foundation that would have a profound effect on American graphic arts for many years. Some of his students include Edwin Austin Abbey, Harvey Dunn, Maxfield Parish, Frank Schoonover, Jessie Wilcox Smith, and N.C. Wyeth.
A Broadside is a large sheet of single sided printed paper containing breaking news or official pronouncement with an illustration added to create greater notice and provide emphasis. Broadsides have long been used to disseminate public information and were often used where newspapers did not exist or were too slow to print news of immediate concern. In some ways real photo postcards eventually replaced broadsides by quickly dispersing visual imagery of current events. Today a broadside often refers to a large sheet of advertising.
Bromide Chrome is a trade name for a type of postcard distributed by the American News Company that were printed in continuous tone lithography. Bromide Chromes are characterized by a sharp crisp image. These cards were made in Germany.
Bromide paper is a blue light sensitive photo paper coated with an emulsion of silver bromide in gelatin, developed by J.W. Swan in 1878. This paper is usually made with a baryta sizing to increase its brightness, and a final layer of pure gelatin added for protection. Bromide papers are of medium sensitivity and can be used with an enlarger. This paper yields warm to cool black tones with a matte surface that is highly subject to tarnishing. Bromide paper is developed out and doesn’t produce as fine a gradation of tones as chloride paper, even though it is more expensive. As most photographers stuck to the printing out papers that were easier to use, bromide found itself largely confined to the mass commercial manufacturing of real photo postcards. This paper was more commonly used in England where it had been predominantly manufactured since 1880. In 1906 the Belgian firm Gevaert & Cie invented the first chlorobromide paper under the Blue Star label. It was also a develop out paper but it produced better tonalities in a warm brown. Chlorobromide papers are now the most widely used.
Bromogravure is a trade name used by the firm of E.W. Savory that make reference to their postcards printed in photogravure that are similar in appearance to bromide photographs.
The bronzing method patented by Reichner Brothers was used to create the Copper Window effect on postcards without the use of metallic inks. After the image was printed on a card with regular ink an adhesive pattern in varnish would be printed over it, then dusted while wet with a very fine metallic powder. A variety of different powders could be used and sometimes this process was repeated to create multiple metallic effects on a single card. It was meant to convey the illusion of illuminated or glistening light. Wherever bronzing is employed it is as a novelty, for the effect of illumination is always hard to perceive of as realistic.
The term bronzing was also used more generically to refer to any application of metallic powder to a card placed in wet ink or varnish. This was sometimes used to highlight lettering or to create pure decoration. This method should not be confused with images that had metallic inks printed over them or metal foil adhered to them. The act of printing imparts sharply defined edges while those from bronzing tend to be rounder and softer. If there was too much oil leftover in the powder from the manufacturing process, it had a tendency to flake off the card’s paper surface. Many health hazards were associated with bronzing, and the dust was explosive, so most printers eventually abandoned this time consuming method in favor metallic inks when they were made easier to use on presses.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West wast the name of a traveling show that reenacted historical events of the American West with much added license, interspersed with acts of showmanship such as sharp shooting and trick riding. This show was an inspiration of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), created in the time of the last Indian Wars and the growing romanticism that surround them. The first show opened at the 1883 World Columbian Exposition, then took to the road touring large cities, especially on the the east coast. This show also toured Europe where it was very popular. It consisted of hundreds of talented riders and notable figures including many Native Americans. The last of these shows took place as the First World War began and they would eventually be replaced by the cheaper to stage rodeos. Under the guise of authenticity, Cody did much to create the mythology of the Wild West. Many postcards were produced with Buffalo Bill themes both in the United States and in Europe.
A Bureus was a type of box specifically manufactured for the storage of collected postcards popular in the early days of postcard collecting. They were designed for the easy handling of large quantities of cards and often came with dividers so the cards could be sorted.
Business Cards refer to a precursor to trade cards that were given out for free by businesses or tradesmen as a reminder for customers to return. They were usually printed as black & white engravings or lithographs without any imagery. While most were printed on card stock for durability, some also exist on paper. By the 1850’s business cards started to become more elaborate with the addition of stylistic flourishes and the use of more fancy type. Eventually small illustrations began being added amidst the type but at this point many redefine them as trade cards.
A Businessman’s Card was a type of novelty postcard larger than average size that was used exclusively for advertising. They were introduced in 1897 when new postal regulations loosened size restrictions on. These cards were manufactured in three basic formats. One was only slightly larger than the average sized postcard and was occasionally die cut into shapes. The more common size for a Businessman’s Card was about 8 by 10 inches. Many times they contained nothing but text but elaborate graphics and illustration were usually added to them. There was even a larger jumbo size available. They were used until 1900 when postal regulations changed once again. Since many cards were too fragile to mail without a cover they did not always have postcard backs but were often filled with advertising instead. Many of these large cards never entered the mails at all as they were often given out by hand or used for wall displays in shops.