The charm of OLD BERMUDA
Horst Augustinovic’s ‘The Golden Age of Bermuda Postcards’ is a picture book with a difference, based on his personal collection of picture postcards compiled over 40 years.
It addition to some captivating and unusual scenes from the late 19th and early 20th century, the compilation of 460 images gives an interesting summary of the evolution of the techniques used to print the little souvenirs, leading to a greater appreciation of the cards as miniature works of art.
With instant messaging, camera phones, blogs and Facebook posts, it is entirely possible that the age of the postcard is passing, as Mr Augustinovic suggests.
One can also surmise that the first half of the 20th century was indeed the ‘golden age’ of the inexpensive souvenir and its short cheerful notes to family and friends left behind.
Though primarily a picture book of days gone by, the volume begins with an account of the development of the printing process from the “first rather plain monochrome postcards” to four-colour chromolithographic cards and finally colour film and lithography.
A printer himself, Mr Augustinovic determined forensically how the cards were printed and, next to the brief but informative of account of each process, has placed examples drawn from the collection. He also features the key postcard publishers and printers from the large, overseas publishers to smaller, local enterprises, including H G Recht, who owned a souvenir store on Church Street and the Tucker sisters, whose reproductions of their charming watercolours were sold with refreshments at their Little Green Door café at Barr’s Bay.
In a third section the images with captions are arranged geographically: Hamilton and its environs, the West End and finally the East End of the Island. There are also examples of panoramic views, ‘trap door’ and novelty postcards and unique and hand-painted cards.
In addition to providing a pictorial record of Bermuda’s changing landscape, Mr Augustinovic’s compilation is a primary source of our social history, revealing what Bermudians wanted the rest of the world to know about them. The cards indicate what Bermudians considered important features of the landscape and built heritage and what they wanted visitors to remember of their stay.
There are the typical city views of Hamilton waterfront, significant buildings such as Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and the view there from, the interiors and exteriors of hotels, public parks and coastal views. There are also elements of our community that no longer exist: the workings of a Royal Naval dockyard, washerwomen, the fish market at Hamilton wharf, and fruit and vegetable sellers on Front Street. Whale-butchering, vegetable-packing, horse racing and stone quarrying are also the subject of the postcards. Among the ‘exotic’ are striking flora and ‘native’ children.
The quality of the reproduction allows some voyeurism, as some handwritten messages are also included, providing an insight into what visitors thought of Bermuda and Bermudians. Marriott Morris writing to his son in 1901 addresses him as “thee”; another card shows how fully a correspondent made use of the limited space on the back of the card.
The volume itself is attractive, and of a size that makes it easier to handle than the average coffee-table picture book. The colour reproduction reflects the subtleties of the originals, though a thicker paper stock might have been warranted, as there is some bleed through, which affects the integrity of the images being viewed. The postcards are reproduced full-size, two to a page with a delicate, decorative art nouveau border a fair substitute for your own album of the now-scarce originals.
It would have be interesting to have known the dates of the postmarks, as that would have given an indication of the period in which the cards were available for purchase, though, or course, no indication of when the original photographs were taken. An index would also have been a valuable tool for researchers, though the table of contents is quite detailed.
‘The Golden Age of Bermuda Postcards’ will be on sale for $48 from local bookstores throughout the Island. There will be book signings at the Windjammer II gallery at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess on June 30 at 5.30 pm and again at the Bookmart this Saturday from 11am to 2pm. Copies can be pre-ordered from the Bookmart, AS Cooper & Sons, Bermuda Bookstore, the Book Cellar and the Craft Market at Dockyard.
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