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Paper Jewels: Postcards from the Raj Hardcover – Import, 1 May 2018
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About the Author
Omar Khan grew up in Vienna, Austria, and Islamabad, Pakistan. Khan has researched early photography throughout the subcontinent and is the author of From Kashmir to Kabul: The Photographs of John Burke and William Baker 1860-1900 (Mapin). He works as a software executive in San Francisco.
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It's a big book with the stories of 518 postcards, but it's well edited. It's probably only a part of Khan's collection because Khan and the editors have decided to put 3000 postcards in the Internet archives as part of Creative Commons - which says a lot about how crazy the man must be about postcards that he's willing to share them with us for free.
Go for this book if you want to see a well-written 'show and tell' book.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It took me back to familiar places I'd lived in, in India. That this book depicts his love for postcards is obvious. However, it does so much more than that. He is an engaging story teller and a captivating historian. The history of India and it's major cities is narrated through many, many very descriptive postcards and from Indian and non-Indian (German and British) perspectives. It is refreshing to see/read about India from pictorial depictions and then learn about the artists who created the postcards. It was as much fun to see the original views of familiar places like Bombay's Victoria Terminus (page 78) and Delhi's Chandni Chowk (page 152), as it was to learn about surprises like the Monkey Temple (page 81) in Bombay and Sultan Nizamuddin's well (page 155) in Delhi.
This book will provide endless hours of fun learning about a place you thought you knew and realize there's so much more to enjoy.
Thank you, Omar, for this wonderful contribution and loving depiction of what I still call "home" after being away for 30+ years.
One of the most beautiful picture postcards in this collection is tilted 'Happy', which was sent to Col. and Mrs. Gibson in San Francisco with this message:
"Bombay, India Feb 5, 1905. 13,000 miles from 2714 Sacramento St. Had a fine voyage from Egypt - weather cool - usually 100 degrees here and no breeze from the Sea - Pop 900,000 - Interesting city - Very oriental about 80 different styles of fancy turbans worn. Hotels all crowded. Will be 5 weeks in India or more and then on to Ceylon. We are now half way around the world. Wish you were with us. How's little Charlie and the dog Jack. Best wishes from Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. Mastens"
Omar has hunted down thousands of such rare picture postcards from vintage paper fairs in San Francisco and New York, bookstores in London and Vienna and flea markets in Paris where they would have arrived by steamer from port cities like Karachi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, and read with wonder and envy. He has gathered 500 of them and grouped these memories by region, Peshawar, Ooty, Sindh, Darjeeling, Lahore, Ceylon, Jaipur, Simla, etc. Each chapter is a pictorial story of a special place within the vastness of the Hindustan Peninsula before partition, still mysterious and magnificent with ancient ruins and forests, the Himalaya, rebellions and wars, tigers and elephants, new customs, religions and dress. They were connected by trains with names like the 'Frontier Mail' and the 'Deccan Mail' that moved letters and postcards overnight from the hinterland to the great port cities from where they sailed to the world.
Some of my favorites are: 'Happy' (1905), 'Darjeeling' (1897). 'Our clerical staff' (1905), 'Songstress of Benares' (1910), 'Bombay Policeman' (1903), 'Four Kandyan Girls' (1905) and 'La Post Au Cashemire' (c1900).
I expect to go back again and again to re-read Omar's carefully curated notes and contemplations of these first 'Instagrams + Tweets'. They capture the awesomeness of South Asia in the late 1800s and early 1900s like no other collection I have seen.
Weighing in at just under 5 lbs. it's not a 'light' read. Yet it’s a treasure chest of gems and jewels and is an absolute steal. I will be sending copies this beautiful and affordably priced coffee table art/history book to friends this Christmas by Amazon Prime.
This book will appeal to the determined postcard collector as well as students of history. I can see this book being required reading in design and art schools. It's that good. I'd highly recommend adding Paper Jewels: Postcards to the Raj to your collection of legacy books. This one is a worthy investment.
Omar Khan has been able to arrange them in a way that draws you deeper and deeper into the book. When I opened the cover I was unable to put it down until I had seen the whole volume. I then went back and looked at different sections in depth to better understand some of the sequences.
Brilliantly done and wonderful printing. Congratulations.