2006

The relentless pace of life dictates its own rules, forces us into the rigid confines of modem technology and cultivates new forms of communication. We don't argue with time, but sometimes recall the past with 3 slight sense of nostalgia: the lengthy preparations for celebrations, long letters containing detailed life stories and greeting cards with affectionate, heartfelt, handwritten wishes.

One fine day you may accidentally come across a bundle of old letters, telegrams and cards, and the memories that will rush back will bring both joy and sadness.

In this calendar, we have decided to acquaint you with cards which, at the start of the last century, Russians and Germans sent to their loved ones to wish them happy holidays or simply to keep in touch with a few words about themselves. Letters are the oldest form of human culture. Just like greeting cards and notelets, they have always been treasured, passed on through the generations, and have always reflected family memories. Correspondence was considered a natural part and a reflection of one's existence. Naturally, a high level of erudition was required for the free expression of thoughts and feelings - without a large vocabulary, correspondence over a period of many years was impossible. Both kin relations and acquaintanceships were maintained through correspondence.

From the mid-19th century onwards, greeting cards gradually started to acquire not only a special place in correspondence, but a unique significance in households. Expensive, gold-powdered and stamp-printed cards or plain photographs with captions - cards were put on show in every home.

The emergence of invitation cards, considered the forefather of greeting cards, originated from a Parisian engraving work¬shop in the mid-l8th century.

In Russia in 1871, the Post Office issued its first «open letters» without stamps, and from May 1, 1872, cards measuring 1/16 the note paper sheet started to be produced.

At the very end of the 18th century, Senefeldar, a German engraver, invented a new printing technique - lithographic printing. The English engraver Dobson dared to make use of this printing technique, printing a series of Christmas cards which remained unnoticed for five whole years. The public may have found the grey-white surface of the drawings unappealing (although they were sometimes colored by hand).

At any rate, these cards started to be snapped up on a par with note paper only at the start of the 19th century. Greeting cards started to be printed in many European countries, it became fashionable on holidays to send cards in an envelope, but writing in such cards was not the done thing. In Russia, text was inscribed in cards (usually made in England or France) in workshops in advance and buyers selected not only the image but also the inscription. These cards were expensive. The less well-off could afford note paper, and from the 1830s onwards, envelopes, but cards were the prerogative of the wealthy. Prices of cards even at the start of this century fluctuated from 3-5 kopecks for black and white cards to 5-10 kopecks for color cards, with simple photo-cards going for 1 kopeck.

No personal inscriptions were printed on cards in the first half of the 19th century -correspondence was still considered e very personal matter. This method of corresponding - the so-called «secret letter» - was linked to the rules of public morality both in Russia and in Western Europe. But changes soon occurred. According to some sources, on November 30, 1865, Prussia's Head Postmaster Henry Stefan proposed introducing a new type of «note paper sheet» for open messages. Other sources assert that this idea came to Professor Emmanuel German of the Viennese Military Academy in 1869, who claimed that a third of messages sent did not contain secrets and could be openly sent by mail. Only at the turn of the century in France did the book-seller L Besnardeau manage to achieve steady sales of illustrated cards printed using the lithographic technique.

In the Swiss city of Bern in 1874, 22 European countries including Russia founded the Universal Postal Union. Amongst other things, the Union decided on the unified international format of the card - 9x14 cm.

At the end of the 19th century, the picture postcard in Russia became accessible to the broadest strata of the population - front the intelligentsia to the simple peasant. Educational, picture postcards, cards with educational pictures for children, cards displaying works by Russian and foreign artists were produced.

With its purpose of bringing joy, the card has a role to play even now. The first Russian Easter and Christmas cards were produced in 1896.

The art movement in Russia at the end of the 19th century known as the anew Russian styles fined well with the nature of cards, varying the themes o! Russian tales, sayings, folk tales, and giving many people the opportunity to learn the history of the Russian national costume and the events of the epoch before Peter the Great. But the most abundant cards designed for the poor were those containing photographs and drawings. Bright-pink or green paints with compulsory «gold» lettering were in those days considered a symbol of vulgarity, and the sugary-sweet wishes contained in the cards were frequently the subject of anecdotes and even laughed at in literature. The paradox of time is that what was once incompatible with good taste has now acquired the charm of simplicity and naivete, and the technical imperfections and ineptitudes have turned into a historical document. The calendar contains many cards by Elizaveta Bern.

Elizaveta Bern (1843-1914) was one of the first women in Russia to pursue art professionally and to achieve success and recognition as the creator of numerous open letters. Well-known and popular during her lifetime, Elizaveta Bern was forgotten for many decades. Her gentle, dedicated an, «human art», has now again become relevant and in demand. We are grateful to those who carefully collected cards, helping to retain links between people, countries, gуnуrations and centuries. Pavel Tzukanov, Irma Rass, Vladimir Mantsevich and Taboo Design Studio were kind enough to provide cards from their own collections so that we might bring you joy in our calendar.

The secret of the impact of a greeting card remains a mystery to psychologists. Its small size and the sort of «magic thread» linking the recipients makes it coveted, makes us look in the post box with hope and makes the heart beat with joy at the sight of a greeting postcard.

We have chosen two countries and cards which Russians and Germans sent their loved ones at the start of the last century to recall how people congratulated one another on holidays and special occasions arid kept in touch. Two different countries, different languages, but the same joys, worries and affectionate words on greeting cards.

It has turned out that no new inventions have bean capable of replacing the joyful greeting card. There is something inexplicable about this, so much humanity, warmth and the gleam of childish anticipation of a celebration in the «open letter with a pictures», making the card a delight for the soul and the eyes.

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Last Update: September 14, 2012
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