Paper Jewels Postcards from the Raj by Omar Khan, a 518 Vintage Postcard Tour of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, is co-published by Mapin Publishing and the Alkazi Collection of Photography (August 2018).
Postcards were to people in 1900 what the Internet was to the world in 2000. Postcards were the world’s first mass transfusion of color images. We went from thousands to billions of postcards in a handful of years. The finest painters and graphic artists from India, Austria, Britain, France, Italy and the US became involved.
Paper Jewels is the story of postcards during the Raj and the first book on the subject. It uncovers such gems as the early postcards of the great Indian painter M. V. Dhurandhar and the Ravi Varma Press in Mumbai, the exceptional work of an early Austrian lithographer in Kolkata, a British photographer in Peshawar, and Indian studios in Jaipur, Kashmir, Delhi, Lahore, Madras, Karachi and elsewhere.
It is organized by place into a dozen chapters. The essays cover the key themes important to postcard publishing—religion, dancers, teas and soaps, famines, fakirs, humour, warfare and the role of postcards in the Independence movement. It tells the stories of the first postcard publishers of the subcontinent between 1892 and 1947, most of whose images have not been seen since they were published a century ago.
Paper Jewels relies almost entirely on new primary research in archives and private collections in India, Pakistan, Europe and the US, and explores the many artistic, business, fashion, political and technical developments that contributed to the rise of a medium – the postcard – that is still very much with us today.
The book's launch coincided with the opening of the Paper Jewels Exhibition on August 19, 2018 at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai (through October 1, followed by exhibitions at the Art Heritage Gallery in Delhi (opening October 18) and the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa (December 15-22).
Soon after the book's release we will start the process of releasing more than 3,000 free, professionally-restored postcards from the Raj – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and Myanmar (Burma) – to the public under a free and open Creative Commons CC BY-SA license on Internet Archive. Our goal is to bring some of those exquisite images back into circulation and inspire their creative uses.