In thinking about the reverse side of the postcard, it occurred to me that in addition to the message, there are many other elements and ‘marks’ that have left their trace on the cards in the Vaughan collection. For example, the publishers name, the instruction regarding the communication and address, the photographers name, the postmark, the stamp, annotations by Vaughan, numbering by postcard dealers and the Bristol Record Office cataloguing numbers. Within this list, each has an entire set of varying typographies, handwriting styles, print design and colour. The reverse of the postcard contains many layers that have been inscribed over the years. And I believe these layers can be conceptualised via the notion of the palimpsest.
A palimpsest is a parchment or writing surface, whose original text has been effaced or partially erased and then overwritten by another. The Chicago School of Media Theory says; “Palimpsests are therefore the product of a layering of texts over a period of time”. They bring up several points (via other writers) that I will briefly summarise and that have aided my thinking about the reverse of the postcard. Firstly, in particular, palimpsests tend to have visual manifestations. They have been transformed into figurative entities, invested with metaphorical value that extends beyond its status as a palaeographic object.
Secondly, a palimpsest is a “multi-layered record”. I am interested in the idea that the texts are interwoven, permeating each other. “The nature of the palimpsest is two-fold; it preserves the distinctness of individual texts, while exposing the contamination of one by the other”.
Lastly, Sarah Dillon states the palimpsest “evidences the spectrality of any present moment which already contains with it (elements of) past, present and future”. This concept made me think about the many people who have interacted with the postcards and continue to do so, including the photographer, the publisher, the sender of the postcard and its recipient, Vaughan, postcard dealers, the Bristol Record Office and the volunteers. I believe this takes me back to one of my initial thoughts regarding this project and that of ownership. I think the layers of marks that are contained on the reverse of the card visually reflect the journey the postcard has taken in terms of its ownership.