Postcard Journeys

Every once in a while, a book comes along that surpasses expectations. Although there have been other publications about postcards in Malaysia, Penang Postcard Collection 1899-1930 is by far the most ambitious study of the subject to date. Serious collectors or scholars of postcards (deltiologists, as they are called), as well as casual readers, are sure to delight in this richly illustrated and beautifully designed volume. Packed with fascinating historical detail, this book is a must-have, not just for anyone with an interest in Penang or the architecture, gardens and public spaces of days gone by, but also for aficionados of ships, trains, trams and other modes of transport, as well as anyone interested in photography, popular culture or postal history.

Authors Khoo Salma Nasution and Malcolm Wade certainly know what they are talking about. Khoo, a historian and activist for heritage preservation, was the editor of ‘Pulau Pinang’, a magazine that combined lavish photography with serious coverage of most aspects of Penang’s vibrant cultural traditions. Her Streets of George Town, Penang has been a perennial best-seller since it was first published in 1993. Wade is a long-term enthusiast of things Malayan, whose involvement with public service in Malaysia and Singapore goes back 50 years. A former soldier, teacher and author, he is an avid collector of Malayan postal history and postcards. Together, the two provide a winning combination of cultural knowledge and technical detail about how, where, and why images were captured, printed, purchased and sent off as postcards from Penang during the period of their greatest popularity throughout the world.

The book begins with a survey of what travellers of the time would likely have seen when they arrived by ship at the Port of Penang. It then moves on to the people, places and things to be encountered along the streets of the city, around its coasts and suburbs, up its hills, and back across the strait to Butterworth. — Peter Zabielskis, 13 March 2005

This is an excerpt of a review which first appeared in The Star.