Book Review: Tales of Wonder: Retelling Fairy Tales through Picture Postcards

    Research output: Contribution to journalBook Review


    [Extract:] From their first appearance as new postal technologies in the late nineteenth century to their developments as carriers of innovative pictorial printing in the early decades of the twentieth century, postcards offered a cheap and attractive means of fast communication that spread worldwide. Necessitating brevity of text, and circulating in their millions at their peak with multiple deliveries per day, postcards were abundant, high-speed and enormously popular. The images that they carried varied widely, and were far more extensive than those visible in the few postcards that cling on in our email and text-message dominant age, where they largely continue only as tourist souvenirs at seaside resorts, advertising messages from product promoters, or cheap reproductions of artwork in museum gift shops. At the turn of the twentieth century, postcards covered an extraordinary range of visual culture, and their collectors and enthusiasts – deltiologists, in their own parlance – often specialise in particular sub-genres of the form, from ‘real photo’ cards featuring mostly studio portraiture, the illustrative work of particular practitioners or favoured themes, from transportation to topography.
    Jack Zipes, most widely known as the pre-eminent scholar of fairy tales as a literary form, has been collecting postcards of fairy tales from around the world for the same half-century that he has been scrutinising the tales themselves. This activity initially provided a pleasurable adjunct to his scholarly work, and he speaks keenly of his frequent trips to flea markets and antiquarian bookshops (and also apologises to his immediate family for having to endure these excursions too). The amassed 2500 cards that make up Zipes’ collection had to wait until his retirement from university life to submit to his organisation and publication; this work finally takes form in the book Tales of Wonder. The result is a lavish, heavyweight volume, measuring some 32cm x 32cm, with high quality and full colour reproductions throughout. For the humble, cheap and often poorly-produced postcards within its pages, this represents a significant scaling-up of value and status.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)298-299
    JournalVisual Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Visual Studies, 2018, available online:


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