About The Postcard Project

Quintessence of Place is a new project based on a collection of early 20th Century Postcards of France. There are approximately 15 fruit boxes full of postcards, and the aim is to share them with the world by reproducing them online and displaying them in a range of exhibition spaces.



The collection contains approximately 15 boxes of postcards of France. They were collected over a number of years by an antiquarian bookseller called Jack Owens, who was based in North Wales. Jack was an architect, and was particularly interested in collecting postcards from the interwar years that show buildings that have subsequently been destroyed. As a result, a large proportion of the images are of architectural subjects. However, there are many other types of images, including people in traditional dress, landscapes and postcards with comic content. A small proportion of the postcards have correspondence and bear evidence of having been posted. However, the majority are blank on the reverse.


When Jack passed away a number of years ago, the collection was passed to P.W., who is also a bookseller and a friend of Jack’s. The postcards remained in P.W.’s home in North Wales for a number of months. But due to the large volume of postcards and lack of time to devote to them, P.W. decided he could not keep them. He made contact with C:, a trainee archivist, who agreed to take on the postcards as a learning project, and took three of the boxes away to her home in London. The remainder are left at P.W.’s house, to be collected in batches over the next few months.


The first accession (Acc/01) was taken on 12 July 2015 from P.W.’s home by C: to her home in London. It consisted of 3 fruit boxes of stacked postcards; 1 large carrier bag of loose postcards; 1 folder of mounted postcards and 8 books on postcard and stamp identification and valuation.


As he was collecting the postcards, Jack stored them in individual plastic sleeves, which were mounted onto A4 pieces of paper and labelled with the name of the town depicted in the images. These pages were grouped in folders according to the town. This added considerably to the bulk of the collection, and P.W. was unable to continue to store it in this way. The postcards were removed from their paper backing, and transferred into boxes.

The first stage of the project will be to restore the collection to its original order. In other words, there will be a running Sub-Series corresponding to each of Jack’s original folders, one for each town represented in the collection. These will be arranged by Series according to the département (numbered 1-95) and arranged alphabetically within the département.


The Jack Owens Collection Box List contains series-level descriptions that give an overview of the postcards that represent each département. This will be regularly updated as work on the collection progresses. Ideally a full catalogue will eventually be published.

Visitors wishing to refer to the collection may do this by appointment. Please contact quintessenceofplace@outlook.com for full details.



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