The visual imprint of our Maltese Nation can be seen from photographic archives, lithographic prints, and postcards which, all together, provide a repository of Maltese identity. The development of photography in the mid nineteenth century was a determining factor for the development of imaging of a country’s identity and in 1869, the innovative idea of Dr Emanuel Herrmann, chancellor of the Austrian Ministry of Commerce, to produce a printed postcard, was soon endorsed by many countries like Austria, Germany and Britain.
The idea of writing messages on cards which could be read by anyone created opposition in certain postal authorities and the postal administration in Malta took until 1898 to accept the concept and approve the use of picture postcards produced by private publishers through the postal system.
The first image of Malta to be produced in a postcard format was a hand-coloured woodcut print that was posted from Leuven, Belgium in 1872. No further evidence of any Malta postcard has been found before 1898 when an Algerian picture postcard was posted from Malta to Germany on 15 August 1898.
The first Malta picture postcard is recorded with a handwritten date of 10 August 1898 but has no postal markings to confirm the date.The first Malta picture postcard with a postally confirmed date bears the Sliema Malta postal cancellation dated 20 October 1998. The prolific and highly professional photographer, Mr Richard Ellis, contributed immensely to the publication of Malta picture postcards and the publication of other Malta picture postcards soon followed suite with a substantial number of cards published in 1899 and a much bigger number published in 1900 and beyond. Postcard collecting soon became a very popular hobby amongst the Maltese families that were well off or involved with the British Military Forces in Malta. Maltese names such as Giuseppi Miller, W. R. Gatt, and Despott appear on a huge number of Malta postcards that were sent abroad in exchange for foreign cards.
It is thanks to these people that so many of the very early and very rare postcards have survived to the present day. Their contribution was first declared in the 1985 publication of a condensed catalogue of early Maltese Picture Postcards by Dr Giovanni Bonello and Mr Graham Smeed. But along the years the need for a comprehensive catalogue of early Maltese postcards became more pressing and Dr. Abela Medici, who has single-handedly managed to get one of the most complete collections of such postcards, decided to publish his detailed catalogue of these postcards and managed to enlist the help of other Malta postcards collectors, to allow him to scan their collections to enable a definite catalogue to be published. This detailed catalogue, which took years of hard work to compile, has now been published by Book Distributors Limited for the enjoyment of both Malta postcard collectors and Melitensia enthusiasts alike.