Identification by layout/specially designed imprints

When speaking of “layout” I mean the address side first. All imprints / elements found here, their positions, measurements, the way the writing lines are arranged, stamp box, printing inks used etc. can help to identify a printer. Many printers or better say the composers / people responsible for making ready the address side formes followed their usual routine for a longer period. Also all ‘neutral’ parts of the address side (when done by letterpress) was used over and over again.

Of further interest are the type fonts used for imprints/captions. Some were not as common as others. Keep in mind that the type (for letterpress process) was usually bought from type foundries. So, this is nothing exclusive. I have examples of address side layouts for cards printed by a particular firm at about the same time showing a variety of different fonts used from card to card. Guess they were short of type, under time pressure and used what was still at hand.


More of interest are UPU imprints which appear to had been a must for many cards of c. pre-1905 origin and international distribution within member countries of the Universal Postal Union. The word ‘Postcard’ in 2 or 3 languages (national language, English and French)  plus “Union Postale Universelle” (French is the official UPU language), often also UPU mention in national language added only. Some imprints look overdone however showing up to a dozen translations of the word Postcard and so occupy quite some space on the address side.

How the UPU block is typeset and arranged, can help with identification when more cards are at hand to compare. Among them probably one with the printer’s name/logo on. Please don’t forget that some printers simply copied from cards not their own!

Very helpful are specially designed imprints like the word “POST CARD” (see ills. on the right) that was required to be imprinted officially on all German cards until 1907. Other countries = other regulations!

In general great care is necessary with definite identification of a printer just by comparing elements found on address sides, “Post Card” design types etc. As said above, copying entire card layouts or special designed elements was quite common. Either on request by customer or just to make own products look like others that were well introduced to customers and good sellers.


Dr. Trenkler & Co., Leipzig


Schaar & Dathe, Trier


Markert & Sohn, Dresden


Louis Glaser, Dresden


Obpacher Bros., Munich

I mean “POST CARD” not set in a regular (available to all printers) type font but specially designed or at least modified type. Keep in mind that this design could had been copied by other firms without permission. Some designs are closely connected with postcard publishers (who ordered from several firms = changing reproduction quality, colours, size etc.), others directly with printing firms. I show several typical examples, German only, to illustrate what I try to say.


Above one of several similar done Postcard imprints that show a ‘sword P’ (my interpretation). Often seen on German cards pre-1900. It has an interesting done letter ‘A’. The ‘sword P’ is unfortunately NOT connected with any particular printer!


The design above was used by Fine Arts Printer / publisher B. Dondorf, from Frankfurt / Main for some time on their chromolitho postcards. Multilingual ‘Postcard’ imprint together with some artwork. Designs like this are quite good for a quick identification, especially because many of the cards with this layout show Dondorf name, too. But there are others without name but very small BD logo instead easily to overlook. Later issued cards show no “Postcard” imprint at all.

A view of the ‘Olbiston Flats, Utica, N.Y., just one of thousands of US views that show a “Printed in Germany” imprint. Surprisingly there is even no local publisher mentioned. It has a divided back address side = of post March 1907 date. The printing is a typical ‘Autochrom’ type = image by halftone and 3 -5 colours superimposed by lithographic process. The only interesting detail is the bit unusual “POST CARD – CARTE POSTAL” imprint. Identification of printer very difficult.


However, in this case the answer is found in form of a rubber stamp imprint. The US card was printed by the huge company of Emil Pinkau & Co. AG from Leipzig, Saxony. The card probably used by travelling salesmen to show quality samples. It shows again how important this type of card is for a definite identification. Are there any other cards from the USA with this untypical “POST CARD etc.” imprint? Any information appreciated.

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