NPG - Postcard Biographies case files

Scope and Content

The Postcard Biographies files include a small amount of material relating to the administration of the initiative (NPG58/1). The majority of the records relate to the biographical submissions themselves and the editing process undertaken to create suitable texts (NPG58/2). This includes correspondence, drafts and proof texts. Entries with ''postcard submission' in the description field will include examples of a postcard, sometimes with annotations on the back. The records also include the index of submissions created in 1996 (NPG58/3). During the cataloguing process every effort has been made to identify authors previously termed 'unknown'. This means that certain entries in the paper index have been superceded.

Administrative / Biographical History

On 25 April 1929 at the meeting of Trustees, Evan Charteris, the Chairman proposed the invitation of literary figures to compose short biographies of figures from British history (with a word limit of around 80 words), to be included on the reverse of postcards illustrating the Gallery's Collection. Although not all postcards produced were written by literary figures, the project continued for over 30 years and resulted in approximately 200 postcards being produced by over 100 contributors.

In 1997 the Gallery used these records in collaboration with 'The Independent' newspaper, under the 'Art & Life' section which printed example biographies and publicised the small display which the Gallery had put together. For the records of this display see related record NPG34/64 (small displays case files). In preparation for these outcomes the material was reviewed and an index of the submissions compiled. This work was carried out by Judith Flanders, Publishing Manager, in 1996. It is not known whether the internal order of the material was rearranged at this time.


Material in this series were indexed and potentially rearranged by Judith Flanders in 1996. It is not entirely clear whether this created a new arrangement, diverging form the original internal order (which is unknown), but the authors of submissions were indexed and files were retained in alphabetical order, by name of author. Within these files, some submissions were designated as being by unknown authors and therefore not indexed. As part of the current cataloguing project every effort has been made to identify these unknown authors and integrate anonymous material into the larger sequence.

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Other Finding Aids

The complete catalogue for this archive can be searched via the NPG Archive Catalogue .

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.