Another Edwardian Leporello from P.E.I.

IMG_1102BI ended a recent posting with a query concerning additional leporello cards from Prince Edward Island speculating that it was unlikely that a publisher would have printed only one image.

Within a fortnight I was proved correct but in a way I hardly expected. In reviewing illustrations in connection with a blog posting on the Hillsborough Bridge I spotted a reference to a small image at the Public Archives and Records Office. The reason the reference caught my eye was because it was included in a list of other post card views which seemed suspiciously familiar and so when I was next in the Archives I had a look.

“Scene at North Shore, Prince Edward Island” is clearly from the same publisher as the earlier card. It has the same metal hook closure for the mini-card pocket but as the photo shows it has suffered from some discolouration.

IMG_1105BThe card is unused and therefore no date information can be added to what was assumed in the note on the previous card. One difference on the card back is that the wording “book post” and the box for a two cent stamp is provided. This seems a little strange. Book post was a special rate designed for sending a packet of books. The standard post card rate at the time was 1 cent within Canada and to the United States. The letter rate was 2 cents for each ounce.  The book post rate up to 1903 was 1 cent for 4 ounces and it was increased to 1 cent for 2 ounces. The leporello card was heavier and thicker than a standard post card but it appears that the letter rate rather than the book rate was applied.

Surprisingly the images within the card pocket are not the same as for the card discussed earlier. This is a surprise for surely the easiest course would have been to print a common insert and glue it into the card. While both cards share images of the Colonial Building, Hillsborough Bridge, the Post Office, and the Market Building the Winter Steamer card has images of  the Boer War monument and a view of Charlottetown from Victoria Park while the seashore card substitutes a view of Great George Street and a scene on Victoria Row street for the latter images.




I was certain that I had never seen this card before but in examining the archival folder protecting it I was astonished to find my own handwriting.  When I was assistant archivist in the 1970s I had catalogued this card!  Of course at the time I still held the view that postcards were simply ephemera and were not real historical documents. On this (and on many other things) I would like to think that my views have evolved.

So, for the second time in two months, I wonder if there are more cards of this type out there. While the cards sport P.E.I. views I am not convinced that they were published on P.E.I. Perhaps post card collectors or card scholars have similar cards from other locations. If so I would be most interested  in hearing about them.

The card is held in the collection of the P.E.I. Public Archives and Records Office Accession 3999 item 7.

An Early Leporello Postcard from Prince Edward Island

Unless you ae a Mozart aficionado or a well-educated and avid post card collector the title of this posting probably will mean absolutely nothing.  Since I am neither, the term “leporello” sent me scurrying to Wikipedia where after some research the mystery was unravelled.

Marco Vinco as LOporello in the San Francisco Opera 2011 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Cory Weaver from
Marco Vinco as Leporello in the San Francisco Opera 2011 production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Cory Weaver from

Let’s start with the Mozart because that holds the explanation for the name. Leporello is Don Giovanni’s manservant in Mozart’s 1787 opera Don Giovanni.  Don Giovanni, a young, arrogant, and sexually promiscuous nobleman, abuses and outrages everyone else in the cast until he encounters something he cannot kill, beat up, dodge, or outwit. Don Giovanni, is betrayed to a new conquest by his servant who tells her that he is unfaithful to everyone; his impressive list of seductions and conquests include 640 women and girls in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey and 1,003 in Spain. In displaying the conquests the manservant pulls the list out of the book in an accordion fold. The term leporello is applied to books and publications that use this endless page device. The leporello became quite common in the Victorian era. Panoramic scenes in travel accounts as well as images of culture and customs often used the device. After the development of photography it became an effective way to show very wide images, or a linked series of photographs.

In early postcards the leporello often takes the form of an album of mini images folded into the postcard itself. They were more commonly used in Europe but North American postcard publishers used the leporello as well although they are scarce if not rare. Because of the format the cards do not hold up well to handling. They have to have an inner pocket that protects the mini album and there is much folding and unfolding to see the images.

I hardly knew what to expect when I ordered the card from a German on-line dealer. The photos in the listing were not very good and it was obvious that the card was not in particularly good shape. The face image of the card was an uninspiring view of the winter steamer Stanley in ice but it was not one I had seen before. The photos on the sale site showed only two of the mini images and I would not have been surprised to see that any others had long since come loose and disappeared.

Front of the leporello. The latch pin can be seen holding the image pocket closed.
Front of the leporello. The latch pin can be seen holding the image pocket closed.

The card was pretty banged up. It had obviously been well handled and there were blemishes and folds that may well have been inflicted by the postal authorities or they could simply be from mis-handling over the years.

Leporello card back showing address in France
Leporello card back showing address in France

The back of the card showed it had been mailed from Souris East on P.E.I. on 23 July 1906 and sent to an address in Caen in Calvados district France and then re-addressed to Carteret in Manche.  Again the latch pin holding the mini album flap closed can be seen. As well in this photograph the cardboard core of the card which makes a pocket for the smaller images can be seen.

When I gingerly opened the latch pin I was surprised to find that the contents were not only intact they were in excellent shape.  A total of six images appeared in the folds: Legislative Building and Law Courts, Hillsborough Bridge, Charlottetown from Battery Point, General Post Office, Market Building, and South African Volunteers Monument.



All of the photographs, save one, were common postcard shots and in fact I had full-card images of all of them in my collection. The images appear to have been used by a number of different publishers but this card helps date them from 1906 or earlier. The remaining photo is one I had not seen before. It shows a still-unfinished Hillsborough Bridge with the swing-span open. Because the last of the spans was not put in place until June of 1905 this card must have been a recent publication when it was purchased and mailed.

I am unaware of any earlier leporello cards from Prince Edward Island and would be interested in knowing if there were other images from this period. It is unlikely that a publisher would have produced only one. Adding this unprepossessing item to my collection shows that cards from Prince Edward Island can run to some fairly exotic specialties.




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