I always think that there is as much interest and pleasure to be found on the reverse of an old postcards as on the picture side. Those half understood messages that can hint of so much are tantalizing to someone who has both time and imagination to spare. With Victorian carte de visites, the interest is usually focused on the picture on the front, but the reverse side can often provide a visual feast which can match any bustled beauty or cuirasse-bodiced coquette. Take, for example, this cdv of an unknown woman which comes from the studio of the Cumbrian photographer James Hargreaves, which I managed to buy the other day for 50 pence. Flip the card over and you discover the printed back.
Little seems to be known of James Hargreaves although it would appear that he owned a whole chain of photographic studios in the Lake District at the end of the nineteenth century. We know that he was born in Ambleside in 1852 and that by the time of the 1871 census he was already listed as working as a photographer. He certainly seemed to have connections and proudly lists himself as being "photographer to His Grace the Duke of Buccleugh and Queensberry". I did check to see if I could find a picture of the relevant Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry just in case she had a resemblance to our unknown woman, but I could find no portrait. Anyway, it is the trade advert on the reverse of the card which is the thing of beauty and a 50p joy forever.