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          A visiting card

    Today we use business cards, bearing our company logo, name, job title, and ever more contact information as communication technology progresses. Some companies try to stand out from the crowd and add gimmicks like colorful backgrounds or two-sided printing. Like many, I have a stash of business contacts’ cards that I’d accumulated in the years before it became more sensible to put the data into the computer and throw the card away. A few are beautiful little gems of graphic design; others are disastrously ugly; but most are just, well... business cards: you've seen one, you've seen them all.
    But one day I found in a cluttered drawer an old cardboard box containing a stack of another kind of card. It came from the time when people had visiting cards, also called calling cards. These had nothing to do with business; they were an expected accessory of any member of the affluent middle and upper classes in Victorian society. People would use this card when calling on their friends, sending them in (carried by a servant on a silver platter, of course) to announce their arrival; or, if the person was away, they'd leave the card behind to give a residue of permanence to their fleeting presence.
    These particular visiting cards bear the name of my late maternal grandmother Lydia, who was born in Florence, Italy, on the first day of the 20th century, thus barely making it into the last years of Victorian culture. She was a true lady in character, bearing and comportment, and had a long, interesting and eventful life. Starting from a time of horse drawn carriages she witnessed with her characteristic aplomb the arrival of motorcars, radio, airplanes, computers, and the moon landings, not to mention two world wars, between which she survived the Mussolini era to immigrate to Israel.
    What is striking about these old visiting cards is their extreme simplicity. No logos, no colors, not even an address; just a white card bearing the owner's name in a tiny, formal font. Nothing more was needed; nothing more was added.

    Just a whiff of elegance from a bygone era...


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