The world’s first printed Christmas card has gone on show at the Charles Dickens Museum in London, just over a month before the Royal Mail deadline for posting Christmas cards in Britain…
The card was printed in 1843, the year the Victorian author published A Christmas Carol, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge whose miserable attitude is transformed after being visited by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.
Designed by Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley, the hand-coloured card shows a family gathered around a table enjoying a glass of wine with the message: A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.
It was sent from a son to his parents
Of the 1,000 originally printed, 21 survived and one has been loaned to the museum by a book dealer in San Francisco.
Cole’s original proof is also on loan. It was given as a gift in 1865 and has a pencilled note to the recipient in the bottom right-hand corner.
Dickens and Cole worked at the same time, unknown to each other, shaping what would become popular traditions.
“This was a really important year for the development of the modern Christmas. The Christmas card is such a big part of our Christmases today. And A Christmas Carol is such a significant story that we see every year at Christmas time,” museum curator Louisa Price said.
Cole was instrumental in setting up the Penny Post in 1840 and imagining the first Christmas card which sold for a shilling (12 pence, $0.15).
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New #exhibition now open! Come see the world’s first printed #ChristmasCard as well as other gems and many a beautiful book. .. .. This 1843 card is a rare first example of a printed Christmas card; the product of Henry Cole (1808-1882), Joseph Cundall (1818-1895) and John Calcott Horsley (1817-1903) who collaborated on a project to make a greeting card specifically for the Christmas season. Horsley created the festive image of a family celebrating Christmas, flanked by images of Christmas charity (feeding and clothing the poor). Above and below the image are lines with blank spaces for the sender to write in the recipient’s and sender’s name, as has been done on this example. The lithographed, hard coloured Christmas card was published in 1843 – the same year #Dickens introduced the world to #Scrooge as he first published the beloved #AChristmasCarol! 1,000 copies were printed, and sold for one shilling per card – of which 21 survived! On loan to us from The Brick Row Bookshop all the way from San Francisco, California. Come and find out more this #FestiveSeason @DickensMuseum! * * ** * * #OpenNow #BeautifulBooks #Dickens #DickensMuseum #Christmas #DickensianChristmas #BrickRowBookshop #California #Loans @maggsbros
Today, billions of Christmas cards make their way around the world
Dickens realised industrialisation meant there was a market for books as Christmas presents. Simon Eliot, co-curator at the museum and specialist in 19th century books, said: “He was able to focus attention on Christmas and give it a sort of identity and verve which it had lacked.”
The exhibition – Beautiful Books: Dickens and the Business of Christmas – runs at the novelist’s former London home, now a museum, until April 19.
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New #exhibition Beautiful Books: Dickens and the Business of Christmas opens 20 Nov! The exhibition will feature treasures including beautifully bound jewel-studded books! In partnership with @maggsbros | Find out more via our website #BeautifulBooks #DickensMuseum #OpeningSoon