World's first printed Christmas card exhibits
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 a 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). 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.