Winterthur Library at the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
THE JOHN and CAROLYN GROSSMAN COLLECTION
Route 52, Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Delaware 19735.
Choice And Rare 2
FIRST PRINTED CHRISTMAS CARD (English, 1843)
Henry Cole of London conceived the first Christmas card in 1843. Cole commissioned his friend, artist John Calcott Horsley,
to design a holiday card that would replace his seasonal task of writing many letters. Horsley, a future member of the Royal
Academy, illustrated a festive Victorian family flanked by charitable images of feeding and clothing the poor. He framed his
design with twisted branches of wood and ivy, added "A Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year To You," and included name spaces
for the sender and recipient. An estimated one thousand copies of this 3" x 5" card were printed. After Cole fulfilled his
list, the remaining cards were sold for one shilling each. Sir Henry Cole did not realize he had created the first commercially
printed Christmas card and certainly never dreamed of inspiring an international, multi-billion dollar industry that thrives
in the 21st century! Only about twenty Cole-Horsley cards are known to exist today. They reside in museums and archives including
Pierpont-Morgan Library (NYC), The Victoria and Albert Museum (London), and Hallmark Historical Collection (Kansas City).
The John Grossman Collection of Antique Images is part of that distinguished list. Our Cole-Horsley card is the crowning jewel
to a significant holding of Victorian Christmas images.
PRINTER'S PROOF OF THE FIRST CHRISTMAS CARD
Rarer than the Cole-Horsley Christmas Card is this printer's proof in red ink. Intended to show how the
design looked prior to its final print run and correct any imperfections on the printing stone, this one-color proof was actually
used by Henry Cole. It is inscribed to "W. Matchwick" at lower left and signed "from Henry Cole" at lower right. William Matchwick
was a close friend and collaborator of Henry Cole. The only design details from the finished card that did not appear on this
proof were the "To" and "From" designated areas and the publisher's credit line. Everything else remains true to the final
design. This card measures 4-5/8" h x 6-1/2" w and is one of only four proofs known to exist.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CARDS
Soon to follow Sir Henry Cole's printed Christmas card was this early American version.
It measures 5-1/4" h x 7" w and has a similar triptych design style as the Cole-Horsley card. A family appears in
the center panel flanked by side panels of food and drink. Nicholson Devereaux, a wood engraver from Boston and later Philadelphia,
is credited under the left side panel. Keffer & Brett, lithographers based in Philadelphia at the end of the 1840s, are
credited under the right side panel. The card is addressed to "Miss M. E. V. Stratton" and is an exceptionally rare
example. It looks very much like another American Christmas card from the same period, c.1850. That greeting card was lithographed
by R.H. Pease of Albany, New York and advertised "Pease's Great Variety Store In The Temple Of Fancy." Its last
reported location was in the Manchester Polytechnic Library (Manchester, UK)
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