Publisher: London: Published at Summerly’s Home Treasury Office, 12 Old Bond Street, .
Edition: The first printed Christmas card with a proof of the card.
Bibliographical References: See: Buday, George. The History of the Christmas Card. London, 1954; McLean, Ruari. Joseph Cundall, A Victorian Publisher. London, 1976; Elliot, Jock. Inventing Christmas: How Our Holiday Came to Be. New York, 2002; And the DNB for Cole, Horsley and Cundall.
Condition: In fine condition; both cards are housed together in a linen folding chemise, within a linen clamshell box, with a red morocco label on the upper cover.
Book ID: 27465
DescriptionHand-colored lithographed card, 8 x 13 cm, with the contemporary inscription to “My very dear Father & Mother / [From] Their loving Son, Joe.” [With:] A proof impression of the same card, printed in sepia on card stock, inscribed some years later (1865) by Henry Cole to Mr. and Mrs. Wallis. 12 x 16.5 cm.
CommentsGreeting cards became popular and widely available in the early 19th century, and in 1843 Henry Cole (1808-1882), Joseph Cundall (1818-1895) and John Calcott Horsley (1817-1903) collaborated on a project to make a greeting card specifically for the Christmas season. Horsley created the festive image and Cundall put his imprint on the card and sold them at his Summerly Home Treasury Office. Summerly was a pseudonym invented by Henry Cole and used in many of his collaborations with Cundall. Above and below the image of the family celebrating Christmas, flanked by images of Christmas charity (feeding and clothing the poor), 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. 1,000 copies were printed, and sold for one shilling per card. According to the census by Kenneth Rowe (1977) only 21 examples are known to have survived, including this one. This example is accompanied by a rare proof of the card, inscribed by Henry Cole, who was said to have kept examples of the proof as souvenirs of his inventiveness. Only five such examples are recorded. This one was inscribed by Cole to Mr. and Mrs. George Wallis. George Wallis (1811-1891) was a museum curator and actively involved in artistic circles. In spite of the originality and ingenuity of the card, it was not a success, and another card designed specifically for Christmas would not appear for another five years. When color printing became less expensive in the 1860s, Christmas cards became commonplace. Provenance: from the collection of Jock Elliott. Sotheby’s, December 12, 2006, lot 110. ¶ THIS CARD AND ITS PROOF WILL BE ON DISPLAY AT THE CHARLES DICKENS MUSEUM IN LONDON, ENGLAND, FROM NOVEMBER 20, 2019 TO APRIL 19, 2020, AS PART OF THE EXHIBITION DICKENS AND THE BUSINESS OF CHRISTMAS. SEE THIS LINK FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/21/world/europe/first-christmas-card.html.