Today is the official day set aside for lovers ~ HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
Hopefully couples show their love for one another every day of the week. But, as we have days specially to honor mothers and fathers, as well as veterans and laborers, having one day out of the year to focus exclusively on the importance of love is marvelous. I, being the sort of person who embraces romance and happily-ever-after, cannot stop at ONE day, so am celebrating all month! So don’t stop with this post… be sure to take a look at the romance-centric blogs since February 1… and come back as my “Month of Love” continues on to February 28.
Valentine’s Day has been a reality for centuries. I have a short history of the day in the Library at Pemberley – Saint Valentine and Valentine’s Day.
“My dear the Heart which you behold,
Will break when you the same unfold,
Even so my heart with lovesick pain,
Sure wounded is and breaks in twain.”
As you give and receive pretty cards from those whom you love, this brief history lesson will aid in appreciating the tradition of exchanging cards as tokens of one’s affection. Read on!
The existence and exchange of written Valentines began somewhere after 1400. Generally these were in the form of written love letters rather than the decorated cards we immediately think of. Fancy writing paper was not readily available until closer to 1800 with nineteenth century technology printing advancements allowing the business to seriously boom.
Late in the 1700s the concept of creating and sending elaborate Valentines caught hold as a fad. All cards from these early periods were handcrafted, but that does not mean they were simple! The Valentine to the right is the oldest surviving card, dating 1790, and is a folded puzzle with each flap unveiling a poetic verse. That verse is the one written above.
The Golden Age of Valentines to collectors is 1840-1870. The printing technology of chromolithoraphy was perfected, producing astonishingly beautiful printed designs. Joseph Addenbrooke, a London stationer, became a major contributor in commercial Valentines. During the 1830s he created paper to imitate lace. Soon lace paper, called “doilies,” became the rage. In the 1870s George C. Whitney developed material and the equipment needed for fancy embossing.
Valentine cards were made in mass quantities and variety. LOVE was the dominant theme for Valentines, but comic and insulting Valentines were popular too. Produced in a wide range of exquisite colors, these printed Valentines were inexpensive, and soon became part of the culture.
At the same time, the art of creating a personal, original Valentine was also very popular. Fair ladies and handsome gentlemen alike created and presented their dainty creation, in hopes of winning admiration and favor.
Using the fancy papers readily accessible, lace, fabric scraps, silk ribbons, fringe, feathers, tinsel, glitter, dried flowers, and other regalia deemed romantic and pretty.
Mesh and lace-paper were layered over colored silk fabric. Some cards had portions that were moveable, revealing hidden messages of affection and love. Pictorial “pop-up” Valentines and those with a 3-D effect were especially sought, the additional cleverness and time proof of the lover’s sincerity.
Whether simple or complex, fancy or plain, handmade or commercial, Valentines were one of the few tokens a man and woman could exchange before betrothed or married. Words were crafted as carefully as the card itself, messages hidden between the lines as a way to express true affection and hopefulness as a suitor.
Types of Victorian Valentines
Acrostic – Have verses in which the first lines spell out the loved one’s name.
Cutout – Made by folding the paper several times and then cutting a lace-like design with small, sharp, pointed scissors.
Pinprick – Made by pricking tiny holes in the paper with a pin or needle, creating the look of lace.
Rebus – Have verses with tiny pictures taking the place of some words. An eye would take the place of the word I, for example.
Puzzle Purse – A folded puzzle to read and refold, each fold with verses to be read in a certain order.
Fraktur – Had ornamental lettering in the style of illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.