World’s first Christmas card to go on display at Charles Dickens Museum

The world’s first printed Christmas card (Brick Row Book Shop, San Diego, California/PA)
The world’s first printed Christmas card (Brick Row Book Shop, San Diego, California/PA)

The world’s first Christmas card – printed several years before the idea would finally take off – is going on show.

Dated 1843, the hand-coloured card depicts a large family gathering for Christmas, drinking wine and carving a turkey.

A child also appears to be gulping down some of the beverage at the crowded table in the design by Henry Cole, Joseph Cundall and John Calcott Horsley.

The lithographed cards, published in Old Bond Street, London, were sold for one shilling each.

But it took another five years for the next card designed for Christmas to appear.

Books going on display at The Charles Dickens Museum
Books going on display at The Charles Dickens Museum (Charles Dickens Museum)

The idea did eventually take off – in 1877 4.5 million Christmas cards were posted.

The Christmas card will go on display at the Charles Dickens Museum in an exhibition on the novelist’s enduring influence on how Christmas is celebrated today.

It also examines how Dickens fell out of love with the season he helped to create.

Cindy Sughrue, director of the museum, said: “Dickens and Christmas will forever be linked and his influence on the season remains as strong as ever.

“In the 19th century, Dickens became king of the commercial Christmas.

An exhibition from the Charles Dickens Museum exhibition
An exhibition from the Charles Dickens Museum exhibition (Charles Dickens Museum)

“Changes in the country created the perfect conditions for him to publish A Christmas Carol – a thing of beauty, both in content and presentation.

“While his tale celebrates the importance of family, loved ones and generosity of spirit, it was part of a massive commercial Christmas explosion, a dichotomy which would come to irritate Dickens later in his life.”

The card, which will go on display alongside its proof copy, was printed in the same year as the publication of A Christmas Carol.

The exhibition will feature decorated editions, cloth-bound books, gift books and a collection of tiny books by different authors.

It was announced as the British Museum shows the earliest example of a travel book.

The illustrated travel guide, Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam by Bernhard von Breydenbach, was made in 1486.

It features the first accurate printed illustrations of some of the most important European and middle eastern cities such as Venice and Jerusalem.

Beautiful Books: Dickens And The Business Of Christmas opens on November 20 this year at the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

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