From the Archive: A Happy New Year!

An Edwardian new year’s card from an Archive album.

The Archive has numerous beautiful examples of greetings cards, many of them pasted into albums by Victorian and Edwardian children. Historically, the sending of good wishes for a coming year probably represents the oldest of such greetings, dating back to the ancient Chinese. However, it was not until mechanised (and therefore cheap) colour printing took off in the mid nineteenth century that the greetings card as we know it emerged and soon proliferated, aided by the introduction of the flat-rate penny post in 1840. The first commercial Christmas cards appeared in 1843 when a thousand of a single design were sold for a shilling (5p) each; over Christmas 2021, an estimated 900,000,000 cards were exchanged in the UK alone.

Below: the design on the first Christmas card. This is one of more than 30,000 greetings cards that form the national collection housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum.