First Christmas card goes on display next month

8 October 2019, 19:54

The first Christmas card
The first Christmas card. Picture: Charles Dickens Museum
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The world's first Christmas card - printed in 1843 - is going on display in London.

The hand-coloured scene shows a family gathered around a table, drinking wine and carving a turkey.

The card was the brainchild of Sir Henry Cole in Christmas 1843, the same year Dickens’s Carol was published.

Sir Henry was a busy civil servant and lacked the time to write to all his family and friends. So he commissioned artist John Callcott Horsley to design a card with the message, ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year To You’.

The idea took a while to take off, with the next design not being printed for another 5 years.

Only 1,000 copies of the hand-made card, which cost a shilling, were made for Christmas 176 years ago.

The trend did not take off straight away, but after five years a tradition started that continues to this day.

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