First Christmas Card by Sir Henry Cole and John Horsley
Reputedly the first Christmas card, this was designed by Horsley in 1843, and a coloured version sent out by Sir Henry Cole in 1846.
Commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on 1 May 1843. The central picture shows three generations of a family raising a toast to the card's recipient: on either side are charity scenes including food and clothing being given to the poor. Allegedly the image of the family drinking wine together proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. Two batches totaling 2, 050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each, and of those just a dozen are known to have survived.
We are offering reproduction prints of the original design. In 2001 an original version sold for a record 22, 500 pounds sterling at auction in Devizes, Wiltshire, England. After attracting bids from collectors in Britain and America, it eventually sold for the record-breaking price.
The auctioned card was especially sought after because it was sent by Sir Henry to his grandmother and aunt, and signed by the great Victorian.
John Callcott Horsley was an English painter, illustrator, and designer. Born in London on 29 January 1817, he was the grand-nephew of the English landscape painter Sir Augustus Callcott. His sister, Mary Elizabeth Horsley, was the wife of the famous British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Horsley studied painting at the Royal Academy where he met the painter Thomas Webster. His paintings were largely of historical subjects set in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, influenced by the Dutch masters Pieter de Hooch and Vermeer. From 1875 to 1897, Horsley was a rector and treasurer of the Royal Academy. Because he was strictly against nude models he earned the nickname "Clothes-Horsley".
Cole is credited with devising the concept of sending greeting cards at Christmas time
© Mary Evans Picture Library
The Great Sacrifice by James Clark, WW1
The Great Sacrifice by James Clark, originally published in the 1914 Christmas number of The Graphic. Depicting a dead soldier on a battlefield with an ethereal image of Christ on the cross shining down on him, it was one of the most popular images of the war. Stephen Paget observed in The Cornhill Magazine that this Graphic cover has turned railway bookstalls into wayside shrines; the one and only picture of the war, up to now, which says what most needs to be said on canvas. Date: 1914
© Mary Evans Picture Library
First Authenticated Christmas Tree - Strasbourg
Christmas Tree in History and Legend: The Earliest Authenticated Christmas Tree in Strasbourg (at this time in Germany). A merchant of Strasburg (a Mr Forbes) writes of the residents of the city setting up fir trees in their parlours on which to hang paper cut-outs, apples, wafers, sweets etc.. The tree is visible to passers-by out on the street, catching the particular attention of two young children, who look in to admire the decorations. Date: 1605
© Williams College Oxford Programme / Mary Evans Picture Library