Christmas Card Inventor Remembered at Bonhams with £6,000 First Card


A proof of the very first Christmas card, dating from 1843, showing a family eating Christmas dinner, will go on sale at Bonhams with an estimate of £4,000 to £6,000. The sale takes place on March 20 2007.

This historic card was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole who had the card designed by his friend John C. Horsley, a well-known artist who also painted portraits of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. He was an active public figure who had been a Captain in the Dragoon Guards, was involved in the introduction of the penny post, helped organise the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was a founder of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

One thousand cards of this first design were printed and sold at one shilling each (5p), but only around 20 are thought to have survived. Very few remain in private hands, the majority being in museums or public archives.

They sold from a shop at 12 Old Bond Street, the price of a shilling being the equivalent of an average weekly wage, making them the preserve of the moneyed classes.

This is one of the few uni-coloured proofs known of this card and was inherited from an elderly gentleman who was married to one of Sir Henry Cole’s granddaughters.

Brian Asquith, Postcards and Cigarette Cards Consultant at Bonhams, comments: “When one holds this card in one’s hand, one is at the start of a social revolution – the advent of an industry worth billions – linking people round the world through the annual ritual of writing Christmas cards.”

Prior to the Christmas card people of a certain station would send each other signed calling cards at Christmas.

The image on this first Christmas card shows three generations of a family – thought to be that of Sir Henry Cole -tucking into a hearty Christmas meal. The message reads: `A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.’

For more details visit Bonhams.com