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Delivering Valentine's Day throughout the centuries

Royal Mail / 11 February 2016

Royal Mail is celebrating Valentine’s Day with an online gallery of historic Valentines cards.

 “Valentines” gifts and letters had long been sent in upper-class European society, but the practice of sending Valentines “cards” in February first arose in Britain in the last years of the 18th Century.

The earliest surviving Valentines card in the Postal Museum’s - formerly the British Postal Museum and Archive - collection dates from 1790. It is in the form of a fold out “puzzle purse” that reveals romantic verses. These were known as a 'puzzle purse' or courtship envelope - similar to paper fortune tellers today. The puzzle is to unfold it in the right way to reveal the hidden verses - watch a video of how to make your own.

The oldest printed card in the world, dating from 1797, is a delicate piece that has been pierced to produce a lace effect in the corners and is decorated with cupids, doves and flowers which were probably hand coloured after printing.

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