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The arrival of the first Christmas card

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Christmas card in the collection of the British Library,
which will help you email your greetings

Was there something in the air? A Brit invented the printed Christmas card in 1843, the same year that Dickens published A Christmas Carol. The first in the world, the card showed a happy family raising a festive glass, while side scenes showed the family clothing and feeding the poor.

The man who commissioned it was Sir Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The painter was John Calcott Horsely, a member of the Royal Academy, who was known as "Clothes-Horsely" because he did not care to paint women nude. Printed in black and white and then colored by hand, 1,000 cards were produced for "Old King" Cole.

The tradition did not really take off until the Christmas of1862 when printer Charles Goodall produced a simple card with the words "A Merry Christmas". Robins were added later, followed by holly. Not long afterwards, features like the "trick card", with a surprise generated by moving a tab, proved popular.

It was also around this time that the last-minute rush to the post office became a seasonal feature.

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