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Endless Love

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There is nothing like love to inspire the written word, and the first European greetings cards were Valentines sent in Germany in the mid 13th century. Perhaps the medieval period was less romantic as cards seem to have fallen from favour, only becoming truly popular with the advent of the penny post in 1840. bjk In the Victorian era greeting card production became a lucrative industry, a development that coincided with a downturn in fortunes of silk manufacturers who faced serious competition from new artificial silks. Coventry ribbon manufacturer Thomas Stevens applied indomitable Victorian ingenuity, inventing the Stevengraph to save his flagging business. Based on the Jacquard loom method, it used punched cards to weave thousands of coloured threads into anything from simple floral sprays to replicas of famous paintings. Inspired by Stevens' success, other manufacturers followed suit. The most luxurious were enfolded within padded, scented covers, and all were packed with Victorian sentiment as overblown as the roses they featured. snf The golden age of postcards came with the First World War when people were far from loved ones. These cards, embroidered with regimental badges, the flags of the allies and patriotic messages, are singled out by Mark Hannam of Bonhams; “Military cards are collectable and will often sell in excess of £5 or more. Rarer cards would be portrait, shipping and scenes of French towns in flames like "Arras" and can command prices of £25 or more.” Most poignant were those embroidered with pansies or forget-me-nots for remembrance and messages such as 'from your soldier boy', ‘a kiss from the trenches' or simply 'don't forget me'. The cards were embroidered by French and Belgian women keen to show their support for the service men. Designs were embroidered in repeat on rolls of stiff silk mesh which were then sent to the factory to be cut and mounted. ve Possibly because of the sad associations with WW1, by 1923 silk cards were in decline. There was a temporary revival during the Second World War but the limited designs were created by machine. This is an extract from Sarah Jane Downing's article in issue 27 of Selvedge Magazine. Why not treat your valentine to a continuous subscription to Selvedge this Sunday?


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