The First Written Modern Valentines
Verbal and singing valentines began to be replaced by written missives in Europe in the 15th century. The first written valentine is usually attributed to the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, in 1415. He reportedly passed the time by writing romantic verses for his wife. By the 16th century, written valentines were commonplace.
History tells us the first modern valentines date from the early years of the fifteenth century. The young French Duke of Orleans, captured at the battle of Agincourt, was kept a prisoner in the Tower of London for many years. He wrote poem after poem to his wife, real valentines. About sixty of them remain. These can be seen among the royal papers in the British Museum.
Early valentines were made by hand, using colored paper, watercolors and colored inks. These valentine styles, some still made today, included:
- Pinprick valentines - Made by pricking tiny holes in paper with a pin to resemble the look of lace
- Cutout valentines- Lace-look cards made by folding paper several times and cutting out a lace design with small, sharp scissors
- Acrostic valentines - Verses in which the first letters in the lines spelled out the beloved's name
Example : name Amanda.
A - Another moment without you is
M - more pain than I can bear.
A- And no other love will ever be
N - nearer to my heart than yours.
D - Days pass slowly until we shall meet
A -again and our lives forever share.
- Rebus valentines - Verses in which small pictures took the place of some of the words (for example, an eye instead of I)
Cards decorated with black and white pictures painted by factory workers began to be created in the early 1800s; by the end of the century, valentines were being made entirely by machine. Sociologists theorize that printed cards began to take the place of letters, particularly in Great Britain, because they were an easy way for people to express their feelings in a time when direct expression of emotions was not fashionable.
Manufactured cards notwithstanding, increasingly beautiful handmade Valentines were often small works of art, richly decorated with silk, satin or lace, flowers or feathers and even gold leaf. And many featured Cupid, the cherubic, be-winged son of Venus, and a natural Valentine's Day "mascot." (If you'd like to read more about Cupid)
Lonely sailors created some of the more unusual valentines during the Victorian era -- they used seashells of various sizes to create hearts, flowers and other designs or to cover heart-shaped boxes.
Flowers as valentines appear nearly two hundred years later. A daughter of Henry IV of France gave a party in honor of St Valentine. Each lady received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the man chosen as her valentine.
So from Italy, France and England came the pretty custom of sending our friends loving messages on this day. With flowers, with heart-shaped candies, and with valentine cards we honor the good priest who disobeyed Claudius the Cruel.
Valentines are thought to be the first greeting cards ever sent; the paper valentine dates from the 16th century. By the 17th century, handmade cards were oversized and elaborate, while store-bought ones were smaller and costly. But printers were already beginning to produce a limited number of cards with verses and sketches. The real revolution came in the early 19th century with a reduction in postal rates. This helped to establish the custom of sending anonymous messages or cards to those one admired. More>>>