A sealed Victorian Valentine has been discovered among a collection of more than 200 cards, some of which date back more than 140 years.
The envelope, circa 1880, was found among three albums of cards awash with romance which date back to the Victorian and Georgian eras as well as the early 20th century. It is believed the envelope may contain a romantic gift of perfume.
The collection, due to be sold on April 1 in Hansons' Library Auction, belonged to the late Lawrence Randle, a keen philatelist and card collector.
His son, Oliver Randle, from Newbury, said: “My father collected most of these cards in the UK between 1949 and 1990 before moving to South Africa on his retirement. He worked for the Inland Revenue, rising to District Valuer in Devon, before retiring in the 1980s.
The back of the envelope with the seal.
“Throughout his adult life he visited stamp and card shops in many towns and took great pleasure in finding items of interest, overlooked by others, in large boxes of unsorted cards.”
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons London, said: “It’s a wonderful collection and we were particularly fascinated when we came across a small unopened Valentine’s envelope, no more than three inches long.
“Decorated with perforated hearts and a picture of a beautiful young woman, its seal was firmly glued down. You can feel something inside but it seems wrong to open it. We will leave that important decision up to the buyer.
“We will never know for sure whether the recipient saw it then firmly resealed it. But that would have been hard to do without tearing the seal. There is no indication of any damage.
“What we do know is that, more than a century ago, it was meant for someone special on Valentine’s Day.”
The words on the seal can’t be read in their entirety but it says: “As upon the quiet flowing stream let shines the sun, So with joy and gladness flowing – May thy ____moments run.”
The front and the back of the envelope (images merged).
Mr Hanson said: “Before the arrival of the internet, social media and dating apps, courtship was a much slower, gentler and tentative affair awash with the type of romance we are more familiar with in a Jane Austen novel.
“Lovelorn men and women would spend hours deliberating over poetic prose or making cards by hand. These cards, brimming with detail and words painstakingly written from the heart, show us the art of true romance.
“These cards, many with delicate, lace-like detail and delicate decorations seem a million miles away from some of the mass-produced commercial offerings we see today.”
Another tiny envelope in the collection bears the message: “Remember me whene’er you sigh, Be it at midnight’s hour, Remember me, and think that I, Return they sigh and feel its power. Whene’er you think of those away, Or when you bend the pious knee, Or when your thoughts to pleasure stray, O then dear maid, remember me.”
“In this day and age, I can’t imagine anyone writing a message asking their beloved to remember them each time they sigh,” said Mr Hanson.
The Valentine card collection will be sold in Hansons' Spring Fine Art Auction Library Auction on April 1. The items are still being catalogued so estimates cannot be provided yet,
To find out more or to enter items for our next Library Auction, please email Hansons’ books and works on paper expert Jim Spencer: [email protected]