The hand-colored card was printed in 1843 and originally sold for one shilling.
At the Dickens House Museum in London, the world’s first printed Christmas card is presented. Photograph: EPA / Neil Hall
At the Charles Dickens Museum in London, the world’s first printed Christmas card, an artwork created in 1843 that sparked a global industry, has been shown.
Designed by Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley, the hand-colored card shows a family gathered around a table enjoying a glass of wine with a greeting in the same year that Dickens ‘ A Christmas Carol was published with a message: “A merry Christmas and a happy new year to you.”
It’s been sent to his parents by a son. Of the 1,000 that were originally printed, 21 survived, and a book dealer in San Francisco gave one to the museum.
Also on loan is the original proof of Cole. It was given in 1865 as a gift and has a pencil note in the bottom right corner for the recipient.

In addition to the original evidence, the world’s first printed Christmas card. Photograph: EPA / Neil Hall
At the same time, unknown to each other, Dickens and Cole sought to form what would become popular traditions.
The curator of the museum Louisa Price said: “This was a really important year for the development of the modern Christmas. The Christmas card is such a big part of our Christmases today. And A Christmas Carol is such a significant story that we see every year at Christmas time.”
In 1840, Cole set up the Penny Post letter-delivery system and imagined the first Christmas card to sell for a shilling. Thousands of Christmas cards are making their way around the world today.
Dickens knew industrialization meant that as Christmas presents there was a market for books. Simon Eliot, museum co-curator and 19th century books expert, said: “He was able to focus attention on Christmas and give it a sort of identity and verve which it had lacked.”


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