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'Pity a poor wounded heart' detail, hatmp000904 

'Pity a poor wounded heart', detail of Vinegar Valentine


Love letters and hate mail: Victorian vinegar valentines 

Annebella Pollen, lecturer at the University of Brighton and Researcher/Interpreter for the On the Pull project, introduces a collection of unusual valentine cards in Royal Pavilion & Museums' collection.


Set with the most enjoyable task of discovering hidden histories of courtship and romance among Brighton & Hove Museums’ objects, the boxes of valentine cards in the museum’s reserve collections are an obvious first destination. Commemorating the day most enduringly associated with flirtation and love, and involving the transference of emotion into object form, the valentine card, with both commercial and personal stories to tell, is a most fitting location for focus in a project dealing with the material manifestations of the culture of attraction.


The many valentines in Brighton Museum’s collections date from the early decades of the 19th century through to the mid-20th century and represent, alongside single objects with unknown provenance, several donors’ personal collections. The range includes the touchingly inscribed alongside the never-used; the sweetly hand-made and the crassly mass-produced; single donated items and carefully compiled full albums.


A leather-bound album of valentine cards dating from around 1870, given to the museum anonymously in 1940, is of particular interest. Unlike the ladies’ scrapbooks of the 19th century, lovingly compiled with personally significant ephemera, each item in this album is tellingly marked with a serial number and with bulk prices, suggesting the object to be a stationery wholesaler’s sample book. The wide and varied range includes, among the many lacy, silvered, embossed, scented, cushioned, and delicate cards of cherubs, birds and flower garlands, a selection of cards of a very different type.

Vinegar Valentine 'Tis siad you share your love with many..., HATMP000904

' 'Tis said you share your love with many...', a vinegar valentine card from an album dating from the 1870s, HATMP000904

You can view and download a selection of Vinegar Valentine's at our online Image Store.


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