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The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of good will to celebrate the New Year, and to the early Egyptians, who conveyed their greetings on papyrus scrolls. By the early 15th century, handmade paper greeting cards were being exchanged in Europe. The Germans are known to have printed New Year's greetings from woodcuts as early as 1400, and handmade paper Valentines were being exchanged in various parts of Europe in the early to mid-15th century, with the oldest Valentine in existence being in the British Museum.
By the 1850s, the greeting card had been transformed from a relatively expensive, handmade and hand-delivered gift to a popular and affordable means of personal communication, due largely to advances in printing, mechanization, and a reduction in postal rates with the introduction of the postage stamp. This was followed by new trends like Christmas cards, the first of which appeared in published form in London in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole hired artist John Calcott Horsley to design a holiday card that he could send to his friends and acquaintances. In the 1860s, companies like Marcus Ward & Co, Goodall and Charles Bennett began the mass production of greeting cards. They employed well known artists such as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane as illustrators and card designers. The extensive Laura Seddon Greeting Card Collection from the Manchester Metropolitan University gathers 32,000 Victorian and Edwardian greeting cards and 450 Valentine's Day cards dating from the early nineteenth century, printed by the major publishers of the day.
If you’re celebrating a birthday boy, you’ll find cards with charming animal illustrations and adventurous forest landscapes perfect for the plucky lad in your life (and all his future derring-do). Those entering their quarter- or mid-life crises deserve a card featuring sharp suiting, refined cocktails, and other trappings of fashionable maturity—it’s not so bad, we swear. Toast or roast the distinguished older gentleman in your life with funny birthday cards for men that make light of all those extra candles on the cake. Dry wit from The New Yorker and Derek Blasberg keeps the comedy fit for an evening at the Cafe Carlyle. Gents of any age will appreciate a card that features frosted gateaus, cream cakes, and other edible birthday indulgences. If you’d prefer to focus on the memories, a photo birthday card with an elegant typographic design or border frame lets you send a particularly sweet portrait of your jolly good fellow as you remember him best.