The first printing of the first commercial Christmas greetings card is to be auctioned.
Commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and designed by John Calcott Horsley, the hand-coloured central panel shows a family toasting the health of an absent friend – the addressee.
All the characters are seen holding glasses except for the three smallest children who are eating plum pudding.
The card, published in the same year as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843, is expected to sell for between £5,000 and £8,000.
It is currently on show at Christie’s saleroom in central London ahead of the auction house’s forthcoming Classic Week sales.
The idea of the Christmas card proved popular but it was not immediately reprinted due to criticism by the Temperance League, which campaigned against alcohol consumption.
Other cards were designed and printed from November 1844 onwards, but the Horsley-Cole card remains the earliest known.
It is believed to survive in 21 copies and is inscribed by the sender to “My very dear Father & Mother” and signed “Their loving son, Joe”.
The piece will go under the hammer during the valuable books and manuscripts sale on December 9.
Classic Week will also see the auction of A Banquet Still Life by Jan Davidsz De Heem with an estimate of £4-6 million.