'World’s oldest' Valentine card for sale in Derbyshire

Valentine card dating back to circa 1790 Image copyright Hansons
Image caption The "declaration of love", which includes the line "be my Valentine", was handwritten about 230 years ago

A handwritten Valentine's card, believed to be the world's oldest, is set to be auctioned on Valentine's Day.

Charles Hanson, of Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbyshire, said he was assessing a collection of Victorian and Georgian cards when he came across it.

Describing the card as "something very special", Mr Hanson said it dates to about 1790, a time when romantic novelist Jane Austen lived.

The card has an estimated guide price of £400.

The message on the front reads: "Farewell you sweet and turtle dove. On you alone, I fixed my love. And if you never can be mine, I never can no comfort find!"

The verse inside reads:

Image copyright Hansons
Image caption There is a handwritten message inside the card

Mr Hanson said it must be "the world's oldest Valentine still in existence".

"It's delicate and torn as it's been written on paper. Nevertheless, it resembles a traditional card with a picture on the front and a verse inside," he said.

"The damage was caused by the fact that the message was folded to post to its recipient.

"However, its heartfelt, handwritten declaration of love is still intact and that's enormously touching."

Image copyright Hansons
Image caption The front of the message features the word "Love" above sketches of hearts and a dove carrying a sealed envelope

The handwritten card is part of a collection, which was sourced in the UK between 1949 and 1990.

It is believed that the first pre-printed card dates from 1797, while the oldest Valentine's letter, in the English language, is thought to have been written in 1477.

In Britain, Valentine's Day began to be celebrated in the 17th Century.

By the middle of the 18th Century, friends and lovers of all social classes exchanged small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.

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