Manchester Metropolitan University’s Poetry Library recently revealed their latest exhibition, an exploration of the relationship between poetry and pictures on greetings cards printed between 1840 and 1920.

Regarded as a ‘golden age’ for greetings cards, Forget Me Not will offer visitors the chance to peruse the weird and wonderful creations dreamt up throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The exhibition’s curator, Stephanie Boydell, explained why these periods were so significant for the art form, and what makes the Manchester Met’s new collection so unique.

Why should people come to the exhibition? 

“This is a chance to see into the sometimes weird, but always fascinating world of the Victorians.”

What is new about this exhibition that people may not have seen before?

“You will see a huge range of types of card, some that are familiar, like Christmas and traditional Valentines, and some that aren’t, such as memorial cards, and Vinegar Valentines that were sent with the intention of offending the recipient.”

How do greeting cards fit with poetry?

“The Victorians were familiar with illustrated poetry, so the linking of image and verse wasn’t so new to them. Many poets were household names and you often see these poets featured on the cards, for instance, Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate from 1850-9. That said, some of the links between image and verse can seem a bit odd to us.”

Why is the time period considered the golden age of greetings cards? 

“It was a combination of different things: one is the affordability brought about by technological advances in full-colour printing, which meant that cards were much cheaper to print and buy; and also the introduction of cheap postage which meant that sending cards became more affordable. As a result, it became fashionable, and then routine, to send cards. Many tens of thousands of cards were designed and even more sent in those last years of the nineteenth century.”

Why is this collection important? 

“Because it is the largest single donor collection in the country and not one of the 325,000 cards is exactly the same as another! It is important as a historic resource because so many of these items were not kept, or not kept well, and have disappeared. They are also a fascinating insight into all levels of Victorian society, as they were made for and sent by many different social groups.”

Are there any particularly funny/interesting/special cards people should look out for?

“The weird ones are the best! A knife-wielding turkey is a particular favourite, as is a group of mice sitting down to a roast cat dinner, or perhaps the dancing vegetable people…too many to choose from”

Forget Me Not: Poetry and Pictures in Victorian and Edwardian Greetings Cards is open now, and will run until Sat 17 Sep. Admission is free and there is no need to book. For more info, visit the Manchester Met website.

A Manchester Wire Partnership post
Mon 11 Jul - Sat 17 Sep, Manchester Poetry Library,
Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6BG
, Free
Bradley Lengden
Published on:
Thu 14 Jul 2022