This is an early commercial ‘valentine writer’, dating from about 1811, comprising 65 verse Valentines and Answers, from which a tongue-tied Regency beau or belle could select to copy onto the reverse of the frontispiece before giving the engraving, as a Valentine’s Day card, to the object of his or her affection. This one was never used, or at least never dismantled in the way intended.
A wide market is catered for in the verses, with Valentines even ‘To an Old Maid’ and ‘To a Prude’, and Answers both positive and negative, e.g.
I did receive your valentine
Your hints are very free,
Nor do I think the character,
At all belongs to me.
It was during the first half of the nineteenth century that Valentine’s Day, a long-standing occasion for the exchange of verses and gifts, evolved into the commercial industry it is today. Publishers of valentines such as this were among the first to exploit cheap mass-printing in helping mankind express its feelings with as little personal inconvenience as possible. Two hundred years of tacky cards would follow.