Cobweb Valentine with Morning Glory, Anonymous, British, 19th century, Watercolor, pen and brown ink on cameo-embossed paper

Cobweb Valentine with Morning Glory

Anonymous, British, 19th century
Watercolor, pen and brown ink on cameo-embossed paper
Sheet: 7 7/8 × 9 3/4 in. (20 × 24.7 cm)
Ephemera, Drawings, Ornament & Architecture
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Richard Riddell, 1981
Accession Number:
Not on view
Elaborately embossed paper by Dobbs as in 1981.1136.514. Borders are embossed with Cherubs and French phrases. The borders have laurel at top and bottom, and oak leaves on both sides. An embossed frame is added within, with corners signifying music and art.

This is an exceptional Valentine, with the central design being a twisted paper confection which looks like a morning glory, and when untwisted, reveals a fine cobweb device, and both have been applied to the center of the page. The exterior of the cobweb is a painting of pink roses, white lilies, and pansies -- as a message in the Language of Flowers. It can only be viewed when the first paper puzzle is opened. A thread lifts the interior paper device to reveal a carefully painted image of Cupid in flight, above a flaming Altar of Love. There is finely written poetry on the interior "petals" of the morning glory. Delicately painted vignettes surround the central cartouche -- acorns and oak leaves on the sides, a pink rose and buds at the top, and forget-me-nots below.

The cobweb, a delightful kind of paper engineering, was a moveable device, also known as a Beehive, a Flower Cage, or a Birdcage.

The paper has cherubs and French phrases embossed in the corners. The short sides are embossed with laurel leaves, while the long sides are embossed with oak leaves. Edge is painted with 2 mm. pink watercolor border. The makers' name, Dobbs Patent, is faintly embossed below an interior embossed frame, bordered with symbols of music and art. The various Dobbs imprints were in use 1810-1851, with Dobbs Patent being among the earliest. . The imprint changed over the years. (See Staff, Frank, The Valentine and its Origins, page 41.)

This is a folded "stampless cover" which was mailed. The cancellation has been made three times, so it is difficult to decipher, except the clear year, 1840.
Inscription: Poetry is hand-written inside the paper device morning glory.


This is a "stampless cover" - the cancellation is somewhat obscured as it was stamped three times; however, the year, 1840, is very clear in orange.

Addressed in ink:

"Miss Eliot/ Shooters Hill/ Kent"

and in the upper left corner, "Free"

Remnants of sealing wax.

Marking: Watermark: J WHATMAN 1836/Postal cancellation 1840
Mrs. Richard Riddell; Donor: Mrs. Richard Riddell
Ruth Webb Lee A History of Valentines. Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, 1952.

Frank Staff The Valentines & its Origins. 1969.