Cobweb valentine, Anonymous, American, 19th century, Wood engraving, letterpress, and watercolor

Cobweb valentine

Anonymous, American, 19th century
Wood engraving, letterpress, and watercolor
Sheet: 10 1/16 × 8 11/16 in. (25.5 × 22 cm)
Ephemera, Drawings, Ornament & Architecture
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Richard Riddell, 1981
Accession Number:
Not on view
The smooth paper is folded into a quarto booklet -- the recto has a fine double border, printed by continuous cuts of wood engraving, in one line each of blue and gold. Within the border is a banner with a bouquet atop, and garlands of flowers draped from each side. The name, Emma, has been penned beneath the banner. In the center, a hand-colored wood engraving of a man, presumably proposing on bended knee, before a woman in bridal attire, has been carefully cut and pasted. Concentric circles, 3 cm. widest diameter, have been carefully cut into the central area, and a fine thread attached to the center. When the thread is gently lifted, the cutwork rises, and reveals the image of a man and woman reading a letter; she is seated, he is looking over her shoulder. This has the characteristics to be American in origin.

The Cobweb, also known as Beehive, Bird cage, and Flower cage, was a popular moveable, mechanical device where a top layer is cut into concentric circles, which may be lifted by a thread to reveal an interior, secret image.

Inscription: Recto, script at top beneath the banner : "Emma"
Verso, script "Valentine 2/14 - 1847"

Printed poetry:

"While this pulse with life is throbbing/ Shall this heart be true to thee,/ Foes may frown, and friends forsake us,/ Thou art all the world to me."

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.