An online exhibition of Five Publishers: Victorian holiday cards in the Lilly Library

This website is based on an exhibition of the same name installed in the Lilly Library's Elisabeth Ball Room, December 3rd to 20th, 2001.


"All this vast industry is to afford a way of expressing one's goodwill to one's neighbors; to send out, not with too personal a meaning,...the assurance of renewed amity....No matter if we may secretly intend to renew the slight feud in the New Year, it is set aside for the moment, and, in theory, we are at one with the world, and at peace with all men."

-Gleeson White, 1894

In 1894, Gleeson White devoted an issue of his influential design journal, The Studio, to the examination of Christmas cards. He scanned the sample books of the major manufacturers and found standard greetings, bad verse, and an eclectic array of images. He wrote: "It is obvious that for the sake of their literature no collection would be worth making." Rather, it was the design that White found to be the sole interesting feature of this category of holiday ephemera.

Displayed here are examples of the holiday cards published by five of the firms discussed by White. Though only a few of the cards included here are mentioned by White specifically, they serve to illustrate the many styles, artists, and themes included in his treatment of the topic.