The first Valentine cards were sent in the 18th century. Initially these were handmade efforts, as pre-made cards were not yet available. Lovers would decorate paper with romantic symbols including flowers and love knots, often including puzzles and lines of poetry. Those who were less inspired could buy volumes that offered guidance on selecting the appropriate words and images to woo their lover. These cards were then slipped secretly under a door, or tied to a door-knocker.
It was in Georgian Britain that pre-printed cards first began to appear, though these were not yet as popular as they were eventually to become. Perhaps the oldest surviving example dates from 1797: this card, held at York Castle Museum, was sent by one Catherine Mossday to a Mr. Brown of London. It is decorated with flowers and images of Cupid, with a verse printed around the border reading:
Since on this ever Happy day,
All Nature’s full of Love and Play,
Yet harmless still if my design,
‘Tis but to be your Valentine.