Joseph Mansell - His Valentines and Prints
by guest contributor, Geoff Snowden
It was to be my wife’s birthday that started off the quest for something special. I had seen a valentine in a local antique shop window, so here we go, that would suit and solve the problem.
This would have been in the 1970’s, one thing led to another, a few more valentines that led onto what was to become an obsession and then I found the large Mansell valentine (Fig 1)
As time went by a little research became necessary to further the knowledge of the subject, this would have been in the early 1980’s. One of the items found was a copy of All The Year Round dated 1864, the author being the great Charles Dickens (who founded and owned this weekly literature magazine periodical). His article did not state that the work shop he was describing was that of Joseph Mansell, however it just let you to believe it could be no other than the valentine workshop of Joseph Mansell.
It was about this time that I made a visit to an antique shop in the local Yorkshire Dales, wonder of wonders, I found a print with the name of J. Mansell on the bottom edge. To me this could only be my friend Mr Mansell’s work.
As I found out later from the New Baxter Societies catalogue, they were print numbers 59 and 61 (relieving Distress and Donkeys at Scarborough respectively). All this led onto the still ongoing quest for Mansell prints – just a mere 36 years later.
I found in other collections two valentine cards by Mansell, they were on embossed white paper set as a cameo in the centre of the cards. On the bottom edge was embossed the letters J. Mansell. To date I have yet to find any of Mansell’s prints on this own embossed paper, still looking.
As all collectors of prints would know, Joseph Mansell was at first just a printer and embosser, later he began to produce lace paper and valentines. His address at that time was his home and print shop, being 35 Red Lion Square, London.
It would seem that he started his business in the mid 1830’s going on to the 1870’s. During the late
1830’s -1840’s he began making his lace paper and valentines, being one of the most prolific manufacturers of exquisite valentines.
As Geoff states Mansell starting manufacturing his lace papers in the 1830’s / 40’s and carried on till the 1870’s. It would have been 1849 earliest that Mansell took a licence from Baxter and produced most of the prints we know today in the next 10-20 years
We see his colour prints on valentines on a ‘regular’ basis, please see fig 3 but ones on his own embossed lace paper are very hard to find as Geoff says, and also stated in Ruth Webb Lee’s book The History of Valentines, they have yet to find a Mansell colour print on one of his lace papers with his own embossed name.
Geoff refers to the article by Charles Dickens in 'All The Year Round'. Geoff sent me a copy of this fascinating article many years ago and I have reproduced it in full for of my 'Chats on', you can read it by clicking here- Mic
As shown in Fig 2, there is a valentine with two cherubs with drapery in red and blue. On close inspection it can be seen that the colour is not of water colour but of some form of ink set in the pre-existing outline. The valentine is from the 1840’s. This brings to mind Mansell experimenting with inks in order to produce future prints.
About 1985 I found that there was a need to have more practical hands on experience as to all the manufacturers of valentines style – water marks etc. I was fortunately able to visit and view the collection of Manchester Polytechnic Library Valentine cards. The main collection is that of Laurel Seddon’s extensive collection, included is a valentines greeting card – most of which are chromolithographs by Joseph Mansell. There are maybe 200 or more differing card types all from the 1870’s.
Since this article was published I have been made aware of a couple of Mansell embossed cards with Mansell prints on them. As we said above rare items but now not unheard of! I show an example here with Mansell's print 'Little Boy Blue' on the front of the card and 'Mansell' embossed to the left hand side.