Scholla: Valentines in Fractur

One of the most unusual exhibits in the Pennsylvania German rooms of the Metropolitan Museum in New York is a cutout valentine which a youthful swain sent to his sweetheart about 1800. The messages of love were carried on a circular piece of paper, the size of an ordinary plate. The core design shows the customary sun-wheel. Inscribed around the wheel are the words: “Lieben und nicht Leben ist harter denn kein graben; Lieben und nicht zuzammer sein, ist zuwahr die groste Pein.” To love and not live is harder than the grave; to live separately is truly the greatest pain.

Spreading from the sunwheel in the center there are eight lily designs, each supporting a heart and eight vases from which burdocks or pampas grass protrudes. Each of the vases supports a heart at the tip, making 16 hears in all. The hearts are numbered from one to 16 and each paper heart has a love story inscribed upon it. The numbers are placed theres to that the reader can follow the sequences.

Here are some of the love messages translated from the hearts:

“You are dearer to me than riches and gold.”

“True love can be built only upon mutual faith.”

“Be true to me and only death shall be able to part us.”

“Ich liebe dich in Hertzen, mein alle liebste schatlein.”

“Loyalty is the duty of sweethearts, forget it not.”

This writer has seen a similar valentine cutout in the fine collection of Mrs. H.K. Hostetter of Lancaster. In our own collection we have a Pennsylvania German Valentine which folds into many positions and each succeeding position brings the reader to a new message of devotion. These early valentines were written by the senders themselves. Today printing houses stereotype the words of Cupid, Robbing the missiles of much of the pith and moment.

Pook and Pook

Pennsylvania ink, watercolor, and cutwork valentine dated 1837. Source: http://www.pookandpook.com/cat/2009-10-03/428

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