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PHOTOS: Bergen County Family Has Trove Of Antique Valentines

Devotional card. Couronne de Douleurs Couronne de Gloire [Crown of Sorrows Crown of Glory]. Paris, ca.1847-1860. Made by Bouasse-Lebel; engraved image on lace paper with applied elements including die-cut and gilded scraps, tissue, and dried flowers. Photo Credit: The Huntington
Fold-open Valentine card. German, ca.1900. Photo Credit: The Huntington
Cobweb valentine card. Probably British, ca.1830-1860. Pull a string attached to the castle, and an ingenious cobweb device lifts to reveal a mouse in a trap. Photo Credit: The Huntington
Civil War Valentine card. American, inscribed February 14, 1863. Maker unknown; die-cut and embossed paper with applied elements. Photo Credit: The Huntington
Vinegar" valentine card. American, ca.1855. Maker unknown; lithographed and hand-colored on paper. Lift the church lady to reveal the wicked sinner. Photo Credit: The Huntington

A Franklin Lakes family has donated its trove of more than 12,300 antique paper Valentines to the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The display features greeting cards, sentimental notes, folk art drawings, and other tokens of affection that trace the evolution of romantic and religious keepsakes made in Europe and North America from 1684 to 1970.

Nancy and Henry Rosin of Franklin Lakes had given the collection to their son, Bob. He and his wife, Belle, donated it to The Huntington for safekeeping, according to a press release.

The Rosin Collection brims with well-preserved paper (and in some cases, vellum or mixed media) materials that range from lacy 18th-century devotional cards, hand-cut by French and German nuns, to elegant Biedermeier-era (1815-1848) greeting cards complete with hand-painted love scenes, gilded embossing, mother-of-pearl ornaments, and silk chiffon.

The collection includes cameo-embossed lace paper valentines from England, elaborate three-dimensional and mechanical Victorian paper confections, as well as handmade works of American folk art demonstrating traditional paper-cut techniques (scherenschnitte) and colorful Germanic Fraktur illustrations. Some of the most historically significant items include heartrending Civil War soldiers' valentines with personal notes detailing the hardship of war and longing for home. The Rosin Collection also contains bitingly satiric "vinegar" valentines, dance cards, memory albums, and watch papers (sentimental notes inserted into pocket watches), among other items relating to the history of love and devotion.

Nancy Rosin is president of the National Valentine Collectors Association, president emerita of the Ephemera Society of America, and a member of the American Antiquarian Society and The Grolier Club.

She says collecting valentines has been her "passionate obsession" for 40 years.

"My quest to acquire sentimental expressions of love, especially those celebrating Valentine's Day—a significant social event that was enjoyed by all strata of society—grew into a desire to share them with the public," Rosin said.

"Bob grew up watching us build this collection piece by piece. I'd long hoped the collection would end up where it would have the most research value and the highest standard of preservation, so it is deeply gratifying to know Bob and Belle have given these works to The Huntington."

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