You're Invited! Invitations From Long Ago

April 4, 2012 | Kathryn

Comments (1)

Handwritten invitations to social events were used by the aristocracy in England and France during the 18th century.  It is likely though that the invitation existed long before that.  The 1700's were an era of exquisite penmanship, elaborate calligraphy and personalization…a less hurried time when invitations were handmade and hand delivered.

The invention of the printing press and related technologies all but eradicated the handwritten invitation.  Even so, this took time as the printing of social invitations did not begin until the 18th century, long after the invention of the printing press.  It wasn’t until after WW2 that commercially printed invitations became popular in North America.

There are approximately 150 19th and 20th century printed invitations in the Baldwin Room’s Broadsides & Printed Ephemera Collection. There are also a handful of printed invitations in the Manuscript Collection. Weddings, birthdays, concerts, dinners, dances, lectures and building openings are some of the social events represented in the collection.  Many of the invitations are ornate, embellished with colourful images and engravings.

Styles and ways of delivery have changed, but the invitation has remained one of society’s long lasting modes of communication. 

Here are a couple of invitations currently on display in Special Collections, on the 4th floor of the Toronto Reference Library.  The exhibition continues until the end of April.



1890 Summer Carnival small1890 Summer Carnival small verso




1859 Union vs