Sweet Turtledove

Valentine Puzzle Purse


These Valentine puzzle purses are always a joy to find and a privilege to handle. This evocative example has been drawn in pen and brown ink with watercolour by a hopeful young man to send to his girl. It is inscribed with verses that are gradually revealed as the folds are opened up in sequence. With a central heart motif within a yellow border, the introductory verse reads:

This Heart my Dear / Which you behold
Will break when you / these Leaves unfold
Even so my Heart with / Lovesick pain
Sore wounded is / Breaks in twain

Inside are additional red hearts and pen & ink verses, some with wonderfully quirky spelling, whilst on the reverse side is a delightful little watercolour of a turtle dove perched on a flower pot and symbolising love and friendship with a final verse.

On this Inside Sheet / Sweet turtle Dove
I write a Moral of my / Love
The Powers of Envy / cannot pretend
To say I have false / Storys pend

Puzzle purses were skillfully folded so the recipient needed to spend time trying to read the message in the correct order. Early examples sometimes had a little reward such as a lock of hair secreted in the centre.

These Valentines are always fragile and this one is no exception. It has been drawn on laid paper with a partial fleur-de-lys and crown watermark. The paper has light age-browning and all the fold lines have split with discreet tape repairs to most of them. There are also small holes at the intersections of the fold lines.

A lucky survivor, perhaps indicating that the recipient treasured it all her life and presumably gave her young gentleman a positive response.

Item Ref. 4857

Size: folded, 132mm (5⅛") ; unfolded, 38mm (15") square