An Early Start

It seems that 2021 might be a year when more people than usual will be sending postal valentines to loved ones, so I thought I would present this year’s Byopia Press valentine to allow time for making and mailing.

This year’s valentine is another version of a Victorian puzzle purse.

When I went looking for inspiration and some verses traditionally used on puzzle purse valentines, I came across the image below on Pinterest. It was credited to The Postal Museum but only linked to a single image.

It was an unusual folding pattern, so I thought it might be fun to re-create it. I folded, working backwards from the last image. The flaps on the front did not interlock, but were just four triangular points. I tried again, folding it like a traditional puzzle purse. It was easier to create the four points because of the cuts, but the locked purse had a  rather distracting loose section on the back.

I folded it again. This time I managed to eliminate the loose flap and lock the front, but the slit up the back didn’t make any sense when I thought about where the writing was on the original valentine.

Googling turned up the website of The Postal Museum in London. With a little more effort I managed to find the webpage for the puzzle purse. When the image below was enlarged, the apparent cuts in the paper appeared to be breaks caused by wear from the valentine being repeatedly opened and closed for private enjoyment or exhibition to friends.

This image clearly shows the non-locking points on the front.

The last paragraph of the description of the valentine on the museum webpage begins

There is a message in the centre when the paper is unfolded: ‘In this inside sweet Turtle Dove/ I’ve wrote a moral of my love

I think this verse is supposed to be on the outside and refers to the verses on the inside of the puzzle purse when it is unfolded. Staff at The Postal Museum may have been confused both by the meaning of the word ‘inside’ as well as the symmetrical breaks in the paper, leading to the creation of the rather unusual re-folding pattern for this valentine.

I found quite a few other puzzle purses. Here are some of my favourites:

Wigs on the Green:

Here are the verses from the front and back of the closed valentine:

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

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

Again, a verse on the outside using the word “Inside” to refer, not to its own position, but to the contents of the unfolded puzzle purse.

Free Library of Philadelphia: (links to individual webpage below image)




Here are some of the verses:

1 \ My Dearest Dear and blest divine \ I’ve pictured here your heart and mine. 
2 \ But Cupid with her Cruel dart \ Has deeply pierced my tender heart 
3 \ And has between us set Across \ Which makes me to lament my loss  
4 \ But I’m in hopes when that is gone \ That both our hearts will be in one
1 / My heart is true to none but you \ 2 \ My heart I hope you will pursue\ 3\ The roses and the lillies twine \ 4 \ Since you became my Valentine
Round is my ring and has no end So is my love unto my friend

This year’s Byopia Press valentine is a mash-up. (I have avoided using any of the verses I found that might result in the recipient taking out a restraining order against you.)

You can choose from three versions of the valentine: valentine 2021 full, valentine 2021 graphics only, and valentine 2021 text only.

Print on your thinnest copier paper using the Fit setting. If you are printing the second side using manual feed (bypass tray), make sure you turn your paper over end for end rather than sideways. I found this gave better matching of the printout so that things align when the paper is folded.

After printing your valentine, score the vertical and horizontal lines using the printed guide marks, then cut out your square.

Score the diagonal lines as shown on the fold net below. Pre-fold all the lines. When the side shown above is uppermost, the dashed lines indicate mountain folds and dotted lines indicate valley folds.

You can find detailed folding instructions here. (Note: I copied the design layout of one of the valentines shown above, so the folding pattern is a mirror image of the instructions in the link.)

If you find your printer isn’t giving you accurate placement, you can always print your valentine on two sheets of paper, then cut out the part below and glue it where it belongs at the inside centre.

In closing, here’s my favourite of the valentines I found. This one is from Scotland, and must have taken many hours of work by a young man who apparently owned a compass and a ruling pen.

From the Bonham’s listing:

Provenance: the valentine was inherited from the owner’s grandmother whose family had worked in service in Aberdeenshire. It was displayed in the People’s Palace, Glasgow during the City of Love Exhibition in 2002.

You can, of course, start with a blank square of paper and create your valentine from scratch. You might even compose your own poems to suit the recipient.


(Valentine posts from previous years may be found at the following links: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.)

About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004. I also create prints and drawings that are frequently text-inspired or text-based.
This entry was posted in book arts, DIY, free printable, instructions, paper folding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to An Early Start

  1. Rhonda Miller says:

    Excellent! Thanks for sharing 🙂


  2. Thanks very much! What a bonanza.


  3. Pingback: Pocket Book: Theme and Variations Part One | Byopia Press

  4. Thank you for your enjoyable posts. I love the way your explore, experiment and expand all things paper construction!


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