The History Behind Business Cards

The History Behind Business Cards

Everybody likes an interesting fact or two so we thought we would bring you some history behind the everyday items that we print! Starting with Business cards / visiting cards.

17th Century Business Cards / Visiting Cards
Business cards also referred to as visiting cards first appeared in France during the reign of Louis XIV - "Le Roi Soleil". They were solemnly introducing their owners in all their glory. These early business cards or visiting cards used to be of similar size to a modern day playing card. As time went by, these business cards / visiting cards further developed into greeting and other cards.

17th Century - Tradecards
From the popularity of business cards / visiting cards tradecards soon appeared in London at the begining of 17 century. These were commonly used for advertising and also as maps, directing the public to a merchant's store, as there was no formal street numbering system at the time. Tradecards became a very successful means of advertising as early newspapers of the time were not well developed and tradecards by directing the customer to a merchant played a similar role to todays online media.

How were they printed?
These early tradecards were printed by LETTERPRESS or WOODCUT.
Letterpress began in Europe in the 14th century as an alternative to laborious calligraphy. Type was hand cast and individual characters were hand set into lines until machine set composition made the process easier. Today, many designers are returning to the craft of letterpress — printing from metal type and custom engraved plates — as a unique option to offset printing. Letterpress offers a tactile quality and nostalgic feel that can’t be achieved with any other technique. Woodcuts were used in ancient Egypt and Babylonia for impressing intaglio designs into unpressed bricks and by the Romans for stamping letters and symbols. The Chinese used wood blocks for stamping patterns on textiles and for illustrating books. Woodcuts appeared in Europe at the beginning of the 15th century, when they were used to make religious pictures for distribution to pilgrims, on playing cards and simple prints, and for the block book which preceded printing. At that time the artist and the artisan were one and the same person designing the cut and carving the block. One of the first dated European woodcuts is a St. Christopher of 1423.

19th Century Business Cards
As an adoption from French court etiquette, visiting cards came to America and Europe. They included refined engraved ornaments and fantastic coat of arms. Visiting cards, or calling cards, were an essential accessory to any 19th century middle class lady or gentleman. Whilst business cards and visiting cards were very similar in size and style, in the United States there was a rigid distinction.

Visiting Cards would be collected in the card tray in the hall and would provide a record of who had called and whose calls might need to be returned. They did carry a certain amount of affection and were not generally used among country folk or the working class.

Business Cards on the other hand, were widespread among men and women, of all classes with a business or service to promote. Apparently it would be in very poor taste to leave a business card when making a social call. Leaving a business card with the servants, could imply that you had called to collect a bill, leaving a visiting card would be more appropriate in this situation.

Remember if you need any further assistance with printing business cards, leaflets, flyers, posters, letterheads or any printed product then a member of the print-it-247 team is awaiting your call - 08700 555 247 or 0844 335 0855 delivering thousands of printed business cards, leaflets, flyers, letterheads, folders, posters and much more throughout the UK everyday.