What has been characterized as "the world's oldest picture postcard" was sent in 1840 to a writer named Theodore Hook who lived at Fulham in London. The image on the hand-colored card with a Penny Black stamp caricatures the postal service by showing post office "scribes" sitting around an enormous inkwell. It is thought that Hook, a playwright and novelist noted at the time for his "wit and drollery," probably sent the postcard to himself as a practical joke.
The significance of Hook's card was not realized until 2001, when postal historian Edward B. Proud discovered it in a stamp collection. Until then it had been thought the postcard was invented in Austria, Germany or the United States in the 1860s.
In March 2002 Hook's postcard sold for £31,750 including buyer's premium, at an auction at the London Stamp Exchange.