Graphic Arts holds a small collection of souvenir serviettes (paper napkins), chiefly from the 1902 coronation of Edward VII. The ceremony was originally scheduled for June 26, but two days before on June 24, Edward had to undergo an emergency appendectomy (at the time a dangerous operation). He recovered beautifully and the ceremony was rescheduled for August 9. However, this meant the napkin vendors had to purchase and reprint a completely new set of serviettes with the correct date.
As noted in Michael Twyman’s Encyclopedia of Ephemera (GARF Oversize NC 1280.R52 2000Q), the first appearance in Britain of the printed souvenir table napkin was in July 1887 when a quantity of decorated blanks, brought from Japan, were overprinted by John Dickinson Ltd. for their annual dinner. The fashion caught on and before long large quantities of the flimsy squares were being imported. They carried a decorative border, which was printed in up to five colors in Japan; the locally printed commemorative message and image occupied the centre area, often overlapping the color border. The printing was done by a few London firms who specialized in this genre, including S. Burgess of the Strand and Mathews of Hoxton. These napkins, along with other souvenirs, would have been sold by street vendors on ceremonial and processional occasions.