Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Question from Julia - Rolled vs folded letters


Here's another correspondence question: does anyone know whether a letter would be more likely to be rolled up like a scroll or folded? I am assuming it would be sealed with wax, to help to preserve its privacy, and I was imagining a roll tied up with ribbon or bands of some kind. But I suddenly wondered if it might have been folded up into some sort of envelope. Does anyone know?




PhD Historian said...

Based on my experience conducting research in the archives, most letters of the sixteenth century seem to have been folded and the recipient's name written on the outside.

Foose said...

The book Elizabeth I's Foreign Correspondence: Letters, Rhetoric and Politics contains an essay, "Familiarity and Materiality" by Jonathan Gibson, that confirms PhD Historian's comment.

"Most commonly letters were folded three or four times, at roughly equal distances along the shorter edge (that is, horizontally). In what has been called the 'fold and tuck' method, the open ends of the packet were folded round and tucked into one another; a seal would keep it together."

Gibson goes on to describe some new methods of folding used by Elizabeth in her correspondence with the Duke of Anjou: "Another method ... used a sealed triangular slit of paper, cut from the letter's bifolium itself, as a means of fixing the package together. The 'pleating and flossing' method ... involves the making of many horizontal folders or 'pleats' ... to create a slim and long slip of folded paper. This slip of paper was then folded in half and colored silk floss tied around it near the open end of the package. Two small personal seals were added on either side of the package to secure the floss."

Julia said...

Thank you, Foose. This is really helpful!

I have another question coming up, relating to flowers in Lent, so if you and PhD Historian have any comments to offer on that, I'd be very grateful.