Clipboard Image (3 August 2015)

The original idea for this post was “Victorian letter folding,” but the tradition of single-sheet letter and envelope combinations goes back much further. Putting several pieces of paper into a separate envelope is fairly recent.

The trick is to have a letter that will stay closed through the mail. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of variations on the craft.

Jana Dambrogio

Jana Dambrogio

If you can follow diagrams, GHH.com has several types of folds.  Sadly, I am diagram-illiterate, and had to turn to Youtube. And that’s where I found the wonderful Jana Dambrogio. Dambrogio is a conservator at MIT Libraries, and uses the term “letterlocking” to describe the different ways paper communications are secured.

On her Youtube channel, she has some general tutorials, but I love the videos where she demonstrates a specific historical letter. She folds, seals, and then shows you how it was opened–and even shows you the original. Like this 1584 letter from Queen Elizabeth I to Rafe Sadler:

Here, she demonstrates one of the more common letter folds, tuck and seal:

Jana is probably the best, but there is more out there.

Victorian Puzzle Purse

Victorian Puzzle Purse

Though I find the more complicated methods intimidating (origami and I are not friends), I couldn’t resist trying this Victorian Puzzle Purse, often used for valentines:

If you prefer static instructions, Alice Simpson has a lovely, detailed pdf you can download. I cannot express how thrilled I was when that pinwheel actually formed for me.


I suppose now I’ll have to write a letter.


2 Responses to Letterlocking

  1. alice simpson says:

    Please do write a letter. You will find it refreshing and personal. Write something special on the envelope back as well. Thanks for posting my Valentine Puzzle Purse instructions and bringing new friends to my website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *