When was the last time you sent or received a handwritten note or letter? An annual U.S. Postal Service survey indicated that in 1987, the average home received a personal letter once every two weeks. In 2010, however, the average home received one every seven weeks.
If you would like to begin, or renew, the practice of sending handwritten letters to friends, family, and colleagues, have you considered using vintage desk accessories such as ink and quills? You can add yet another historical flourish to your writing practice with parchment stationary and a custom wax seal.
Using a custom wax seal, or monogram, has an illustrious history. Several thousand years ago, they were used by artists and craftsmen to sign their work. These monograms consisted of overlapping letters that were usually the initials of an individual person or business enterprise.
The use of a signet ring as a custom wax seal has been traced back to 3500 BCE Mesopotamia as a way to show authenticity. Many families would pass signet rings down as heirlooms.. When not inherited, others have had them designed and made to continue this tradition.
You may have seen letters in historical archives with the traditional three letters of a monogram. In recent history, they have continued to be used to seal letters as well as provide an envelope wax seal. Traditional wedding invitations are often closed with a monogram created with a custom wax seal.
Currently, a “Forever” stamp costs 46 cents, which is affordable to most; however, sending a letter, even within the United States, used to be quite expensive. Prior to postal reforms initiated during the mid-19th century by Britain and America, it used to cost 25 cents to send a letter 450 miles or more. Needless to say, this was quite expensive at that time.
During the mid-19th century, the distance a letter was to travel, along with the number of sheets of paper and an envelope determined the postage. While current postage rates are also based on weights, and in some cases, distances, particularly for international mail, the cost is not prohibitive as in days gone by.
The ritual of letter writing can be enhanced by using parchment paper, a feather pen set, and a custom wax seal. In the medieval period, sealing wax was composed of two-thirds beeswax and one-third resin. During the post-medieval period, it was primarily composed of resin.
It’s also quite easy to use sealing wax sticks. When you’re using a wicked stick, all you need to do is allow it to burn for a moment, then tilt it to a 45 degree angle so that it drips down on the edges of a folded letter or where an envelop is sealed. Then, you gently press your custom wax seal into the wax, remove it, and allow the wax to dry before mailing or delivering it by hand.
Once you begin writing letters and notes with a feather quill and all the other accessories associated with this tradition, you may discover that you receive more letters in kind.