During the Victorian Era letter writing and envelope making was a familiar art form. Letters were easily sent across the country and now the world was opening up. Originally the envelope was created by folding up the letter itself and sealing it. It was soon realized that these sorts of “envelopes” were not very sturdy as they crossed the world in ships and horseback, often reaching their addressees in a wet and unreadable condition. In an effort to protect these valuable conversations from mothers to daughters and businessman to businessman, the letter needed to be encased in a protective paper.
Envelopes began selling in small, fashionable stationary stores. The clerks would use tin forms. and flat metal blades to fold and then glue the corners. The opening flap, of course, was left unglued, and the store then sold metal stamps, glue, and wax for your convenience. Although small postal cards were available, they were considered a “poor” version of a letter.
For the more prominent and well to do population, making your own envelope was paramount. The quality of paper mattered, the penmanship on the envelope needed to be flawless, for it showed a genteelness required of all ladies and gentlemen.
Oftentimes, the writer might take the time to pinprick a “secret message” through the paper of the envelope. and so exposing a letter to the light of the sun was one of the first things the receiver did upon getting the letter. Finally, a hand drawn picture or elaborate curly que completed the work of art on the envelope. Nothing was more appealing that a envelope received with elegant handwriting, a beautiful stamp, and the mystery behind the wax seal on the back.
A business letter of course, was much less ornate. It would be boldly addressed on the outside of a linen or vellum envelope and the ensuing artwork was eliminated.
Whether writing or receiving. The envelope spoke volumes before the letter even began.