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Handwritten envelopes still have their place

By Handwritten Letters, Sep 25 2015 02:51PM

The photo shown features old handwritten envelopes found in a suitcase in my mother’s loft. They were written before, during and just after the second world war, to and from parents, sweethearts, relatives and pen friends.

They are beautiful, tactile reminders of a past era, that have survived over 70 years.

Envelopes originated around 3500 to 3200 B.C. in the Middle East, according to Wikipedia. They were used for financial transactions and were made of hollowed out clay spheres, moulded around monetary tokens.

When paper was invented in China in the 2nd century B.C., handmade paper envelopes were used for storing money.

Only handmade envelopes were available up until 1845. Envelopes became widely used in the UK when a new government controlled postal service was launched in May 1840. Machine printed, postage-paid, envelope wrappers, featuring illustrations by William Mulready, known as Mulready stationery, were sold in sheets of 12, ready to be cut and folded by the purchaser.

In 1845 Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue obtained a patent for the first envelope-making machine that could be used with the new Penny Black stamps. The classic diamond shaped envelope wrapper became readily available to the public, and the British government controlled model of issuing stamps and operating and controlling the postal service spread around the world.

Today, illustrated envelopes with their origins dating back to Mulready stationery, are used extensively for direct mail.

Developments such as mechanized envelope printing, franking machines, digital franking and addressing have all altered the way businesses use envelopes.

The advent of email in the late 1990s appeared to threaten the use of mail posted in envelopes. By 2008 it was reported that volumes of letters with stamped envelopes were falling significantly.

Now however, there are reports that the use of snail mail is on the increase. A recent report by The Royal Mail looked at what makes a piece of mail valued today and found four key characteristics:

1. It contains useful information

2. It makes you think

3. It creates feelings

4. It leads to action.

Although email has its place and most of us could not do our jobs without it, I believe it will never fully eradicate the use of paper and envelopes.

There will always be a place for a thoughtful, handwritten message, contained in a crisp handwritten envelope. It may not be for everyday use, and due to the time and thought required to produce it, will never be a fast, cheap option.

However, in the digital age, if someone has taken the time and effort to write a letter and envelope and post it, it is far more likely to engage the recipient, and who knows, may even be kept for generations to come.

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