Letterlocking Format Categories 

 

 

Check back soon for the ability to filter the letterlocking categories for open letters. For now, this section is a work in progress. Scroll down and enjoy the videos and images.

this section is divided into three main sections: no adhesive, adhesive, and not letterlocking 

(examples of information locking, document locking, and Venetian document filing and storage systems)

and levels of built-in security: no, low, medium, high



No adhesive (no sealing wax, wafer, tape)

No built-in security

Fold

Category variation: Fold (in a wrapper)

Category: Fold. Format: Rectangle-wide.

 

Category: Fold. Format: Decagon.

Paper folds and pulled to create the format. To open the letter the uppermost "wing" on each side of the paper "bug" are pulled in equal and opposite directions to flatten the three-dimensional paper message carrier reducing it to a flat sheet of paper with 64 triangle panels visible on the surface. The message contained inside the closed letter could remain unnoticed.The assigned level of built-in security and privacy is debatable depending on who might have the knowledge to do the complicated unfolding and pulling to open the letter without tearing it and actually know the sequence of steps needed to return the paper back into its complicated folding closed "bug" format. Thanks to conservator Lorraine Bigrigg who shared this format with us and remembers her uncle sending it to her in the mail. We are in search of historical examples of letterlocking techniques people have shared with us but have not been able to provide originals.

It would be impossible to reverse-engineer this lockedletter if it were to exist in a letter collection in its opened and flat orientation. The"Victorian puzzle purse", a variation of the fold and tuck letterlocking category, when opened flat reveals 36 triangle panels. Documenting the letter locking traditions in instructional videos, diagrams, and step-by-step instructions may help to preserve the past function when flattened letters and their folding patterns are not discernible from the subtle mountain and valley fold orientations visible in an opened letter. 

 

Category: Fold. Format: Nonagon.


Fold + tuck

Category: Fold +tuck. Format: Triangle.

 

Category: Fold + tuck. Format: Rectangle-tall Gallery.  

Category: Fold + tuck. Format: Triangle.

Category: Fold + tuck. Format: Rectangle-wide.

 

Category: Fold + tuck. Format: Hexagon-wide.


Fold + lock–N

Lock–N = a material not cut from writing substrate 

Category: Fold + lock–N (our only known historic example is in wrapper). Format: Rectangle.

 

Fold + tuck + lock–N

Examples forthcoming.

 

Fold + slit/hole + tuck

Category variation: Fold + slit/hole +tuck (into pre-cut slit). Format: Rectangle-wide.


Fold + slit/hole + lock–N

Lock–N = a material not cut from writing substrate 

Category: Fold + slit/hole + lock-N

Queen Marie Antoinette, 1780.

Category variation: Fold + slit + removable lock–N. Format: Rectangle-wide. Nickname: Removable lock–N.

Category variation: Fold + slit + butterfly lock–N. Format: Rectangle-wide. Nickname: 8-panel pleated butterfly lock–N

Essex's letters to Queen Elizabeth I of England. 


Fold + tuck + slit/hole + lock–N

Examples forthcoming.

 


Adhesive (sealing wax, starch wafer, tape)

Medium built-in security

Fold + adhere

Category: Fold + adhere. Format: rectangle-tall.

Category: Fold + adhere. Format: rectangle.

Category: Fold + adhere. Format: rectangle.

 
 

Fold + tuck + adhere

Category: Fold + tuck + adhere

Barton Rogers, 1826.

Category: Fold + tuck + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide.

Nickname: Tuck and seal with cross writing and doublings.

Category: Fold + tuck + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide.

Nickname: Tuck and seal with doublings.

 

Category: Fold + tuck + adhere. (exception: one Fold + seal in medley). Format: Rectangle-wide. Nickname: Open edge tuck and seal. 

Category: Fold + tuck + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide. Nickname: Triangle inside (with unopened enclosure inside a letter wrapper ). 

 

Category: Fold + tuck + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide. Nickname: Rectangle Inside. 

Category: Fold + tuck + adhere. Format: square diamond. Nickname: Brienne Diamond. 

 

Fold + slit/hole + tuck +adhere


Fold + cut/slit flap + adhere

 

 

Category: Fold + cut /slit flap + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide. Nickname: Cut envelope flap wrap.

Category: Fold + cut /slit flap + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide. Nickname: Cut triangle flap wrap


Fold + cut/slit flap + tuck + adhere

Letterlocking, document security, An example of letterlocking category 'fold + cut/slit flap + tuck + adhere' variation is bound into a "gathered and tied" binding with other letters that are not letterlocked; but rather have document security features built into them. Check out the corner folding traditions that continue into the 21st century. In the background are ca. 150 simulacra (detailed models of specific bindings and letters) found in the Vatican Secret Archives. They are modelled after the (record group) Fondo Veneto Sezione II, where letterlocking was discovered in 2000.


Fold + lock–N + adhere

Lock–N = a material not cut from writing substrate 

Category: Fold + lock–N + adhere

Pleated letter secured with paper band and wax.

 

# panel pleated letter

# panel pleated locked with hair and silk

 
 

Fold + slit/hole + lock–N + adhere

Lock–N = a material not cut from writing substrate 

Category: Fold + Slit /Hole + lock–N + adhesive

Fold + slit/hole + lock–N + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide. Nickname: The John Donne Lock.

Category: Fold + slit/hole + lock–N + adhere. Format: rectangle-wide. Nickname: Two-piece lock with papered seal

 

Two-piece locked document (stabs through some, not all of the panels)

 

Sealing wax over slits on both outer panels, 1514.

 

Paston, the first Valentine

Paston sewn with papered seal

 

Paston 1455

Paston 4 October 1444

 

Fold + tuck + slit/hole + lock–N + adhere

Lock–N = a material not cut from writing substrate 

Category: Fold + tuck+ slit/hole + lock–N + Adhere



Adhesive (sealing wax, starch wafer, tape) 

High built-in security

Lock–YU

Lock-YU or Lock-YA =must be cut off from or slit out of the actual epistolary writing substrate (e.g., paper) and used to secure it shut)

Cut/slit lock + fold + slit/hole + lock–YU +adhere

Tomaso di Levrieri's use of three letterlocking formats including the triangle lock with slit parallel to fore-edge (with and without the lock cut from the actual substrate it is locking shut and tuck and seal)

Sword lock–YU slit perpendicular to fore-edge.

Triangle lock–YU slit perpendicular to fore-edge.

 

Triangle lock–YU slit parallel to the fore-edge.


Cut/slit lock + fold + tuck + slit/hole + lock–YU+ adhere

Erasmus. 


No adhesive

High built-in security

Lock–YA  

Lock-YA is slit out of the actual epistolary writing substrate (e.g., paper), and remains attached while it secures the packet shut

Fold + cut/slit lock + fold + slit/hole + lock–YA

Blank Margin sealed with no adhesive (used by Queen Elizabeth I of England, Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine DeMedici, and many others.


Adhesive

High built-in security

Lock–YA

Fold + cut/slit lock + fold + slit/hole+ lock–YA adhere

  

Scaliger

 

Fold + cut/slit lock + fold + slit/hole + lock–YA + adhere + loop slits + slit + hole + lock–N + adhere

Nickname: 12-panel pleated dagger-trap. Format: rectangle-wide.

Fox

 



Not Letterlocking Gallery

Varying degrees of built-in security

Document Security: Queen Elizabeth I of England's instructions for the arrest of Mary Queen of Scots, 1584. 

Mesopotamian Clay Bullae, 10,000 B.C.E. (assumed construction)

Format: Document Security. Closed format: Sphere. 

cross-hatching in the margins

 

Document Security: folded contract or document in a textile bag

Fold + Textile envelope. Format: Document security. Closed format: Rectangle. 

Two-part locked document later sewn into a fascicle

 

Letterlocking, document security, An example of letterlocking category 'fold + cut/slit flap + tuck + adhere' variation is bound into a "gathered and tied" binding with other letters that are not letterlocked, but rather have document security features built into them. Check out the corner folding traditions that continue into the 21st century. In the background are ca. 150 simulacra (detailed models of specific bindings and letters) found in the Vatican Secret Archives. They are modelled after the (record group) Fondo Veneto Sezione II, where letterlocking was discovered in 2000.

 

Filza-simple

Filza