Check back soon for a comprehensive glossary of more than 700 letterlocking terms. Here are over one hundred terms as a preview! Many of the galleries include links to instructional videos. Go ahead and click on them. 

Cite as: Jana Dambrogio, Daniel Starza Smith, et al. 2016. Dictionary of Letterlocking (DoLL). Last updated: 30 December 2017. Date accessed: [Date]. Abbreviated on this page: (DoLL 2016). All images except when noted are courtesy of the Unlocking History Materials Collection.

 

Accordion fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Address

The particulars of the location where a person or organization can be contacted by post. Before the invention of the envelope, the address was typically inscribed on the outside of the folded letter packet itself, or on a wrapper. Addresses on locked letters can therefore often be found on the reverse of the letter after it has been unfolded. Address details may consist of a street name, the name of a town or district, or a local landmark. Before the eighteenth century, buildings did not typically have street numbers, and postal codes were not introduced until the twentieth century. (OED, Beal, DoLL 2016)

Image of William Barton Roger's letter to his father is courtesy of the MIT Libraries, Institute Archives and Special Collections, William Barton Rogers Collection, MC 1. Folder 4. December 5, 1826.

 
 

Adhesive

“Substances, in the form of a liquid, paste, powder, or dry film; used for sticking or adhering one surface to another. Substances capable of holding materials together by a surface attachment.” (Language of Bindings)

Adhesives (e.g. seals and wafers) are used in letterlocking as a means of securing a letter shut. They are usually applied to two overlapping sections of the substrate, affixing them together. Common adhesives include beeswax, shellac, and other resins; plant starches; gelatins; and pressure-sensitive or heat-sensitive synthetic materials. Clay and mud are used similarly in earlier examples of document security. Adhesives constitute one of the most important, and frequently the most obvious, structural and security devices in letterlocking, since their adhesion must be intentionally broken if the letter is to be opened. They interact closely with folds, stabs, and other kinds of intentional damage in the letterlocking process. (DoLL 2016)

 

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)

“The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) is the [United States’] national membership organization supporting conservation professionals in preserving cultural heritage by establishing and upholding professional standards, promoting research and publications, providing educational opportunities, and fostering the exchange of knowledge among conservators, allied professionals, and the public.” (AIC)

 

Awl

“A small tool, having a slender, cylindrical, tapering, sharp-pointed blade, with which holes may be pierced; a piercer, pricker, bodkin.” (OED, n. 1)

 

Bifolium, -a

If the sheet is folded once to make a bifolium, the paper now has two conjoined folios, which each have a recto and verso (fols 1r–2v). If collected into a letterbook in an archive, the single sheet will become a numbered folio in sequence, with a recto and verso side (e.g. fol. 23r–v), and the bifolium will be given numbers in sequence (e.g. fols 23r–24v).

A pair of conjugate leaves (i.e. four pages) of paper or vellum, of any size. A sheet folded in two. (Beal; DoLL 2016)

 

 

Bifolium, (Parts of)

 

Bottom edge

See Folio, (parts of) and Bifolium, (parts of).

 

Brienne Collection

 

“In 1926, a seventeenth-century trunk of letters was bequeathed to the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague, then as now the centre of government, politics, and trade in The Netherlands. The trunk belonged to one of the most active postmaster and post mistress of the day, Simon and Marie de Brienne, a couple at the heart of European communication networks. The chest contains an extraordinary archive: 2600 locked letters sent from all over Europe to this axis of communication, none of which were ever delivered. In the seventeenth century, the recipient also paid postal and delivery charges. But if the addressee was deceased, absent, or uninterested, no fees could be collected. Postmasters usually destroyed such “dead letters”, but the Briennes preserved them, hoping that someone would retrieve the letters – and pay the postage. Hence the nickname for the trunk: “the piggy bank” (spaarpotje). The trunk freezes a moment in history, allowing us to glimpse the early modern world as it went about its daily business. The letters are uncensored, unedited, and 600 of them even remain unopened. The archive itself has remained virtually untouched by historians until it was recently rediscovered. The Signed, Sealed, and Undelivered group, an  international and interdisciplinary team of researchers has now begun a process of preservation, digitization, transcription, editing, and identification of letterlocking formats and categories that will reveal its secrets for the first time – even, we hope, those of the unopened letters.” (SSU)

Image courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie

 

Category, Letterlocking Visit the categories page here. 

 

Chisel

“A cutting tool of iron or steel with the cutting face transverse to the axis, and more or less abruptly beveled on one or both sides; used for cutting wood, metal, or stone, and worked either by pressure, or by the blows of a mallet or hammer.” (Google)

In letterlocking, chisels were more than likely used to create small narrow slits through a letter-packet to allow a lock to pass through. (DoLL 2017)

 

Conservation

"The profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and education." (AIC)

 

Conservator

"A professional whose primary occupation is the practice of conservation and who, through specialized education, knowledge, training, and experience, formulates and implements all the activities of conservation in accordance with an ethical code such as the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice." (AIC)

 

Corner fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Crease Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

Crease assignment Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

Crease pattern Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Cuneiform

“Applied to the characters of the ancient inscriptions of Persia, Assyria, etc., composed of wedge-shaped or arrow-headed elements; and hence to the inscriptions or records themselves.” (OED, 2. a. spec)

 
 

Destination

The location/place to which a letter is sent and/or the location/place where it is received by its intended recipient. This may or may not be the intended destination (see Destination [intended], below) and it may or may not be the actual Destination (see Destination [actual], below). (Lewis-EMLO)

           
            Destination [intended]

The location/place at which the recipient is thought to be by the author, and/or the location/place to which the letter is addressed, and where the letter is delivered, or where the letter would have been delivered but for extrinsic factors/events.
 
This could be the location/place as marked in the original address on the letter. However, it could also be the place marked on the letter by a third party to whom the letter has been sent for forwarding, etc.
 
In EMLO, the intended destination might be recorded as the ‘destination’ because the recipient is known to be in that location/place and that is where the author of the letter intends the letter to be delivered, but the letter did not reach this recipient (e.g. the letter was intercepted and remained in the possession of that interceptor).
 
However, in EMLO the intended destination might be marked on the letter as part of the route (e.g. in cases when the letter is known to have arrived at this intended destination and then, because the recipient is not there, it is forwarded to him/her to another location/place).
 
Thus the intended destination can be recorded as the ‘destination’ in EMLO, and/or it can be recorded in the destination as marked field, and/or it can be listed in the ‘route’ information, and/or it can be noted in a note on destination. (Lewis-EMLO)


 
            Destination [actual]

The location/place at which the letter ends up, whether or not it was where the letter was intended to be delivered. This could be because it has been intercepted (e.g. by Thurloe and his team), or it could be because it has been mis-delivered and is not forwarded on to the correct destination (e.g. the Brienne collection, where letters were delivered to The Hague, instead of to La Haye en Tourenne [Descartes]).
This location/place may or may not be the location/place as marked on the letter, or it may or may not be marked as an amendment to the address on the letter.
 
In EMLO, the actual destination could be recorded as the ‘destination’ because the recipient is known to have moved to that location/place but it might not be the address as marked on the letter. Or the actual destination might be marked on the letter as part of the route, and the reason it arrived at this actual destination would be noted.
 
Note: There is a subtle difference between place and location that should be kept in mind, even though these terms are often used synonymously.

Location: is identifiable precisely with latitude and longitude, GPS terms, or an address.

Place: is less precisely defined. It could be a camp near a battle, or a pass in the Alps, or a ship in the port of London, or a building that does not exist any longer and cannot be pinpointed exactly.

Note: For a letter, there is a location/place of composition of the letter, of sending, of the postal stages along the way, of the receipt, or of the non-receipt, and of the archiving, all of which could be recorded. (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Diagonal fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO)

"Early Modern Letters Online and its underlying editorial environment — EMLO Edit — was built in less than two years by developers from Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services (BDLSS), and it continues to be developed and enhanced. It was created under the auspices of Phase I (2009–2012) of Cultures of Knowledge, a collaboration between the Bodleian Library and the Humanities Division of the University of Oxford with generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It has been developed in the conviction that the digital revolution of recent decades can provide tools which greatly facilitate study of the communications revolution of the early modern era, and that a central, web-based inventory of early modern letters is needed to enable scholars to navigate the ocean of correspondence from the period. Bringing manuscript, print, and electronic resources together in one space not only increases access to and awareness of them, but allows disparate and connected correspondences to be cross-searched, combined, analysed and visualized. Moreover, the collection of unprecedented quantities of metadata, and the standardization of the means of describing and processing them, is the precondition for efficient collaborative work on the development of new digital tools, new scholarly methods, and new historiographical insights in this large and central field. From Phase II (2013–2015) onwards, Cultures of Knowledge is turning outward and focusing more on what we can offer our community of contributors as well as our catalogue users, thereby transforming EMLO into a resource, a platform, and a toolset. For full details of our activities — including prosopographical pilot projects, a visualization agenda, and outreach events — please visit the project website." (EMLO)

EMLO is the first online platform to adopt our letterlocking format and category assignments for letters found in the Brienne Collection catalogue. 

 

Edge

The boundaries of a substrate, such as an unfolded or folded sheet of paper.

The primary terms for an unfolded substrate are: “top edge,” “bottom edge,” “left edge,” and “right edge.” Left and right here refer to the viewer’s left and right in relation to top and bottom.

When a substrate is folded, we can also talk about the “gutter edge” (referring to the hinge of the fold) and the opposing edge, the “fore-edge” (the edge where each folio of the folded substrate ends).

The number of edges found on a closed or unopened letter-packet help to determine its format. (DoLL 2017)

 

Endorsements (postage)

Instructions concerning postage for and delivery of a letter, usually but not always written by hand, which are to be found on the docket or wrapper. (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Envelope

  1. A wrapper: “That in which anything is enveloped” (OED, n.1). In DoLL, wrappers are distinguished from envelopes because envelopes are purchased pre-made (see 2 and 3 below), whereas wrappers are improvised from available materials by the letter-writer or secretary.

  2. In epistolary usage: a flat paper container for letters or documents with a flap usually bearing applied adhesive (e.g. gummed or pressure-sensitive). An envelope encloses and protects a letter or card, carries it to its destination, and prevents it from being read by unintended recipients. It bears the postage and address, and does not serve as a substrate for content.
        “The cover of a letter; now a small sheet of paper folded and gummed to serve as a cover for a letter” (OED, n.2)
        “a sheet of paper folded and gummed to serve as a separate cover enclosing a letter”.(Beal)

3.) In modern usage: a commercially viable factory-made version of definition 2. Gummed envelopes were invented in the 18th century and began to be mass-produced in the early 19th century. The widespread availability of this technology reduced the practice of letterlocking. 
    “The use of envelopes only prevailed gradually, especially since it added to the weight and therefore to the cost of postage. Until the Uniform Penny Postage of 1840 standardized the basic postal charge, many letters continued to be sent with the address written simply on the exposed panel of the last folded leaf.” (Beal)

In letterlocking: by definition, locked letters do not use envelopes. Locked letters are folded and secured to function as their own envelopes, but do not become envelopes. (DoLL 2016)

 

Epistolary

“Chiefly literary. Of or relating to letters or letter-writing.” (OED)

 

Floss (textile)

In letterlocking, a soft thread (usually silk or cotton) used as a “dry” mechanical lock to fasten a letter shut. In some letterlocking formats (e.g. Elizabethan pleated letter), floss is wrapped around the open end of the letter several times before being sealed with adhesive (most commonly sealing wax) applied warm over the floss to fix it in place. Floss can also be used to sew letters shut (e.g. Letter sent from Simeon Fox to Thomas Wilson, 1602, The National Archives, Kew, UK, TNA SP 101/81 ff 344-345).  See “dry” mechanical lock, lock, letterlocking formats. (DoLL 2016)

Link to: http://collation.folger.edu/2013/01/a-letter-from-queen-anne-to-buckingham-locked-with-silk-embroidery-floss/

https://www.bessofhardwick.org/background.jsp?id=163

 

Folio, -os

A single piece of paper of any size, not folded into a bifolium is a “sheet” of paper, with a front (recto) and back (verso).  (DoLL 2017)

 

Folio, (Parts of)

 

Fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Folding long-edge-to-long-edge Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Folding short-edge-to-short-edge Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Fore-edge

(also foredge, fore edge) In a codex, the exposed surface of the text pages directly opposite the spine. In a bifolium manuscript, the fore-edge is the edge opposite the fold. (DoLL 2016).

See bifolium, parts of

 

Gate fold and closed gate fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Gutter edge

See bifolium, parts of

 

Handling instructions

Instructions regarding delivery of a letter (e.g. to be passed from a to b, or ‘to be left at the xxx to be collected by x’, or ‘to be handed to x for y’), usually written by hand, which are to be found on the docket or wrapper. (Lewis-EMLO)

 
 

Independent folding Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Ink

Iron Gall Ink

Gall Invisible Ink

 

Artichoke Invisible Ink

Alum Invisible Ink

 
 

Letterlocking

1. The act of folding and securing an epistolary writing substrate (such as papyrus, parchment, or paper) to function as its own envelope or sending device.

As distinct from the use of a wrapper or gummed envelope, and from origami, the art of paper folding.

2. A sub-category of a 10,000-year information security tradition, pertaining to epistolary materials.  

3. The discipline which studies the materially engineered security and privacy of letters, both as a technology and a historically evolving tradition. 

(DoLL 2016)

 

Letterlocking Categories Visit the Categories page here. 

 
 

Manifestations (of a letter)

The different and particular forms of a letter (e.g. manuscript draft of a letter; manuscript fair copy of a letter; manuscript letter sent; manuscript presentation copy of a letter; manuscript copy; manuscript or print extract taken from the content of a letter; printed copy of a letter; digital copy of a letters; other [e.g. manuscript minute record or abstract of content]).

Note: each manifestation may be described and categorized further in EMLO by means of a note on the manifestation (e.g. holograph; autograph signature, etc.), and the names individuals of hands found in the manifestation (other than those of the 'author'), wherever known, may be listed and attached to EMLO person records. (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Manuscript : “ Of a book, document, etc.: written by hand, not printed.” (OED)

 

Margin fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Micro-tomography, time delay integration, computed

Courtesy of The Apocalpto Project. A video showing the layers of a high contrast TDI CT (Time Delay Integration, computed micro-tomography) test scan of a bundle of 20 locked letters. Using historic letterlocking formats, iron gall ink, quill, and sealing wax , the #SignedSealedUndelivered team made up the batch of new letters for testing, writing secret messages inside, folding them using historic letterlocking formats, and sealing them with wax. The Unlocking History team and their collaborators are developing the technology to virtually reveal the contents and folding patterns without tearing open the letters.

 

Model, giveaway locked letter

A folded and secured letter-packet which is given to an individual to open; often imitating a technique found in historic collections. Distinct from other types of letterlocking models because it is primarily used as a teaching tool, either to introduce letterlocking to a new audience in a tangible and memorable way, or to demonstrate how a particular letterlocking variation functioned.  This model often has a message inside describing general information about letterlocking, as well as detailed information about that particular locked letter. (DoLL 2017)

 

Mountain fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Paleography

“The study of ancient writing and inscriptions; the science or art of deciphering and interpreting historical manuscripts and writing systems.” (OED, n. b.)

 

 

Panel

In letterlocking, a flat two-dimensional unit between creases or folds of an epistolary writing substrate. (DoLL 2017)

 

Paper

“Paper, which was invented in China probably in the second century bc, has been the principal material used as a writing surface since late medieval times. It was introduced to Europeans by the Arabs at least by the ninth century ad, when the earliest Greek manuscripts on paper were produced. The first manufacture of paper in Europe was apparently undertaken by the Moors in Spain by the late eleventh century, although the earliest surviving example of European paper currently recorded is a Sicilian deed dated 1109. The use of paper gradually spread throughout Europe, especially after the invention of printing in the 1450s, not least because of its relative cheapness compared to parchment. Paper was being used in England at least by the early fourteenth century, and paper mills were established there by 1498, although until the eighteenth century most paper used in Britain was imported from France or Italy. (Beal))

This letter is modelled from the original letter found in the Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi (Villa Aurora) courtesy of HSH Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Archivio Boncompagni Ludovisi (Villa Aurora). Photo credits: Dr. T. Corey Brennan 2010. To learn more visit http://villaludovisi.org/

 

Papyrus

“A writing material prepared from thin strips of the pith of the papyrus plant laid together, soaked, pressed, and dried.” (Language of Bindings)

A predecessor and later competitor to paper and parchment.

 

Parchment

“A translucent or opaque material most often made from calf, sheep, or goat skin which has been limed, dehaired, scraped, and dried under tension to produce a thin, strong, relatively stiff material for writing, bookbinding, or other uses. The term vellum should be used only of finer quality calf parchment, but the terms parchment and vellum have often been and still are confused and used interchangeably. Parchment should always be used for all skins prepared this way, especially for skins of animals that cannot be identified, but can be defined by the animal where this is known (e.g. goat parchment, calf parchment, etc.).” (Language of Bindings)

 

Philately

"(a term coined in the 1860s) denotes the pursuit of postage stamp collecting and also the study of all physical characteristics of stamps, as well as related aspects of postal history and postal stationery, including postal marks, hand-stamps, labels, envelopes, postcards, etc.” (Beal)

 

Postage stamp

Mark concerning postage (e.g. for payment), either written by hand or stamped, which are to be found on the docket or wrapper. (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Pressure-sensitive tape

“Strips of paper, plastic, etc., opaque or transparent, coated or impregnated on one or both sides (usually the former except for use in encapsulation) with a pressure-sensitive adhesive.” Examples include masking tape, cellophane tape (under the proprietary name of Scotch Tape®  or Sellotape®), duct tape (under the proprietary name of Duck Tape®), electrical tape, etc. (Etherington and Roberts 233, 309)

  

 
 

Quill

A writing implement made by shaping the hairless tip of a feather. (DoLL 2017)

See writing implements.

 

Roll fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 

Route

The ‘journey’ of a letter between its dispatch and its destination (whether its intended or actual destination). This route could be along one of the established early modern postal routes. (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Routing

The intended route for the letter to take. (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Routing annotation or routing mark

Record on the docket/wrapper of the location(s)/place(s) passed through by a letter on its route from origin to destination (whether at its intended or actual destination). (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Routing [by means of] manuscript

Handwritten record on the docket/wrapper of the location(s)/place(s) passed through by a letter on its route from origin to destination (whether at its intended or actual destination). (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Routing [by means of] a stamp

Stamp/print record on the docket/wrapper of the location(s)/place(s) passed through by a letter on its route from origin to destination (whether at its intended or actual destination). (Lewis-EMLO)

 

Reflective Transformation Imaging, RTI

“A computational photographic method that captures a subject’s surface shape and color and enables the interactive re-lighting of the subject from any direction. RTI also permits the mathematical enhancement of the subject’s surface shape and color attributes. The enhancement functions of RTI reveal surface information that is not disclosed under direct empirical examination of the physical object.” (CHI) See examples of RTI used on letters from the Unlocking History Materials Collection, MIT Libraries, in the DoLL seal entry image gallery.

 

Scissors

"An instrument used for cutting paper, fabric, hair, etc., consisting of a pair of pivoted blades attached to handles, each handle having a hole for the thumb and some of the fingers respectively, and operated by bringing the handles together so that the sharp edges of the blades close on the material to be cut.” Cf shear. (OED, Beal A.n.)

 

Scroll

“A roll of paper or parchment, usually one with writing upon it.” (OED, n. 1a.)

“A piece of writing, esp. a letter.” (OED, n. 2a.)

 

Seal

1.) An instance or place where the opening of a letter has been prevented/inhibited

2.) The adhesive as applied in meaning 1, e.g. wax.

“A piece of wax or some other plastic or adhesive substance (commonly, and still frequently, one bearing the impression of a signet ... fixed on a folded letter or document, or on a closed door or receptacle of any kind, in such a way that an opening cannot be effected without breaking it.” OED, “seal”, n2, 2a

3.) The device that impressed into the adhesive (meaning 2); can be referred to as seal-matrix, seal-die, seal-ring, signet-ring, seal-stamp, and stamp.

“A device (e.g. a heraldic or emblematic design, a letter, word, or sentence) impressed on a piece of wax or other plastic material adhering or attached by cords or parchment slips to a document as evidence of authenticity or attestation.” (OED, “seal”, n2. 1a)

4.) The low-relief design cut into the face of this device (meaning 3).

    “A device or inscription engraved on a seal.” (OED, “seal” n2, 3)

5.) The impression left behind on the adhesive (meaning 2) by the engraving (meaning 4) on the device (meaning 3), whether directly (exposed seal) or on paper laid over that adhesive (papered seal). Often incorporating an authentication and/or decorative device (such as a family crest).

6.) Metaphorical meanings derived from the above (e.g. seal of approval, my lips are sealed).

(DoLL 2016)

 

Sealing Wax

Images of the Unlocking History team's Brien Beidler teaching the rest of us how to make sealing wax from historic recipes. Have an old recipe? Send it to us here.

1) any of a class of pliable substances of animal, plant, mineral, or synthetic origin that differ from fats in being less greasy, harder, and more brittle and in containing principally compounds of high molecular weight (e.g., fatty acids, alcohols, and saturated hydrocarbons). Waxes share certain characteristic physical properties. Many of them melt at moderate temperatures (i.e., between about 35° and 100° C, or 95° and 212° F) and form hard films that can be polished to a high gloss, making them ideal for use in a wide array of polishes. They do share some of the same properties as fats. Waxes and fats, for example, are soluble in the same solvents and both leave grease spots on paper.’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

2) In letterlocking, sealing wax can be used as a generic term to describe the adhesive melted and applied to secure a letter shut. Most ‘sealing wax’ used from the early modern period onwards is actually a resin-based compound.

“In early use, beeswax (or a mixture of this with other substances) as employed to receive the impression of a seal; in later use, a compound, chiefly consisting of lac, serving the same purpose” (OED, ‘wax’, 4a)

In early use, beeswax or a composition containing this, in later use a composition consisting of shellac, rosin, and turpentine, prepared for the purpose of receiving the impression of seals. (OED, ‘sealing wax’, 1)

3) ‘In figurative and similative uses, referring to the easy fusibility of wax, its softness and readiness to receive impressions, its adhesiveness’ (OED, n1.3a).

 

Secret Writing Techniques

Secret writing techniques include methods devised to communicate discreetly. Some of the videos in the above gallery showcase our collaborative work with Nadine Akkerman, Ph.D. Akkerman researches 17th-century female spies and their secret writing techniques. Other videos in this gallery show coded messages the Unlocking History team has found in locked letters.

 
 

Stationery

“The articles sold by a stationer; writing and office materials. In later use freq.: spec. writing paper and envelopes. A stationer is a person or shop selling paper, pens, and other writing and office materials.” (OED) 

 

Substrate, Writing (Epistolary)

"An underlying substance or layer." (OED)

See bifolium, parts of

 

Top edge

See bifolium, parts of

 

Triangle fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles.

 
 

Undelivered (mail)

A letter that does not reach its intended recipient, for whatever reason. (DoLL 2017)

See Brienne Collection.

 

Valley fold Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles. (DoLL 2017)

 

Wafer, Starch

“Thin, flat, baked adhesive discs made from starch, binders, and pigments which were used for a variety of joining and sealing purposes during the 17th-19th centuries in Great Britain, continental Europe, and in the colonies of these countries. They were produced in a variety of colors (predominantly red), and sizes, according to their intended function. An important use of wafers was in the creation of paper-covered seals which were affixed directly to a paper or parchment document in the en placard fashion. Application was accomplished by first soaking a wafer in water, then transferring it to the document with a knife or spatula. The two surfaces to be joined were then pressed together and allowed to dry. Official paper covered seals were impressed with a seal matrix under heavy pressure while the wafer was still soft. With the advent of gummed envelopes wafers fell into disuse as a method for sealing letters.” (O’Loughlin, Elissa, Wafer and Wafer Seals, p. 8) 

 

Watermark

“A watermark is the device or design impressed into a sheet of paper as a result of the manufacturing process. In early papermaking, wires in the tray or mould were twisted into various shapes, the paper produced being thinner where the fibres touched the wires, leaving a design which was visible when the paper was held up to the light. Although certain types of design (such as pillars or posts, bunches of grapes, Strasbourg lilies, and pots and urns) are so common as to be virtually indistinguishable, watermarks were originally used as trade marks, and many found in early modern paper can denote, or be associated with, particular manufacturers, as well as with particular places and dates. Certain watermarks, such as a foolscap or post horn, were also used to distinguish particular paper sizes. The range of watermark designs in hand-made paper is vast, ranging from simple lettering or geometrical shapes, through figures such as animals, birds, flowers, insects, horns, and croziers, to elaborate beehives, scrollwork, and coats of arms.” (Beal)

See paper.

 

Wax gun

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

A low temperature hot glue gun used for melting and applying sticks of adhesive labeled as glue gun waxes and faux sealing wax. (DoLL 2016)

 

Wax jack

UnlockingHistory_Materials_collection_wax_wax_jack_DSC_0444.JPG

“A contrivance designed for holding a coiled taper with its end ready for lighting, to provide a flame for melting sealing wax.” (OED wax,n. 1. compounds, C1. General attrib. c.2 special comb.)  

 

Wrapper

"Precursors to envelopes. Paper wrapped and sealed around a folded letter. A wrapper: “That in which anything is enveloped”. (OED, n.1)

In DoLL, Wrappers are distinguished from envelopes because envelopes are purchased pre-made, whereas wrappers are improvised from available materials by the letter-writer or secretary. Both wrappers and envelopes are types of containers. (DoLL 2016)

 

Wrinkle(s) Click here to learn about folds, creases, and wrinkles. (DoLL 2017)

 

Writing Implements

“The apparatus, set of utensils, instruments, etc., employed in any trade, or in executing any piece of work. Now chiefly in agricultural implements, or as a synonym of ‘tools’; freq. a generic term for the tools, weapons, etc., used by prehistoric peoples, as flint implements. Also in sing.: a tool, instrument.” (OED, implements, n. 2.a.In pl.) (DoLL 2017)