Everyone knows the feeling of importance that comes from receiving a hand written letter– especially when decoratively sealed with a specially chosen seal and wax. In Jane Austen’s time, the wax was even sometimes used to hide a coin to pay the postman (thereby costing the recipient nothing; postage was originally paid by the receiver). Traditionally, sealing wax was used to not only seal the letter against tampering, but also to identify the sender, as people maintained personal and family seals for the purpose. The idea of using a personal seal for identification dates from the earliest civilizations and survives today in the form of rubber stamps and embossers. Still, there is nothing quite like a wax seal for adding a bit of Regency elegance to your notes and letters.
The Jane Austen Centre giftshop sells personalized sets of seals and sealing wax in the traditional style, a stick of red wax with a wick. When lit, the flame melts the wax, which is then dripped onto the portion of the letter to receive the seal, before stamping in the pattern with a small metal seal. The whole process is, to a novice, a bit tricky and the results are not always quite as perfect as one would hope.
I recently received a wedding invitation with just such a seal attached. Considering the tediousness of this exercise when addressing scores of envelopes, I questioned the bride as to how she was able to get each seal so beautifully attached and straightly placed. Her answer surprised me! Thanks to the wonders of the modern age, sealing wax is now available in sticks for your glue gun! Glue guns are a fast and easy way to adhere craft projects, using electric heat to melt fast drying glue for precise application. Some genius, however, discovered how to form sealing wax into a shape usable by the glue gun, allowing for quick, accurate placement of wax on envelope. Naturally, this would be best used for large batches of letters, as the gun takes a few minutes to heat up, but what a wonderful way to streamline even the daintiest bits of old fashioned letter writing. The wax is inexpensively available in a variety of colours.
For more information on Jane Austen’s letter, her use of “Franking” (free postage), wax seals, and crossed writing, visit the Jane Austen’s World blog.
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)