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Sealing Your Letters Like a Georgian

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.

Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts (1665)
A pile of sealed letters. Painting Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts (1665).

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.

The Jane Austen Centre's seal and wax set is available in the giftshop.
The Jane Austen Centre’s seal and wax set is available in the giftshop.

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.)

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How To Make A Velum Window Envelope

Did you know that the “envelope” as we know it, wasn’t invented until the 1840’s? Letters in Jane Austen’s day were sent folded and the letter was actually the envelope; you can read more about  actual letter writing in Jane Austen’s times here. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with our Jane Austen correspondence today, does it?  So let’s get started!

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A hands on craft project by The Jane Austen Letter Writing Society’s Pam Foster.

Supply list:

  • 1 sheet of vintage script scrapbook paper 12 X 12 in.
  • 1 sheet of clear velum
  • Austen silhouette die cut
  • Austen silhouette  sticker
  • sequins
  • mail tag
  • scissors
  • tape
  • optional: envelope template

Step 1.  Select your scrapbook paper.  I used the vintage script that is similar to the Jane Austen font.

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Step 2.  I used an envelope template by the Kreate-a-lope.  However, you could also make your own template by unfolding an envelope that you enjoy, and tracing on a piece of cardboard.

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Step 3.  Place the envelope template on your paper.  It is important to know what is the top and bottom of your template, otherwise you may have an upside down script for your envelope.  This template that I am using is a bit large, so I had to adjust.  The script will be at an angle on the front of my envelope.  I just made it work.

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Step 4.  Cut your envelope…don’t forget to save the scraps for a future project.

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Step 5.  Score your envelope, but do not glue edges just yet.
As you can see, the front of my envelope  has the script at an angle, this was necessary with the size of my template.

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Step 6.  Open your envelope and  place a 2 inch diameter circle template  in the center of the front of  your envelope. Trace around your circle with a light pencil.  Then cut out the circle.

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Step 7.  Place your velum sheet over the circle cut out window.  You will want to make a rectangular 2 sided pocket that is larger than your  cut out window.

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Step. 8 Cut your velum.

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Step 9.  Here is my velum “pocket”.  I used scotch tape to close the two sides.  Leave the top of your pocket open for now.

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Step 10.  I glued a Jane Austen silhouette die cut onto the back of my pocket, off center.  Next, find some sparkling tidbits that you have laying around.  I had some sequins, so that is what I used.  Pour a few sequins in your pocket, then close the top of the pocket with scotch tape.  I then placed a pink piece of scrap  paper on the back of my pocket, to add a bit of color.  Secure an address tag over the window and decorate with a silhouette sticker.

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This completes our Jane Austen “velum window” envelope.  I hope you will try this and please send me some pictures of your Austen Mail.
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Lady Pamela is the blogger behind the Jane Austen Letter Writing Society, the blog Lost Art Of Letter Writing Revived and Etsy store LostArtRevived which carries complete Jane Austen Letter Writing Kits for your convenience.