Of Letters and the Writing Thereof

I am fortunate in having several excellent correspondents. I am encouraged to try different papers and inks. It gives my pens another outing apart from the drafts of these blog entries. One beneficial result is that I have to work at keeping my writing as legible as possible.

I love good paper. I do use some modern paper, especially Vergé de France which has texture that I enjoy. I found Clairefontaine Triomphe too smooth, though it works well with dip pens. Much of the paper I use is old, from the time when all paper had to be fountain pen friendly. I was kindly given some sheets of Croxley Hammered, a delightful paper, sadly no longer made. Some of my old papers come with envelopes, others don’t. Some envelopes are so old that the gum on the flap is no longer sticky. But that’s okay, my little dispenser of craft glue does the trick.

The addressing of an envelope raises an issue. There is the concern that if the envelope should get wet, the address will be obliterated. One answer is to use waterproof ink but I have not found a particularly attractive ink of that type. There was a time I capitulated and used a gel pen for addressing the envelopes but I didn’t like that solution. Instead I use the inks that I like and give the address a good rub with beeswax which should protect it. At one time I used a candle stub but I think the beeswax is better and more appropriate.

We keep an old tradition alive. It isn’t so many years ago that letters were the main form of communication with far-flung relatives and friends. Letters in those days carried a heavier burden of emotion then than now. The need for letter writing has diminished but it is significant that now, when we write to each other because we choose to, not because we must, it gives the handwritten letter of today greater significance.

Apart from the letters written by my pen correspondents, I never see a handwritten envelope anymore, just ones with laser-printed addresses in window envelopes. There is a concern that the time may arrive when young postal workers will no longer be able to read cursive writing as it is no longer taught in all schools.

Our letters are, of course, more trivial than the letters of long ago, when eagerly-awaited letters arrived in the trenches of Flanders from dearly loved wives and mothers. And yet, our letters are very welcome too. It brightens my day when I see a handwritten envelope among the dull brown ones.

4 thoughts on “Of Letters and the Writing Thereof

  1. Writing and receiving letters is a great pleasure and highly recommend it. As you say, seeing a handwritten envelope sitting on the mat really does brighten my day.

  2. I recently sent a letter back to the UK and it got soaked along the way. It totally obliterating the letter itself but left the address relatively unharmed, and therefore capable of being used to deliver its now-illegible contents! Since then, I have taken to reserving a (remarkably capable for CDN$2) Chinese pen for iron gall ink to use for addressing my envelopes. Rohrer & Klingner’s Scabiosa is a lovely mauve shade, and I really enjoy the way it shades as it oxidises. I also use their Lilly SketchINK with a glass pen for addressing envelopes. Really jealous of your cache of vintage papers from “back when” – good for you for overcoming the urge just to archive them because they’re no longer made!

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