Byopia Press 2018 Advent Calendar: Day One and a Regency Letter Fold

The theme for this year’s Advent Calendar is Enclosures. Since many people still send letters by real mail at this time of year, I will begin with letter folds. First up, the Regency letter fold, or who knew that I had something in common with Jane Austen when I was in high school?!

I was bullied in Grade Nine, quite seriously. Some of my teachers even participated. (I was new to the area, I was a year —or two— younger than my classmates, I could speak French, I wore glasses, I wore hand made clothes… ) Many of the girls in my class were regular writers of mash notes, which they would post through the air vents of boys’ lockers. They folded up their missives several times to make them smaller, but were not doing anything fancy. I discovered that my paper folding ability could buy me a little relief. I would pre-fold loose-leaf pages and give them away to other girls to write on. The girls backed off the bullying because they wanted my folded bits of paper.

The first fold I used is pretty close to the one Jane Austen used when she was writing letters.

My version was made like this: start with your letter paper long way up, fold each side in to the middle, then open flat again. Fold the bottom edge up about 2.5 cm (1 inch).

Fold the sides back towards the middle.

Fold the corners in at the top. The corners below are about one third the width of the edge. Fold the bottom up. The section from the bottom fold to the edge is a little more than one third the height of the paper.

Fold the top down. Make your fold where the former bottom edge lies.

Tuck the top into the pocket in the former bottom edge.

When Jane Austen wrote her letters, she folded them similarly. The letter shown near the beginning of the post has the paper folded in half first, but she used a simpler fold in the one below.

To fold a letter like Jane Austen, place your paper with the long measurement oriented horizontally. Fold the sides in to meet in the middle. (You can see from the image above that absolute precision is not required.)

Fold the bottom edge up. Your fold should be more than a quarter, but less than a third, of the way up your paper. Fold the top edge down to just short of the bottom fold.

If you have trouble tucking the top edge into the pocket, you can turn the corners in a bit.

A finished letter fold ready for sealing.

If you want to send a letter fold through the post these days, there are minimum size requirements. Here are the ones from Canada Post which may be the same as other countries’, as I presume they are dictated by what sorting machines can handle.

To make your letter fold big enough, place your paper horizontally and fold one side in almost, but not quite, to the middle.

Fold in the other side so that the width of your folded page is at or above the required minimum length.

I folded about 2 cm (3/4 inch) down at the top, but you can calculate an accurate top turn-in by doubling the minimum width and subtracting that from the height of your paper. Allow for a little bit of take up in the fold.

Fold the bottom edge up to the fold near the top.

Tuck the top edge into the pocket.

Here’s a letter fold all sealed and ready for addressing.

You will need to use at least 90 gm (24#) paper to meet the weight minimum.

You may not think mash note folding or even Regency-style letter folding is of much use in making books, but later in the month there will be iterations of these folds that are useful, and I wanted to show you where they come from.

I also like exploring how ideas develop, so there will be more mash note folds tomorrow!


About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in artist's books, book arts, instructions, paper folding and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Byopia Press 2018 Advent Calendar: Day One and a Regency Letter Fold

  1. An “epistolic” way to start the holiday! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jade Q says:

    Wonderful! If you do a search on letterlocking on the internet you will see that they are researching this ingenious way of folding missives so as to keep them private since there were no envelopes back then. Even now when I get a large sheet of paper while out and about I will fold it in half then thirds and tuck one side into the other so that it fits in my back pocket.


  3. Pingback: Byopia Press 2018 Advent Calendar: Day Two and a couple of Mash Note Folds | Byopia Press

  4. Pingback: Byopia Press 2018 Advent Calendar: Day Five and Two Triangular Letter Folds | Byopia Press

  5. Pingback: Byopia Press 2018 Advent Calendar: Day Nineteen and a Simple Book Cover | Byopia Press

  6. Pingback: Byopia Press 2018 Advent Calendar: Day Twenty-five and An Index | Byopia Press

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