Before instant messengers and emails, one of the most common ways to communicate securely across long distances was with letters.
A modern letter consists of a piece of paper with a message written on it, stuffed in an envelope that secures it, and a stamp is affixed on the envelope to prove that the sender has paid the appropriate fee for the letter to be sent by the postal service.
But, have you ever wondered how people secured their letters before envelopes were invented?
It is the art of using the same paper that the message is written on – sometimes with the assistance of string and wax – to secure the letter. In Europe, the craft dates back, way back, past the seventeenth century.
Letterlocking was used by spies, royalties, and commoners alike.
The creativity and ingenuity that was used in letterlocking are mind-boggling. From intricate cuts, to multi layered seals, to traps, all built into the letters to keep them safe and secure.
The Letterlocking YouTube Channel
Videos on the Letterlocking channel are produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), funded by The British Library, and is based on the work of multidisciplinary experts who are passionate about the subject.
They have studied and reverse engineered how some of these letters were sealed and reproduced them.
You can find the Letterlocking Youtube Channel here.
Here is one of our favourites, the holograph spiral-lock used by Queen Elizabeth I on her letter to Henry III (1570s).