Well, ladies and gents!

In my previous article, we talked about Regency Letter-Writing Implements. 

Many of you found this topic very interesting and asked me many questions about the “cross-writing” technique, so I decided to clarify this topic a little!

Keep reading, this article is going to be a fun one 😉

During the Regency Era, the paper was scarce and, therefore, an expensive commodity. Because of that, a writer would not waste paper by leaving large spaces empty. People of the era respected an object that wasn’t taken for granted.

The paper was so valuable that they had developed the “cross-writing” technique. In order not to leave much empty space, letters would be crosswriten.

When the writer reached the bottom of the page, he turned the paper ninety degrees and added a second layer of text. One would have to first read it the way they would normally read a letter, focusing only on the lines across the page. Then turn the page to read the cross writing, ignoring the first lines.

Writing on a thin paper would mean that the words would also be visible from the other side. Sometimes letters were even re-crossed. This means that the writer, after finishing writing in crossed style, went back to turn the page forty-five degrees and cross write over it again. This way, they could fit six pages of writing onto one sheet of paper.

One may find cross-writing hard to read it at first but the mind has a way of adapting in new patterns easily, and cross-written letters are, in truth, surprisingly legible! Fascinating, right? 

Once you become familiar with it, one learns to adjust and learn to ignore the other words. Of course, it took some practice for the people of the era to learn how to write or read such documents…but hey, the result is the same!

From all the above we can understand that cross-writing was used for various reasons. It was a technique that saved writing paper when the paper was scarce or expensive. It was a method to save money when sending the letter through the Post Office. And finally, it was a way to add some privacy to personal correspondence, because it took extra effort for a person to read it!

Many examples of this technique can be found online, including ones by famous writers of the era such as Henry James, Jane Austen, and Charles Darwin.

Well, that’s it, sweetie!

Thank you for reading this article of mine! Please let me know your thoughts about it—did you enjoy it? 

If there is anything else you’d be interested in reading about the Regency Era, feel free to let me know…

…and who knows? Maybe you will read about it soon!

Written by Olivia Bennet

 

 

34 COMMENTS

  1. I could not read that, but a good idea if you are short of paper.I would like some writers that I cannot get free books, they did something to my documents.

  2. This cross-writing explanation was very interesting! It is enlightening to see the actual examples of how it was done. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I sort of guessed what cross-writing was, but these are the first examples I’ve seen. Thank you! I enjoy all your articles, and I appreciate your efforts to bring this information to us.

    Lynda

  4. I had read about ‘cross writing’ & had not seen any examples. Thank you for the illustrations but my eyes kind of crossed!(ironic, I know!) when I tried to read at least one of the examples you gave. I can also appreciate how expensive paper was at that time & realise that only the wealthy could afford it & with their education in reading & writing they were able to send such letters to friends/family. such letters would have been greatly treasured by the receiver & possibly shared amongst close friends/family for all the news contained therein. Letter writing was quite a great skill & regrettably it is becoming a lost talent amongst the up coming generations & the use of computers & e-mail.

  5. Thank you so much for this informative piece! I have never heard of cross writing until today and your information really intrigues me. I would really enjoy seeing it in a story!!!

  6. Interesting topic! So few write hard copy letters anymore. In fact, most kids can’t read cursive anymore. Cursive writing has become a “new” code writing for older adults LOL

  7. I love that you share historical facts with your readers. I would go blind trying to read this though. Lol. Too bad they didn’t have colored ink!

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