The History of the Social Invitation
Answers the question, "Is Raised Ink so special?"
There is a long history to the evolution of the Invitation as we know it today. How did they arise? Who used them? How was a wording composed? How were they delivered? What was the impact of the printing press? Why do current invitations all appear to follow a consistent style? Why is calligraphy so popular?
Knowing the history and the traditions behind the social invitation will help you in your selection. You can then take exception to current "standards" and still conform to socially accepted standards. Or if you wish, you can create a new, unique invitation that will set you apart from the norm yet still be in good taste.Only for the Elite . . .
Invitations to social events were used by the aristocracy in England and France probably beginning in the 18th century. It may be possible to go back another hundred or two hundred years to find the foundations which began the tradition of the invitation.
The Kings, Queens, Lords, Ladies, Dukes, Duchesses, or in today's vernacular, "High Society" would invite their peers to their social events with hand written announcements of the event. These were written by the wife, butler, or secretary. Writing was a mark of education. Even after the printing press, the aristocracy hand wrote invitations since "mass production" would be in bad taste.Calligraphy
In those days, society was not in a hurry, and most who could read and write had excellent penmanship. Do you recall what the pen was like as an early writing instrument? It was a quill made of a feather with a carefully cut tip. As one wrote, while holding the pen in one position, the characters that were formed were thin in one direction and broad in the other. For example, a circle or 'o' might be thin at the top and bottom and wide on the sides.
When you couple excellent penmanship with the writing instrument of the day, handwriting, by today's standards, was a work of art.The Wording
The actual wording was very similar to the 'socially correct' wordings used today. The major difference was that the wording, in most cases, included the name of the guest as part of the wording. Everything was spelled out, including the event date and time.
Once written, each invitation was placed in a protective enclosure (a handmade envelope). That 'envelope', what is now called the inner envelope, would include the invitee's names (For example, "The Duke and Duchess of Windsor"). When finished, a hot wax seal was affixed to the envelope. (Wax seals often indicated the crest of the family.)The Postal Service
Without any form of postal service, these invitations had to be hand delivered. This was the task of one of the servants, on horseback, under all weather conditions.
Thus arose the need for an 'outer' envelope. This outer envelope served a dual purpose. It was used to protect the inner envelope from water and dirt and to also provide directions to the recipients estate, castle, or farm. In addition, there were no 'addresses'. Thus, the 'inner envelope' was again wrapped or placed in an outer envelope. The 'address' was often a set of directions something like, "Go one days travel down the road to Chelsea. There, cross the stone bridge and proceed past the three farms until you see the stone entrance marked "Wesley". There, remove this covering, and give to the doorman. Wait for a response and make note of same."The Printing Press
The printing press appeared in Europe in the mid 13th century. Even so, the printing of wedding or social invitations did not begin until the start of the 20th century. Some of the elite, fascinated with industrialization, began using 'mass produced' invitations probably as either a novelty or simply as another expression of wealth.
The real beginning of the commercially printed wedding invitation began in the United States probably after World War II. One or the great features of the combination of democracy with industrialization is to give the common man the ability to mimic the life-styles and materialism of society's elite. About the same time, Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post appear on the scene to help correct the fumblings of society.
The first appearance of the printed invitation was probably for large events hosted by wealthy industrialists wishing to exploit 'new technology'. Gradually, these factors coalesce to give you and I, an affordable, commercially printed invitation.The Tissue
Technological advances in the design of the printing press increased the speed at which paper could be printed. Since printer's ink took some time to dry, as each invitation was removed from the press, a tissue was place over it so that the next invitation laid on top would not pick up the ink from the one below.
One might ask why it became common place to send invitations with this 'protective' tissue still in place. One could guess the answer. Was it simply a mark to clearly show that the invitation was printed using a new and fascinating technology . . . as opposed to the 'old fashioned hand written' invitation? In any event, the inclusion of the tissue continues to this day.Raised Ink versus Engraving
Ordinary printing simply stamps ink rolled on lead type onto the paper. It is a messy process and does not produce very high quality lettering. Lithography, on the other hand, is a method of printing which retains a very high quality replica of drawn or sketched artwork. It produces very sharp and distinctive inking.
If you and I could afford ordinary printed invitations, then the socially elite needed to distance themselves from such an abomination. They then elected to have their invitations "engraved". This served a second purpose. It permitted the printed invitation to emulate hand writing since engraved copper plates were made by hand.
Engraving, as the name implies, requires an artisan to "hand write" in reverse into a metal plate using a carving tool. To this day, the finest invitations are engraved.
But today's engraving plates are made by first producing a photographic plate of the wording using a typesetting machine. This plate is then used to expose a sensitized copper plate which is then acid etched. Movable lead type is replaced by computers with a wide variety of lettering styles, called fonts. Some fonts even mimic calligraphic lettering styles. So if you are upper-crust, your invitations are engraved and printed on only the finest paper stock.
Us lesser folk, not to be outdone, again tried to mimic the quality open only to the very wealthy. Along comes a cheap version of engraving called Thermography or 'raised ink' printing. Unlike ordinary printing, engraving actually cut the surface of the paper. The print quality was beautiful and you could feel where the ink was deposited because you could feel the slight cuts in the surface of the paper. The thermography process, unlike engraving used ordinary lead type washed with ink. When the printed paper is removed from the press with wet ink, a plastic powder is sprayed on the wet ink and then blown off. The plastic powder absorbs the ink color. The paper is then heated until the plastic powder melts leaving a raised ink which you can feel.Mimic the Elite and Stick with Tradition
Now you know why there are inner envelopes and why there are tissues. These are simply the traditional assets from the old days. Similarly, envelope seals are the mass produced equivalent for replacing the hot wax seal.
What is not so apparent is that raised ink is a cheap alternative to engraving. But consider this, engraving was a less time consuming way to mimic true handwriting.
If you want the finest invitations possible, you must purchase the finest paper and hire an artist and a calligrapher. The artist will personalize your invitation with a hand drawing on each. The calligrapher will hand write your wording and address your envelopes.Or are there New Technologies
What of the truly old fashioned, hand written invitation? You can see that over the years, technology on has given you the ability to mimic the old traditions. Else why would we stick with inners, outers, tissues, envelope seals, raised ink, and engraving?
Consider this, while adhering to all the 'old stuff', the most important aspect of the invitation has been ignored. Your invitation is mass produced and is not directed to the recipient. Their name is MISSING!!!
Today, you can go the full circle. Now your Wedding Professional can flat print invitations each including the Guest's name as part of the wording and you can do this with your computer. Even better, while all the social experts tell you to hand write those envelope addresses and to hand write the Guest's name on the Respond Card, your Professional can print your entire wedding ensemble fully coordinated.
Is raised ink or engraving important? No, these were just technological innovations. By choosing the Wedding Professional who provided you with this History, your wedding ensemble will be as close to truly following the original intent of the invitation as it could ever be.
But wait . . . what about emailing those invitations? Sorry, that's for people with no taste.Additional Information
The following books are well known and excellent resources on etiquette, wordings, addressing and other matters:
Nancy Tuckerman and Nancy Dunnan, The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette - Entirely Rewritten and Updated, Doubleday, 1995. ISBN 0-385-41342-4
Steven L. Feinberg, Crane's Blue Book of Stationery, Doubleday, 1989.
|© 2004 ED/iT, Inc. and Dr. A. K. Carbone All Rights Reserved"|