Invitations, Announcements

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Printing History

...for baby announcements and related birth stationery

How did social stationery printing come about? How did it evolve into the form that it is today? What country did it come from? Where did the practice of announcing important occasions with fine stationery start?

European Aristocracy

The traditions and history of social stationery and its uses are helpful to understand when making your stationery selection. Invitations to and announcements of social occasions were used by the elite in Europe beginning in the late 17th century. The royal class would announce a new member of the family or invite their peers to a celebration by handwritten, delivered notes. Since writing was a privilege of the educated, handwritten invitations and announcements were preferred and mass producing notes was considered poor taste.

Handwriting

Almost without exception, those who handwrote notes did so with excellent, cursive penmanship. Since invitations and announcements were handwritten, each note could be individually customized with the recipient's name and address. Hot wax seals, often of the family crest, were used to close the envelope. Servants hand delivered these announcements and invitations on horseback.

Technology

The printing press had no role in social invitations or announcements until the end of the 19th century. In the beginning printed notes were expensive so the aristocracy began sending mass produced notes as a signal of their wealth. Printed stationery became available to the masses when industrialization drove down the cost of printing. The original printing process required the placement of a tissue between announcements in order to prevent the drying ink to damage the next announcement. That is the origin of our modern day card tissue.

As printing became available to the masses, the publishing industry invented lithography, a process that enabled the reproduction of high resolution images and artwork. To distinguish themselves from the common folk, the elite began the practice of engraving their announcement. This required a craftsman to manually carve the text into a metal plate. To this day, engraving still represents the highest quality stationery.

Today's technology has improved the engraving process, but it is still highly manual. Thermography was invented as a lower cost alternative to engraving. Thermography uses heated ink and a special resin to create a raised print image that simulates engraving.

Today

All of these forms of printing announcements are still widely available. Recently, there has been an emergence in custom announcements that are handmade and assembled. These birth announcements often resemble children's pop-up books and have moveable die-cuts like animals or windows.

Today, we have many options for announcing the birth of a new baby or any other social occasion. With desktop publishing software and personal printers, it is even acceptable for people to print their own stationery. But the finest stationery still requires a traditional printing processes. An Evite in your inbox cannot compare to receiving a finely engraved card.

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