Letterwriting in Renaissance England children's exhibition

This article features the children's exhibition material from the Letterwriting in Renaissance England exhibit, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.

Make Your Own Seal

Outer seal of a ca. 1610 letter. Folger Digital Image 5776.

There were several parts to a letter including the outer seal. The design represented the person sending the letter with symbols and colors.

What would your seal look like?

  • Here are a few design options you might want to choose
  • You might want to include your initials and a picture of something you like.
  • Pick a color for your seal. Most seals were red, but some were blue or green. Black was used only by people in mourning.

Abbreviations Puzzle

Abbreviations were often used in letterwriting as a way to save time and paper. Here are a few examples:

Matie = majesty
La: = ladyship
yor = your
wch = which
Lo = Lord
yt = that

Postal Service

The postal service in Renaissance England was complicated and sometimes unreliable. This image is a map of the major roads used by the Postal System. The cost to send a letter was determined by how far the carrier had to go.

During this time, the average cost to send a letter was about .02 cents. Today, a stamp costs .42 cents. Why do you think the price to send a letter has gone up?

Ink and Paper

Along with creating their own seals, many letter writers made their own ink. Check out Easy Fun School for a modern ink recipe you can make at home. Be sure to ask your parents for help!

If you want to make your paper look old and worn, try rubbing it with brown shoe polish evenly with a tissue. You can also paint the edges with strong coffee or tea.