Why Are Envelopes Called Envelopes?
The basic answer is that the term “envelopes” originated when Europeans began using an extra piece of paper to wrap up letters and send them, and to write delivery instructions on them. It was called a “wrapper,” but became known as an “envelope” because the wrapper “enveloped” the letter.
Before The Existence of Envelopes
When early man was first learning to communicate with written or drawn symbols, it quickly became apparent that it was necessary to share some of the messages. It also quickly became apparent that there was a need to protect messages from the eyes of those who weren’t meant to see them.
Almost immediately, the search was on for more efficient methods of writing, sharing, protecting, and delivering messages. A way was needed to write, share and deliver the message safely to the intended recipients.
It was initially assumed that there would be an easy solution to this issue. However, to everyone’s surprise, finding a viable solution proved to be much more difficult than anyone had anticipated. The difficulty in finding that viable solution stemmed from the fact that those earliest messages were chiseled on stone or incised into clay tablets. Using stone or clay tablets was a sub-optimal solution for messages since both were cumbersome to write, share, and deliver.
Please do not assume that stone or clay tablets were the only available mediums for writing. They were merely the most available and least expensive.
In addition to the stone or clay tablets, other methods of message delivery included the message being burnt into leather or written on parchment and then rolled into a scroll and sealed with wax. These methods of message delivery varied in degrees of cumbersomeness, being either overly heavy like the stone tablets, or overly fragile, like the scrolls which were easily crushed during travel.
The search for a viable solution for writing, sharing, and delivering messages became much easier as paper came into use by the 17th Century in Europe. And, with the use of paper on the rise, newer more efficient means of message protection and delivery began to appear.
The paper was initially very rare and was so expensive that only the wealthiest could use it to pass along messages. Messages were written on one side of the paper which was then folded so that the content of the letter was hidden and the delivery instructions could be written on the outside of the paper.
With this method, only one piece of paper was used and it became known as a wrapper. Within a short period, and as paper became more widely available and less costly, people began writing their messages on a separate sheets of paper and using the wrapper as an envelope. The reason why they are called envelopes is because the wrapper “enveloped” the message…hence the term envelope.
The Importance of Envelopes
Envelopes play an important and often overlooked role in the world of communications. Some people claim, perhaps with only a small amount of hyperbole, that envelopes impact every aspect of our day-to-day lives.
Envelopes bring us both personal and impersonal news, including items that can be, in turn, incredibly important or utterly useless.
Until we open the envelope it is impossible to know with any certainty which type of news it might be. Envelopes carry a sense of mystery. What they hold can either turn the tides of your life or just fill up the recycling bin.
The envelope is one of very few things that has remained fairly unchanged for several hundred years. Even as technology takes over many areas of our lives, we still turn to envelopes as a safe and secure way of communicating with the world at large.
Whether we are conducting private business, running for office, running a business, or running our day-to-day lives, the envelope is a tool that serves many purposes.
Envelopes can be formed from several different sizes and shapes of paper with the most common characteristic being that they are folded into a shape that will envelop something else, whether it’s a personal letter, a bill, or marketing materials. An envelope is basically a flat paper container with a sealable flap meant to contain a letter or document. They are usually made from a thin sheet of paper cut into one of three shapes: a cross, a rhombus, or a kite shape. These shapes can then be folded, leaving a central rectangular area that will hold the message. After the paper is folded you will have four flaps forming the back of the envelope. These can be sealed together with adhesive or a wax seal.
Whatever shape it takes, it envelops the message it was created to contain. Different shapes of envelopes were made to serve different purposes as well. If the last flap to be folded in is along the narrowest side of the paper it is termed a pocket envelope. These are often used as seed packets or herb packets. If the last flap to be folded in is on the longest side of the envelope it is usually known as a business envelope. There are window envelopes, business envelopes, return envelopes, and manila envelopes…the list is quite endless. The sizes and shapes of envelopes available today is almost unending but they all serve a similar important purpose.