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Monogram Magic: What is a Monogram?

Monograms from giftsin24.comIn two previous blogs, we talked about the ancient history of monograms that traces all the way back to the Greeks, as well as the Victorian mania for monograms that had people putting their monograms on everything from their tablecloths to their bloomers. Today, we’ll be taking a step back and asking: what is a monogram? Be prepared to learn some things to pull out at your next cocktail party conversation.

If you ask your friends what a monogram is, they might say that it’s a series of three letters representing your name.

That’s all well and good, but, actually, the common dictionary definition of a monogram does not include a specific number of letters. Merriam-Webster Dictionary says a monogram is “a sign of identity usually formed of the combined initials of a name.”

The word “monogram” derives from two Greek words: mono, meaning single, and gram, meaning letter. It means that letters were combined into one sign or symbol.

So in contemporary, popular culture, the idea of a monogram is actually not well-defined. Can it have two letters? Five letters? Do the letters connect or can they float freely? How are they arranged: sideways or up-and-down? Are letters block or script? In today’s world, we don’t seem to sweat the details; all seem acceptable.

In the Victorian Age (1837-1901), people thought that sometimes the letters of a monogram should connect and intertwine, even if that meant you couldn’t actually read the letters. At other times, legibility was important.

Sienna Monogram Note from giftsin24.com

The Sienna Monogram Note features a flowing, elegant monogram where letters overlap and interlace, and are almost difficult to read.

Here’s J.O. Kane, the editor of An Encyclopedia of Monograms, writing in 1884: “For some uses, the intention of the device should be conspicuous and obvious, and its component letters readily distinguishable at first sight. In other cases, it is more tasteful and appropriate, by superimposing or interlacing the letters, or other means, to slightly veil, as it were, the meaning of the composition, and to aim at a certain ornamental construction whose component parts shall be less distinct and obvious to the eye.”

Cipher Vs. Monogram?

If you are the type of person who likes rules, a modern monogram scholar, Nancy Sharon Collins, author of The Complete Engraver, introduces the term “cipher” to help to clarify the situation – perhaps.

Sydney features loopy letters.

Cipher?

Paris monogram from giftsin24.com

Monogram?

“A cipher,” she writes, “is any arrangement of two or more initials. The letters do not have to connect.”

“The letters of a monogram on the other hand,” writes Collins, “share essential strokes and curves. Monograms do not have to be legible, whereas ciphers typically are.”

Let’s note that we usually associate the word “cipher” with the idea of a code or something you have to interpret. For this reason, we aren’t sure that the term cipher helps clear things up. The meaning fights its colloquial use and may muddy the waters more: Ciphers – free-standing letters – are actually easier to read than monograms – highly interconnected letters that can be hard to read.

Types of Monograms

If we look at the designs offered here at giftsin24.com, we see a variety of styles, both “ciphers” and “monograms.” We label all these marks “monograms” on our website.

We have block letters that don’t touch. These, Collins would say, are ciphers.

Circle Monogram from giftsin24.com

Circle Monogram features block letters that don’t touch. It’s a more modern look and feel.

We have two-letter monograms, such as Dorset. The strokes overlap. It’s hard to tell one letter from another. For these reasons, Dorset might fall into the category of a true monogram, even though it’s only two letters.

Dorset Monogram from giftsin24.com

Dorset two-letter monogram includes letters that overlap and are more difficult to read. Here is a T and an H.

And, giftsin24 also features three-letter monograms where letters thread through one another.

Classic monogram from giftsin24.com

Classic Monogram features script letters that overlap in a more traditional feel.

So there, you have it…some food for thought about the exciting world of monograms. Are you ready for your next cocktail party? Tune in next time when we explore the modern uses and meanings of monograms.

 

Sources:

Nancy Sharon Collins. The Complete Engraver: Monograms, Crests, Ciphers, Seals, and the Etiquette of Social Stationery. Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

J. O’Kane. An Encyclopedia of Monograms. Originally published in 1884. Reprinted by Dover Publishing in 2003.

 

 

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    Monogram Magic: Monogramania Hits Fever Pitch in the Victorian Age

    In our previous blog, we explored the ancient history of the monogram. We saw that for centuries, people used monograms widely – on everything from coins to letters to homes and pottery. But people really went crazy for the monogram during the Victorian Era (1837-1901). In fact, one writer of the day called the art of collecting monograms an “epidemic” and named the monogram’s most ardent fans “monogramaniacs.”

    Whitlock Monogram from Giftsin24.com

    Our Whitlock Monogram is based on a popular Victorian motif.

    What was going on? The Industrial Revolution ushered in a new middle class of factory owners, bankers, railroad managers, insurance agents, merchants and all the salaried professionals who helped run these businesses, as well as new ranks of civil servants, teachers, doctors and lawyers, according to Donna Loftus, author of “The Rise of the Victorian Middle Class.” Millions of people now had disposable income, and they desired some of the comforts of the upper classes. They began purchasing household goods as well as clothing, watches and jewelry, which the new economy had made more plentiful and affordable than ever before.

    Celebrity and the Monogram

    At the same time, the idea of celebrity took on power in popular culture. People began collecting crests and monograms of the rich and famous, according to Nancy Sharon Collins, author of The Complete Engraver. 

    Monogram for Queen Victoria

    Queen Victoria’s Monogram went through many iterations. Here is a simple one.

    Enthusiasts created albums of their most prized monograms, marks and seals. In this age of avid letter writing, “coats of arms or monograms from famous families, politicians, opera stars, or members of the theater were particularly coveted and displayed,” writes Collins.

    Whole books explored and documented monogram design, such as An Encyclopedia of Monograms, published in 1884. The book included 5,000 decorative monograms to inspire artists and craftspeople.

    Popular women’s magazines of the time, such as Godeys Lady’s Book and Peterson’s Magazine, regularly included alphabets, initials, names and monograms. Middle class readers copied them to embroider nearly every scrap of cloth – tablecloths, sheets, towels, pillowcases and clothing. “Hardly an item in her home escaped from being monogrammed,” writes Rita Weiss, editor of Victorian Alphabets, Monograms and Names. “Young girls learned how to embroider simple alphabets on the linens for her trousseau,” Weiss continues. “By the time she got married, her skills improved and she was ready for more expert work.”

    Louis Vuitton monogram

    Louis Vuitton company developed its monogram in 1896.

    Monogrammed Needlework Attains Art Status

    The expert needlework skills attained by women – at all levels of society – and the invention of the Jacquard loom, which spurred faster and cheaper textile manufacturing, coincided to create the perfect circumstances for a boom in monogrammed linens like we’ve never seen before or since, according to Robin Molbert in Monograms and Antique Linens. “Bold and artful monogramming burst into vogue, serving as a kind of democratizing factor in the personalization of one’s linens,” writes Molbert. In England, France and the U.S., women formed sewing and embroidery circles to enjoy and support one another in their endeavors. They shared ideas and perfected their art, incorporating many other aspects including lacework, cut-outs, florals, animal figures and much more.

    To this day, many people still cherish, value and collect antique linens from the Victorian Age. A rather funny example: In December 2016, a pair of Queen Victoria’s monogrammed bloomers went on auction, expected to be sold for £6,000. Some famous monograms developed by the Victorians continue to be in vogue. The world of consumer goods offers a perfect example: The interlocking L and V on Louis Vuitton’s bags and luggage. His son Georges designed the iconic image in 1896 to increase sales.

    And the practice of monogramming continues to be popular. Whether it’s stationery or wine glasses, ornaments or napkins, personalizing one’s possessions conveys tradition and a sense of pride.

    Our story about the monogram isn’t over. Next we ask: what exactly is a monogram?

    Explore our lines of monogrammed Cards, Notes, Notepads, Napkins & Guest Towels, and all Monogrammed Items.

     

    Sources:

    Nancy Sharon Collins. The Complete Engraver: Monograms, Crests, Ciphers, Seals, and the Etiquette of Social Stationery. Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

    Donna Loftus. “The Rise of the Victorian Middle Class.”   BBC History. Website.

    Robin Molbert. “The Royal Lineage of Table Linens.” Monograms and Antique Linens. HM Books, 2016.

    J. O’Kane. An Encyclopedia of Monograms. Originally published in 1884. Reprinted by Dover Publishing in 2003.

    Rita Weiss, editor.Victorian Alphabets, Monograms and Names. Dover Publishing, 1974.

     

     

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      Monogram Magic: Ancient History

      You love your monogrammed stationery…it expresses your identity, connects you to tradition, and symbolizes your enjoyment of the good things in life. For all of these reasons, monogramming is undergoing a renaissance. But did you know how the monogram came to be “a thing”? In these next four posts, we look into the history of the monogram, its heyday in the Victorian era, as well as its meanings and contemporary uses.

      Charlemagne's monogram

      Charlemagne’s monogram

      In fact, the origins of the monogram go way back. Not on paper or even cloth: those are relatively recent applications. The first monograms were stamped on coins in ancient Greece. Along the way, monograms have bridged the gap between word and image to create potent symbols of identity and authenticity.

      In Western culture, the earliest known monograms popped up on ancient Greek coins in around 300 B.C.  (In Asian cultures, since their written characters do not stand for letter sounds, the monogram evolved a little differently.) The initials belonged to the private bankers, city-states or rulers that made the currencies, according to the online Handbook of Greek Coinage. In these early days of money, when issuers wanted people to trust using it, the monograms lent authenticity.

      Constantine the Great's monogram

      Constantine the Great’s monogram

      This practice of stamping coins with monograms continued for centuries, according to A Study of the Development of Monograms. For example, Constantine the Great, who founded Constantinople in 324 A.D. created one of the most famous monograms, a large P with an x through the stem. Another famous coin monogram belonged to the emperor Charlemagne.  He liked it so much, he decided to use his monogram instead of his face on his coins.

      Signatures, Buildings, Homes and Art

      The history of the monogram continued as other uses developed. Does your Grandmother have a signet ring? It derives from the fancy signet rings rulers wore that allowed them to quickly sign documents using a blop of wax. Later, masons proudly carved their monograms or stone masons’ signs into new cathedrals.

      Albrecht Durer's monogram

      Albrecht Durer’s monogram

      Around this time, people like farmers and prominent citizens began  monogramming their walls, prized equipment and even gravestones. These were called house marks.

      Later in the 15th century, artists used monograms to sign their works. Italian potters created quite intricate and sometimes beautiful monograms on the bottoms of fine majolica vessels, according to Marks and Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain. And Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer developed one of the more famous monograms, an attractive D under an A.

      But the Victorians took monogramming to a whole new level. Tune in to the next post, where we explore “monogramania” in the 1800s.

      Explore our lines of monogrammed Cards, Notes, Notepads, Napkins & Guest Towels, and all Monogrammed Items.

       

      Sources:

      The Handbook of Greek Coinage

      A Study of the Development of Monograms: From Ancient Greek Coins to Contemporary Logos

      Marks and Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain. William Chaffers. 14th edition. Borden Publishing Company, Los Angeles, CA.

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        Calling Cards – A Lost Art

        Flourish Calling Card from Giftsin24 ships in 24 hours.

        Flourish Calling Card

        In the days before email, even telephones, how did people socialize? In-person visits were the order of the day for people in the upper and middle class from the 1700s through the early 1900s. Calling cards played a big role in enabling people to get out and “see” as many people as possible in a morning. Calling cards, also called visiting cards, are small pieces of card stock featuring a person’s full name, centered on the front. Unlike today’s business cards, no other identifying or contact information was printed on the calling card. Sometimes it was just enough to drop off your card with a servant at the front door and move on to the next home. It was the equivalent of pinging someone or dropping a quick “hi” via text.

        Calling Card Etiquette

        According to Nancy Sharon Collins, author of The Complete Engraver: Monograms, Crests, Ciphers, Seals and The Etiquette of Social Stationery, people used an elaborate set of customs to signify meaning.

        On the morning of the visit, people personalized their cards with a fountain pen in various ways, according to Collins. You could add a quick note to be extra friendly. Add an address if you wished your friend to return your visit. Or you might even cross out the printed name and sign your nick name underneath.

        Dublin Calling Card from giftsin24 ships in 24 hours.

        And the fun really began with corner folding. “Specific coded meaning could be conveyed through the folding of corners,” writes Collins. If you sent your servant to deliver the card, he or she would deliver it plain, without any folded corners. When you visited in person, you would fold the upper right-hand corner. If you wanted to send congratulations or well wishes, you’d fold the upper left-hand corner. You would have folded the lower left-hand corner if you wanted to send condolences, . When you wanted to say good-bye at the end of the season, you would write P.P.C.. It is short for pour prendre congé, french for “for leave-taking.”

        Today, our calling cards might contain not only a name, but an address, phone number, email, even social media accounts. They are larger than a business card, typically 2.4″ x 3.5″. They are perfect for a young mom who visits the playground with her toddler to meet other moms. A new neighbor who wants to get to know other neighbors on the block. They are wonderful for anyone who loves tradition and the people around them. See our collection here.

         

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          Wow Them with Personalized Picture Frames

           

          Loving Couple personalized picture frame from Giftsin24.com ships in 24 hours.

          Loving Couple personalized picture frame from Giftsin24.com

          Finding a gift that wows them…isn’t that your goal this holiday season? We want our friend, sister, coworker or teacher to feel like we went above and beyond to find that perfect gift. Giftsin24 has the answer: a personalized picture frame with a photograph that you have taken.

          Our personalized picture frames are crafted of solid wood and laser engraved with a variety of designs and lettering styles so you can create memorable gifts they’ll cherish for a lifetime. Best of all, these quality frames are affordable and endlessly customizable for everyone on your list.

          Some of our best “wow them” personalized picture frames:

          One of the Family Picture Frame from giftsin24.com

          One of the Family Picture Frame

          Teacher appreciation: How about a personalized picture frame with a class picture? Maybe the photo shows that memorable special project she created with the kids? Or perhaps the photo is an adorable class group shot? Try the Treasured Moment Picture Frame personalized with Mr.  Chu’s Class (or We Love You Mrs. P!) at the top and 2016-2017 at the bottom.

          Grandparents: This group can be difficult to buy for…they often have everything. Choose a photo frame that celebrates one of their most important relationships: with their pet. We have just the one: our One of the Family Picture Frame. It’s perfect for a dog’s name and your parents’ favorite photograph of their true-blue friend.

          Friends: Maybe your best friend sent the most beautiful holiday card this year. How about framing it in our Winter Picture Frame? The frame accommodates two lines of text, like a name, date, year or short phrase.

          Princess Picture Frame ships in 24 hours.

          Princess Picture Frame

          Sibling: Did your sister or brother get married or have their first baby this year? Choose the Loving Couple Picture Frame for newlyweds. Or try the Princess Picture Frame or the Choo Choo Picture Frame. These frames beautifully capture these life milestones. Your brother or sister will cherish these mementos for a lifetime.

           

           

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            Holiday Napkins & Guest Towels for Every Table

            Personalized holiday napkins from giftsin24 ship in 24 hours.

            Holiday food and wine pair wonderfully with Christmas Napkins from giftsin24.com

            A steaming turkey or ham. A blazing fire. Children’s excited laughter. The sights and smells of holiday parties warm the heart and soul. Your table is the center of all the action. Be sure to have plenty of holiday napkins on hand for sticky fingers and wet beverages.

            Giftsin24 offers a wide array of personalized designs, from old favorites to new motifs. Customize them with your choice of monograms, lettering styles, foil colors, paper colors, edge styles and more. Customers’ favorites include these timeless designs:

            Holiday Napkins

            Delavan Monogram Napkin from giftsin24 ships in 24 hours.

            The embossed Delavan Monogram Napkin.

            Planning the perfect holiday feast? Our napkins come in a large array of foil ink colors and paper colors to match any decor. Use them for the buffet table, dinner table, beverage cart or passed appetizers.

            Christmas Napkin.  Three lines of personalization. Choice of lettering style. Motifs include: candy canes, Christmas tree, stocking, ornaments, Santa’s hat and holiday wreath. High quality, three-ply construction. Also available in an embossed version.

            Delavan Monogram Napkin. Monograms signal tradition and taste. Impress your guests with the Delavan Embossed Monogram Napkin. Choice of monogram, paper color and napkin orientation: diamond or square. Bordered edge. Also available in a foil-pressed version.

            The Yuletide Guest Towel ships in 24 hours.

            The Yuletide Guest Towel

            Holiday Guest Towels

             

            Add pizzazz to your buffet table or powder room with Giftsin24.com’s wide range of personalized guest towels. We ship both embossed and foil-pressed items in 24 hours.

            Yuletide Guest Towel. Coming home for Christmas dinner to celebrate family style. Gathering for the annual holiday office party. There are as many ways to customize the Yuletide Foil-Pressed Guest Towels as there are reasons to celebrate. Personalize these paper party serviettes with up to three lines of text. Choose a foil ink color, typography and paper color. Motifs include: snowman, Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer, ho-ho-ho and snowflakes. Also available in an embossed version.

            Delavan Monogram Guest Towel ships in 24 hours from giftsin24.com

            Delavan Monogram Guest Towel

            Delavan Guest Towel. From the powder room to the buffet table and more, the Delavan Embossed Monogram Guest Towel  is the perfect accessory. Offering a choice of monogram and paper color, this guest towel offers endless options. Bordered edge. Also available in a foil-pressed version.

             

             

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              Thanksgiving Day Napkins

              Personalize our Autumn Napkin to create beautiful Thanksgiving Day Napkins.

              Personalize our Autumn Napkin to create beautiful Thanksgiving Day Napkins.

              Brighten up your party table with personalized Thanksgiving day napkins.  This beautiful holiday celebrates gratitude and family feeling. Announce your family pride with personalized napkins.

              We have created many exciting new designs that will tie your table decor together and even add a little sparkle. And with two sizes to choose from — a 4.75″  by 4.75″  napkin or a 4.5″ by 8.5″  guest towel — you can deploy them to the snack table and bar as easily as the dinner table or powder room.

              Personalized Napkins for Thanksgiving

              Autumn Guest Towel: Strike a warm and inviting note on your party table or powder room with the Autumn Foil-Pressed Guest Towels. These paper serviettes come in a large array of foil ink and paper colors to match any decor. Three lines of personalization. Choice of lettering style. Motifs include: fall leaves, harvest cornucopia and turkey. High quality, three-ply construction. Bordered edge. Also offered in an embossed version.

              Autumn Napkin: For all of Fall’s celebrations add pizzazz to your party table or bar cart with the Autumn Embossed Napkins. These napkins come in a large array of colors to match any decor and offer up to three lines of text and a choice of lettering style. Motifs include:  turkey, fall leaves, harvest cornucopia and pumpkins. High quality, three-ply construction. Also offered in a foil-pressed version.

              Personalize the Autumn Guest Towel to create Thanksgiving Day Napkins

              Autumn Guest Towel in mocha with gold foil ink.

              Joyous Napkin: Perfect for holidays, weddings, birthday parties and more. Tell everyone why you’re celebrating with four lines of text in the font of your choice. These napkins come in a large array of colors and vivid foil hues to match any decor. High quality, three-ply construction. Square orientation. Bordered edge.

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                Introducing…Engraved Cutting Boards – Customize Them For Everyone

                Personalize one of our new cutting boards. Established Cutting Board

                Personalize one of our new cutting boards to create a beautiful wedding gift. Shown here is the Established Cutting Board from giftsin24.com

                We are so pleased to announce the latest new products in our lineup: Beautiful, durable personalized bamboo cutting boards. They come in a variety of attractive designs using our most popular lettering styles and monograms. They’re so pretty, you may not want to cut on them. Luckily, you can use them in so many ways.

                Indispensable in Your Kitchen

                Our cutting boards measure a generous 8.75 inches by 11.5 inches, offering plenty of room to chop and dice. They are made from bamboo, which is a fast-growing grass that is as hard and durable as wood. It’s a renewable resource and compostable at the end of its life, unlike plastic or glass cutting boards. We recommend hand-washing to keep it looking great for years to come.

                Many cutting board designs offer the choice of horizontal or vertical orientation for the personalization. Either way, they look terrific and add a bit of pizzazz to a normally ho-hum kitchen object.

                Serving Platters

                They work beautifully as serving platters for hors d’oeuvres, muffins, cheeses and more. Planning a relaxing brunch with family? Pile on some home baked muffins, still warm from the oven. Entertaining work friends at home? Offer a selection of three cheeses artfully displayed, along with a bowl of crispy crackers.  The possibilities are endless.

                Memorable Gifts

                Our engraved cutting boards also make memorable gifts. Newlywed couples would love to see their names and wedding date on a high quality cutting board as part of a shower gift, along with tea towels and useful kitchen utensils. Present one to a new homeowner with the date of their home purchase. Or, bundle one up in a gift box with some gourmet spreads, crackers and wine to a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

                See the collection here.

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                  Halloween Decor to Die For – Put on a Thrilling Party

                  Scare your friends and family into the perfect mood with our Halloween decor, which includes personalized party napkins, guest towels and engraved picture frames. We have thrilling, brand new designs that can add to the festivities and tie everything together.

                  Decorate Your Halloween Table with Napkins & Guest Towels

                  All our napkins and guest towels offer up to three lines of text. Plus, new this year: you can ask us to print the top line larger than the bottom two lines, or you can have us print all three lines the same size. It’s your choice. We also offer napkins with plain edges or bordered edges, also called coin edges.

                  Halloween Napkin. Foil-pressed or embossed, these napkins include up to three lines of text, your favorite spooky paper color and a choice of motif: candy, Frankenstein monster, witch’s hat, bats, jack o’ lantern, carved pumpkin, RIP headstone, black cat and boo ghost. Bordered edge. This also comes in a guest towel.

                  Foil-Pressed Halloween Napkin ships in 24 hours.

                  Autumn Guest Towel. Foil-pressed or embossed, these guest towels work for all of Fall’s celebrations — like Halloween and Thanksgiving. They strike a warm and inviting note on your party table or buffet and accommodate three lines of text. Motifs include: fall leaves, harvest cornucopia, turkey and pumpkins.  Bordered edge. This also comes in a napkin.

                  Autumn Guest Towel from giftsin24 ships in 24 hours.

                  Pump up Your Halloween Decor with Personalized Engraved Picture Frames

                  Halloween Picture Frame. Pull out this beautifully engraved wood frame and display it as part of your Halloween decor. Remember this fun family holiday for years to come. It’s a wonderful gift for grandparents, too. Solid wood frame. Include up to two lines of text. Holds a 4″ x 6″ photo.

                  Engraved solid wood picture frame celebrates autumn memories

                  Autumn Picture Frame.  Celebrate the changing of the seasons with this festive, beautifully engraved, solid wood frame. Perfect for a mantel, end table or picture ledge. Include up to two lines of text in your choice of lettering style. Holds a 4″ x 6″ photo.

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                    Gutsy or Geeky? Typography & Personal Style

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