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Monogram Magic: Unpacking the Modern Monogram

Classic Monogram is a modern monogram from giftsin24.com

Classic Monogram features script letters that overlap.

In the previous three blog posts, we’ve explored many aspects of the Monogram, including its ancient history, its Victorian popularity and its definition. Today, we talk about the modern monogram, its meaning and uses. What does the monogram say about ourselves and our culture? Why do we use it?

Monogram as brand

In modern American culture, one of the most prominent uses of the monogram is to mark the corporate brand. Companies spend millions of dollars designing and promoting their company names. They often reach for the monogram to create a compelling identity marker in the public sphere. Think: Louis Vuitton (LV) and Coco Chanel (CC), General Electric (GE), CNN, HP, NBA, and on and on. Many of these brands are household names. We consumers instantly identify companies by two or three letters and their unique typographical or design treatments. That’s a monogram at its most powerful. Corporations wield monograms like royalty of yore, using it as a mark of trust, authenticity and quality.

Circle Monogram from giftsin24.com

Monogram as indulgence

One of the most powerful historical meanings of the monogram that still persists today is a mark of royalty and celebrity. When we monogram our sheets or a wine glass, we think of ourselves as indulging in a taste of luxury. Monograms are a treat, especially when they are embossed in beautiful paper or engraved into a beautiful wood picture frame or embroidered on a gorgeous piece of linen. When we can afford to, we reach for this small sign of sophistication and good taste. When we decide to purchase personalized stationery rather than plain, we are taking that step to rise out of the mundane. We want to feel special and unique.

Modern monogram as touchstone

Monogrammed coasters give a personal touch.

Lovely monograms engraved on glass coasters.

Finally, in our modern day culture that is digitized, easily duplicated, complicated and busy, we crave touchstones to simpler times. In this way, monograms have a conversation with the past, as well as the present. Social media reproduces a million copies in an instant. But a monogram is a mark of hand-crafted tradition. Typographical experts create a monogram. And craftspeople apply it. We emboss and embroider it. We engrave it.

In defiance of email or texting, we send a monogrammed note to thank our friends and family. We beat back the impersonal forces in our lives when we lay our heads on the embroidered pillow cases our Great Aunt Margie made for her wedding trousseau. We replicate that hand-made, bespoke quality when we give a new bride and groom a monogrammed, engraved set of wine glasses.

With so many lovely designs and practical uses, the modern monogram is here to stay.

Explore our monogrammed products.

 

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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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          Gutsy or Geeky? Typography & Personal Style

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            NEW Stylish Stationery You Can Customize

            Giftsin24 offers stationery you can customize with lettering styles, colors and more.

            Create stationery with a look that’s original to you with our newest stationery you can customize with lettering styles, ink colors, borders and more.

            It pays to be choosy. Giftsin24 is pleased to announce our newest stationery you can customize. Many of our products now offer a choice of lettering style and ink color from our most popular options.

            We also offer a range of sizes, from standard, to Apex to Chesapeake. Specify your choices from available options, and we’ll create stationery just for you.

            Love borders? We’ll add them. Embossing? Done. Or maybe you’re a raised ink type of person? Perfect, we’ve got that too. Cotton paper? Excellent choice–it’s our most luxurious stationery. Whatever you desire, you can create a style that’s all your own.

            Beautiful Stationery You Can Customize

            Delavan Monogram Note Life is always more fun when you have choices. The Delavan Monogram Note offers you a range of exclusive new monograms as well as perennial favorites. Select one that reflects the real you. The end result is sure to impress. Embossed. Folded note. Choice of white or ivory paper. Opt for the hand-inserted lining, optional border, 100% cotton paper or return address to create a luxurious set of stationery.

            Highland Card  The Highland Card is all about choices. Make this single panel correspondence card into what you want it to be. Whether you’re bold, brainy, traditional or sweet, craft two lines of personalization and find a lettering style and thermography ink color that reflect the true you. Comes with 50 Pinnacle pointed-flap envelopes. Opt for the hand-inserted lining or 100% cotton paper to create a very special gift.

            Montreal Chesapeake Card  Our Chesapeake line of personalized stationery features many of our most popular designs in an even more generous 4.5″ x 8.5″ size. A treat for the senses, the Montreal Chesapeake Card – Embossed gives you lots of options. Select a lettering style and we’ll emboss your name in triple-thick paper. Includes 50 Pinnacle pointed-flap envelopes. Opt for a border, 100% cotton paper, hand-inserted lining and return address for even more luxury.

            You’re an original, so let your stationery be, too. Check out our line of new stationery today.

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              Strike it Rich…With Gold Ink

              Gold InkNow you can add even more luxury to your favorite Giftsin24 stationery by selecting gold ink. We’ve added this shimmery hue to our lineup of raised ink colors, so you have even more choices.

              If you love wearing gold, why not add it to your stationery?

              Options in Gold Ink

              For bordered cards and notes, pair gold lettering with a black border on stark white paper for an opulent feel.

              To achieve the ultimate princess look, combine gold lettering with a fuchsia border.

              Gold ink looks gorgeous with ivory paper. On white paper, it takes on a regal feel.

              Check our all our raised ink products for the new gold lettering choice. Let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.

              Raised ink cards  Personalized with your unique message, our raised-ink cards are a masterpiece. Choose among a wide range of vivid colors, including our newest one — gold — and we will use a process known as thermography to give them a raised texture and shimmery shine. Customize your raised-ink card with your favorite quote, phrase or saying.

              Raised ink notes  Our Raised-Ink Notes are created with the high-quality printing technique called thermography, which uses heat and powder to create a textured personalization. This unique result looks elegant and luxurious. Surprise your family and friends with this striking gift. Choose from a variety of modern, professional and fun-looking designs for the home and office.

               

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                Distinctive Handwriting Inspires Original Typeface

                Embossed Graphics has developed many original typefaces.

                Sally Script typeface was developed by Embossed Graphics in the late 1980s.

                Giftsin24’s parent company, Embossed Graphics, has designed many original lettering styles over the years. In a previous post, we profiled “Anthony.” Today, we highlight another original typeface: Sally Script.

                Do you or someone you know have a distinctive handwriting style? That’s how Sally Script got its look and its name. Embossed Graphics CEO Richard Pauling helped develop this lettering style in the late 1980s.  He based it off the handwriting of a good friend.

                Font Inspired by Handwriting

                “At that time, we acquired new software that enabled us to branch into new looks with our own in-house designed typefaces,” explains Richard. “I had a friend named Sally Kopp Richardson who had an interesting handwriting style.  She provided us with all the letters in the alphabet, and all numerals, too.”

                A smart college intern turned her paper and pen letters into digital files, using the new software. And a new lettering style was born.

                “Sally Script has always been popular because of its folksy, slightly imperfect appearance,” says Richard.

                Sally Script’s round O’s and other characters give it a generous, relaxed feel. Look for it on our Sally Script Embossed Card and other Giftsin24 products.

                 

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                  Exclusive Giftsin24 Lettering Style

                  Embossed Graphics creates new typography, such as the Anthony lettering style.

                  Anthony Memo Square with CrystalClear Holder

                  Today we have a little Typography 101 for you. Put simply, typography is the design and use of typefaces. We use typefaces to communicate visually. Typefaces are powerful. They can convey emotion. That’s why you prefer some typefaces over others when you make stationery at our website.

                  Designers create typefaces by including many elements that make them unique and identifiable. They pay attention to things like how straight or round a g is at the bottom. Or how high or low a line crosses a t. In addition, the little feet that go at the ends of letters are called serifs. Many typefaces have no serifs at all.

                  The history of typography moves from old-style calligraphy to today’s digital type. Believe it or not, the first handwritten letter forms still inspire today’s typography.

                  Giftsin24 offers exclusive lettering styles from Embossed Graphics. EG’s skilled designers use them to create some of the most elegant personalized stationery available today.

                  Anthony is our Most Popular Lettering Style

                  This is why we’re proud to showcase our most popular lettering style . . . . Anthony. Anthony is a casual, yet graceful lettering style that feels like handwriting.

                  According to Ryan Monahan, Giftsin24’s graphic designer, “Anthony is a typestyle created to capture the traditional flow and stroke of a true hand lettering. The combination of the cursive and roman aesthetic really lends itself to having the appropriate movement and rhythm that many look for when trying to represent a hand written look and feel.”

                  xm43d_Anthony_7_Tablets_With_Holder_Notepad_Right

                  Because of its casual appeal, Anthony is a best-selling choice. We offer it in notes, cards, napkins, cutting boards, mason jars, ornaments and memos. Customer favorites include the Anthony 7 Tablet Set, the  Highland Memo Square and the Anthony Studio Card. These items are very popular gifts.

                  Embossed Graphics is the leading maker of social stationery in the country. Giftsin24 offers exceptional quality at affordable prices. Best of all, we offer super fast production and free FedEx ground shipping. In fact, most orders ship in 24 hours.

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                    Classic Embossed Monograms

                    Nothing says quiet sophistication quite like classic a embossed monogram. Giftsin24 has a large selection of monogrammed notes and cards to choose from. We have traditional script monograms, classic initial monograms and eclectic, artistic monograms. All of our monograms are deeply embossed and showcase your initials in delicate detail. Whether you personalize a foldover note or a flat-panel card with your personal initials, you will appreciate the fine quality and exceptional beauty of our monograms.

                    Classic and refined. The perfect embossed monogram!

                    Classic and refined. The Classic Frame Note has the perfect embossed monogram!

                    Choose from a prominent 2 ½” size monogram or a traditional 1 ½” monogram, embossed borders and frames, and multiple paper colors. Our paper is smooth and thick – a pleasure to write on. You will truly enjoy corresponding with these luxurious papers!

                    Need help choosing? Here’s a little Monogram Etiquette 101:

                    • Couples – The monogram will be the bride’s first initial, the couple’s last name, and the groom’s first initial, in that order. For example, Mary and John Smith would be M S J.

                    • Women – A woman’s monogram is traditionally presented as first, last and middle initial. So Mary Elizabeth Jones would be M J E. It is always appropriate to use a woman’s initials in this way, even if married; however, it’s more common to use her first, maiden and married surname if she does marry. For example, Mary Elizabeth Jones Smith would then be M S J.

                    • Men – A gentleman’s monogram is often done in first, middle and last initial order. John Andrew Smith would be JAS. In this instance, the initials are all the same size. You may also choose to put the gentleman’s surname in the middle, as J S A, with the center initial larger in size.

                    "Embossed

                    • Children – A child’s monogram follows the traditional first, last, middle initial order.

                    As with any monogrammed gift, you will want to consider the age and tastes of the recipient – traditional, modern or whimsical.

                    The sculptured look of embossing has a timeless appeal. It’s a classic that never fails to impress. Browse our selection at Giftsin24.com today and find the perfect gift for every occasion.

                     

                     

                     

                     

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