Mourning Stationery

While its roots are apparently older, black-edged mourning stationery had a long heyday in the ostentatiously mournful Victorian era. The thickness of the black border would frequently be used to signal the severity of the sender’s grief, with the expectation it would become narrower over time until it was no longer used at all. Even while grief-stricken, however, people didn’t always necessarily want to do the same old thing, and some sought novelty: very thin ‘Italian’ borders became more prevalent toward the end of the 19th Century, while another option, introduced in 1890, was stationery marked with a single black triangle.

I have two sets of mourning stationery. Shown above is a box of The Queen’s Parchment paper, some nice-quality pre-folded octavo cream paper with a moderately thick border, along with a smaller number of notecards. Only two of the original envelopes remain. It was made by Thomas de la Rue & Co. Ltd., best known as manufacturers of playing cards, postage stamps and banknotes. One can only guess at its age: I would hazard it could date as far back to the 1900s or ’10s. I’m even less confident about the vintage of the Templecombe Mourning paper shown below, and no idea at all who might have made it. A mid-20th-Century origin wouldn’t surprise me, even though that was a time when such paper had become quite outmoded. It has a narrow ‘Italian’ border and a hammered surface texture.