What happens when you’re writing a letter and you run out of space? Rather than starting a second sheet—which would have increased the postage charge—Jane Austen turned the paper ninety degrees to the right and began writing directly over her first page of text, creating a neat crosshatching of cursive. After writing the address in a blank space on the back of the folded sheet, she folded the letter into a small packet and sealed it with an adhesive disc called a wafer. No envelope was required. The letter made its way from Godmersham, where Jane wrote it, to Southampton, where her sister Cassandra received it, broke the seal, and read all her sister’s news.
Jane Austen (1775–1817). Letter to Cassandra Austen, Godmersham, 20 and 22 June 1808. Purchased by J.P. Morgan Jr. in 1920. MA 977.16