A 'crossed' letter

Why did they write like this?

Prior to the introduction of the Penny Postage in 1840, one of the factors affecting the cost of posting a letter was whether it was a single sheet of paper. Two sheets would double the cost. That might not sound like a big problem, looking from the year 2001, but at that time the cost of sending letters had escalated to such an extent that if you could write twice on the same sheet of paper, you could in effect, send two sheets for the cost of one. We have actually got one letter that was written on 3 times — and it is a nightmare trying to decipher that one!

This letter I have scanned, is dated 25th April, 1859, (which was EasterSunday), and if it is printed off you read it first the way you would normally read a letter, ignoring the cross-written lines, then you turnthe page 90 degrees, and read the cross writing, ignoring the first lines.It looks impossible at first glance, but once you get the knack of blocking out the different lines, it becomes legible.

The transcription begins:

My Dear Herb
I have treated you very badly in not writing but the truth is I have been so hard put for time that I have not been able to do so. Your letter reached me, about a month after it was written. I hope this will find you in Rome. Will you tell Samuel that I have not got time to write and that I am sorry to say I shall not be able to get abroad this year after all and so unless he can get to England, I shall not have the pleasure of seeing him. I suppose we shall see you up here next term at least at Oxford. You already know my eyes have been bad and have thrown me back considerably, I am very much.......

the crossed lines continue from the other side of the letter....

feet deep here and I very nearly killed myself the other day up et....


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