Inside of a stationery shop in Hà Nội
Outside view of a stationery shop in Hà Nội

Stationery has historically meant a wide gamut of materials: paper and office supplies, writing implements, greeting cards, glue, pencil case etc.


History of stationery

Originally the term "stationery" referred to all products sold by a stationer, whose name indicates that his book shop was on a fixed spot, usually near a university, and permanent, while medieval trading was mainly peddlers (including chapmen, who sold books) and others (such as farmers and craftsmen) at non-permanent markets such as fairs. It was a special term used between the 13th and 15th centuries in the manuscript culture. The Stationers' Company formerly held a monopoly over the publishing industry in England and was responsible for copyright regulations.

In its modern sense of (often personalized) writing materials, stationery has been an important part of good social etiquette, particularly since the Victorian era. Some usages of stationery, such as sending a manufactured reply card to a wedding invitation, has changed from offensive to appropriate.[1] Many of these social guidelines may have been defined by the manufacturers of stationery products themselves, such as "Crane's Blue Book of Stationery" showing so much influence by Crane & Co. that the company name is included in the title.[2]

The usage and marketing of stationery is a niche industry that is increasingly threatened by electronic media. As stationery is intrinsically linked to paper and the process of written, personalized communication, many techniques of stationery manufacture are employed, of varying desirability and expense. The most familiar of these techniques are letterpress printing, embossing, engraving, and thermographic printing (often confused with thermography). Flat printing and offset printing are regularly used, particularly for low cost or informal needs.

Styles of printed stationery techniques

Letterpress printing

Example of inked letterpress process

Letterpress is a printing method that requires characters being impressed upon the page. The print may be inked or blind but is typically done in a single color. Motifs or designs may be added as many letterpress machines use movable plates that must be hand-set.


Example of an embossed design

Embossing is a printing technique used to create raised surfaces in the converted paper stock. The process relies upon mated dies that press the paper into a shape that can be observed on both the front and back surfaces.


Example of a brass engraving plate, showing heavy wear. The plate is hand or machine engraved, inked, and forced into paper at extremely high pressures.

Engraving is a process that requires a design to be cut into a plate made of a relatively hard material. It is a technology with a long history and requires significant skill and experience. The finished plate is usually covered in ink, and then the ink is removed from all of the un-etched portions of the plate. The plate is then pressed into paper under substantial pressure. The result is a design that is slightly raised on the surface of the paper and covered in ink. Due to the cost of the process and expertise required, many consumers opt for thermographic printing, a process that results in a similarly raised print surface, but through different means at less cost.

Thermographic printing

Example of thermographic printing. The uneven quality of the text is a result of the process and easily differentiates thermographic printing from embossing

Thermographic printing is a process that involves several stages but can be implemented in a low-cost manufacturing process. The process involves printing the desired designs or text with an ink that remains wet, rather than drying on contact with the paper. The paper is then dusted with a powdered polymer that adheres to the ink. The paper is vacuumed or agitated, mechanically or by hand, to remove excess powder, and then heated to near combustion.[3] The wet ink and polymer bond and dry, resulting in a raised print surface similar to the result of an embossing process.


See also


  1. ^ Crane's - Etiquette
  2. ^ Feinberg, Steven L. (2002). Crane's Blue Book of Stationery: The Styles and Etiquette of Letters, Notes, and Invitations. Crane & Co.. ISBN 978-0972292108. 
  3. ^ International Paper - description of thermography

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  • stationery — sta‧tion‧e‧ry [ˈsteɪʆənri ǁ neri] noun [uncountable] OFFICE materials that you use for writing, such as paper, pens, and pencils: • a maker of stationery and school supplies • a stationery store * * * stationery UK US /ˈsteɪʃənəri/ noun [U]… …   Financial and business terms

  • stationery — (n.) 1727, from stationery wares (c.1680) articles sold by a stationer, from STATIONER (Cf. stationer) seller of books and paper (q.v.). Roving peddlers were more common in the Middle Ages; sellers with a fixed location were often bookshops… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Stationery — Sta tion*er*y ( [e^]r*[y^]), n. The articles usually sold by stationers, as paper, pens, ink, quills, blank books, etc. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Stationery — Sta tion*er*y, a. Belonging to, or sold by, a stationer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • stationery — [n] writing materials envelopes, letterhead, office supplies, pen and paper, writing paper; concepts 260,475 …   New thesaurus

  • stationery — ► NOUN ▪ paper and other materials needed for writing …   English terms dictionary

  • stationery — [stā′shə ner΄ē] n. [see STATIONER & ERY] writing materials; specif., paper and envelopes used for letters …   English World dictionary

  • stationery — stationary, stationery Stationary is an adjective and means ‘not moving’ whereas stationery is a noun and denotes paper and writing materials. Both words are derived from the Latin word stare ‘to stand’. The relevance of this to stationary is… …   Modern English usage

  • stationery — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ business, company, hotel, office, wedding (esp. BrE) ▪ handmade (BrE), quality ▪ handmade wedding stationery …   Collocations dictionary

  • stationery — n. writing materials etc. sold by a stationer. Phrases and idioms: Stationery Office (in the UK) the Government s publishing house which also provides stationery for Government offices …   Useful english dictionary

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