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Stationary, Its History and Current Printing Techniques

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Traditionally the word stationary has been used to refer to a number of office items including paper, pens and pencils, greeting cards, glue, paper clips and other office supplies. However, the original term of “stationery” actually referred to all products that were sold or supplied by a stationer. This stationer was defined as a fixed shop or premises that was normally situated near a major academic institution such as a university and that supplied academic supplies.
The actual word “stationary” however was used prior to the establishment of fixed stores and dates back to the 13th century and refers to The Stationers’ Company that dominated the manuscript and printing industry in England.
Did you know? The Stationers’ Company was the first company to create, use and enforce copyright regulations. Many of today’s copyright laws are simple extensions of these laws with modern day relevance added.
Modern Stationary
Stationary as it is now seen is often a personalized item or items used for writing and have become an important part of business and social etiquette. This “stationary etiquette” has changed considerably from Victorian times when first made popular and defined by companies such as Crane & Co.
With the advent of the electronic age the use of stationery has changed and many offices around the globe have become paperless. This has forced personalized stationary into a niche market that is constantly under threat from electronic media.
Stationary Printing
Stationary has and always will be linked to personalised written communication. It is generally used by individuals and companies that budget for its use and because of this a number of different and sometimes expensive printing processes are used when manufacturing stationary. The most familiar and often used printing processes include letterpress printing, embossing and thermographic printing.
Letterpress Printing:
Letterpress printing is a print method that is often used in stationary manufacturing that requires characters, designs and motifs to be impressed upon the page. The print is typically in a single color.
Embossed Printing:
Embossing printing is a popular print technique that is used to create raised surfaces on paper. This printing process can be observed on both the front and back surfaces when used and is extremely popular with both corporate and personalised stationary printing.
Thermographic Printing:
Thermographic printing is a low-cost printing process that is often used in bulk stationary printing. The actual process involves printing with an ink that remains wet. The ink only dries when dusted with a powdered polymer that adheres to the ink.
The author is a Cape Town printing specialist who has worked in the South African Printing industry for over a decade. He is an avid print technology blogger and has written a number of historical and technical notes on specialist printing and niche printing processes such as stationary printing.


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  • Posted On July 20, 2012
  • Published articles 10

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