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History of Monograms

Monogramming is an ancient art that stems from centuries before present day with underlying whimsical meanings and uses.

The Beginning

The monogramming all begins with the precise lettering. Though it is said that the Greek alphabet was the first lettering system published in 7th century BC, the Roman alphabet birthing around 1st century BC is what has transformed into the original lettering system known in the English language today. These Roman letters with half of them being rigid and angular and the other half of them straight and fluent were usually seen on architectural work, providing a fancy nuance to whatever was scripted on these buildings.

old english name necklace
Example of
Old English Font

The first dozen centuries after Jesus Christ’s death experienced constant shifting of lettering styles all stemming from the Roman alphabet. This continuous change were the beginning stages of monogramming history before the term “monogram” was even coined for this venture. With more straight lettering contrasting to its Greek alphabet counterpart, new styles of Roman lettering arrived to fruition through time. Fluidity and ease of writing in the Rustic style became prominent first in the 18th century followed by the Unical style in the same time period that took on a more rounded form as seen printed in the first copies of the Bible. Ironically, scribes thought of this style to be a pagan form since it was utterly different from the original Roman lettering style. As the Roman alphabet became introduced again to Britain via Christians during the fourth and fifth centuries, Englishmen began to shift away from their continuous intervals of writing on lines with no breaks in between them (which is what they actually thought to be more beautiful at that time than the organization of present day writing). The reign of Charlemangne from the mid-7th century AC to the early 8th century AC unveiled the Carolingian style of Roman lettering until black letter styles called Gothic lettering replaced its prevalence during the 12th century AC. Scribes’ paper were usually more dark with wielding of the Gothic style. Such practices lead to the Old English Letter born in the 13th century. These letters were completely dark and much bigger and more detailed than Gothic style.

Growth of Monogramming

Example of
MSB Monogram

Flourishing print technology took monogramming’s history to a new level beginning the in the middle of the 15th century with Johannes Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press along with publication of the first printed Bible. This same century also manifested monogrammed needlework to keep track of clothing and linens so as not to mix them up among inhabitants in the home. This kind of needlework was mostly created via nuns of that time. Italians in the 15th and 16th centuries attempted to mimic print manuscripts by reinventing the usual look of angular Roman lettering into enhanced rigidity in its format. English printer, John Baskerville’s new style of lettering in the 18th century possessed a lighter notion with much skinnier serifs, which was highly criticized for it being hard to read and arriving to the effect of blindness if read for too long. The Modern style became prevalent in the 19th century whereas the Arts and Crafts Movement led by symbolic figure William Morris recounted older styles of lettering while paying homage to new styles.

Present Day Monograms

Arriving more towards present day, the 20th century experienced a new style called the sans serif design were more conventional and modern since the extra detail of older lettering styles was dismissed in this new lettering form. Once the introduction of electronic text via the birth of computers and the Internet arrived more at the end of the century, this sans serif design followed suit in generating this modern day information on the World Wide Web. From the intricate and delicate time constraints in ancient history to producing monograms through needlework and carving to the speedy design through electronic monogramming nowadays, the history of monogramming is surely a colorful adventure that shall be recounted throughout the ages as this art form increases in popularity.

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