Have you ever written a ‘cross’ letter? Perhaps you have a complaint about a product you’ve bought or some shoddy service or someone has just annoyed you.
You let rip with your fingers as you text/type or write with pen and ink. Afterwards you feel so much better that you’ve got your annoyance off your chest, but you don't always send it and often delete it rather than cause trouble. Sometimes you do have to send it to make a point.
Cross writing meant something very different in earlier centuries. Yes, they might have sent explosive letters they regretted later, but cross writing was different. Paper was very expensive so it was used very frugally. If you have visited the Bronté Museum you will have seen the tiny writing of the Bronté children when they wrote their stories in the parsonage. Paper was too expensive to waste. So cross writing became popular and was used by people writing to the Parker family at Browsholme Hall in the Victorian era.
Once they had finished writing across the page, they would then turn the page round through 90 degrees and continue writing across the words they had already written. Their frugality is very commendable, but it is a nightmare for archivists in the 21st century! Some of the ink has also faded over time so deciphering the writing content is very difficult.
It is always with a sinking heart when the next letter is a cross letter as it can take many more times to decipher than the normal ones. Oh the challenges of being an amateur archivist!