The Public Paperfolding History Project

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Folded Patenbriefs / Sponsorship Letters
 

This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of folded patenbriefs. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other important information that should be added. Thank you.

In articles on paperfolding history folded patenbriefs are sometimes referred to as baptismal certificates. Sponsorship letter is probably a better translation.

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The following information is taken from 'Piety and Protocol in Folk Art: Pennsylvania German Fraktur Birth and Baptismal Certificates ' by Frederick S Weiser.

'A patenbrief is a written, painted or printed paper with which the sponsor wrapped the gift of money for his godchild.'

'The earliest known patenbrief comes from comes from a Catholic ceremony at Saverne (Zabern) in Alsace and is dated 1593. The next earliest is dated 1686, from Rostock, northern Germany, and is Protestant.'

It is obviously the various ways of folding these patenbriefs to form a package that are of interest to the paperfolding historian.

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1593

This is the patenbrief from Saverne in Alsace dated 1593, said to be the oldest in existence. It does not appear to have been folded in any way.

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1686

I have not been able to find an image of the patenbrief from Rostock, dated 1686.

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1698

This Calvinist patenbrief is dated 1698. The creases show that it was once folded to create a rectangular package.

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1763

This example of a patenbrief folded into a double blintz form is dated 1763 and is in the collection of the Museum Europšischer Kulturen, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin.

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1765

The image below shows one surface of a patenbrief from 1765, from the collection of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden in an unfolded state. It would once have been folded into a double blintz form.

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1774

These images are of the cover and interior of a pre-printed patenbrief from 1774. The crease lines show that it also would have been folded into a double blintz form.

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1776

A similar design from from Berlin dated 1776.

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1805

Patenbriefs were also sometimes folded into Puzzle Purses. This example is from Switzerland and dated 1805.

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