The Public Paperfolding History Project

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The Three-Cornered Note / Cocked-Hat Note / Triangular Letter Fold
This page attempts to record what is known about the history of the Three-Cornered Note / Cocked-Hat Note / Triangular Letterfold. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

It appears that the three-cornered note format may have been used mostly for informal notes rather than for formal letters.

There are also references in the literature to 'cocked-hat notes' which are almost certainly the same thing, although, lacking any illustration to accompany the snippets of text, it is impossible to be completely sure.

I have only included a small selection of literary mentions on this page.


The earliest example of a three-cornered note that I know of is in the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library and was written in 1826. See online article 'Re-discovering three-cornered notes' by Erin Blake.



There is reference to a 'cocked-hat note' in 'An Essay on the genius of George Cruikshank' by William Makepeace Thackeray, which was published by Charles Reynell in London in 1840. At first sight this seems to suggest that the George Cruikshank illustration referred to shows a 'cocked-hat note on a silver tray' but unfortunately this is not the case.



There is also reference to a 'cocked hat note' in 'David Copperfield' by Charles Dickens which was serialised in 1849 / 50 and published in book form in 1850.



There is another reference to a cocked-hat note in Household Words, a weekly journal conducted by Charles Dickens, of 23rd April 1859.



There is a reference to 'three-cornered notes and billet-doux' in the September 1861 issue of Godey's Lady's Book in a brief article describing how good submissions to the magazine are to be made.



There is another reference to a 'cocked-hat note' in Chambers Journal for 22nd April 1876.



A simple game involving a triangular letter fold appears in 'Großes illustriertes Spielbuch für Mädchen, by Jeanne Marie von Gayette-Georgens, which was published by Verlag von B. Serlet in Berlin in 1900. (Information from Juan Gimeno). The game is to write a note on a rectangular sheet of paper and fold it as shown by the lines in the drawing, which will seal it, then throw it into a 'post bag'. The notes are then taken out and addressed, put back into the bag, then taken out again and the addresses and contents read out loud. (Information from Edwin Corrie). Presumably to much hilarity.