This may come as a surprise to some people, but at one point it was common practice to “cross-write.” (Another name it’s know for: “cross-hatching.”) Essentially the writer would reach the bottom of the page, turn the paper sideways, and continue writing!

This was back in the 19th century when paper was more expensive and postal delivery was charged per page or by the size of the paper. Writing sideways on top of the first side of text saved the writer money.

You may find cross-writing hard to read at first but the mind has a way of adapting. Once you become familiar with it you adjust and learn to ignore the other words.

Many examples of this phenomenon can be found online, including ones by famous writers from the era such as Henry James, Jane Austen, and Charles Darwin. Check out a few examples we’ve compiled below!







  1. I have just found two beautiful examples of cross-writing. The writing is so consistent and regular that it looks almost like weaving. Is there any value in these samples? And if you want to see my samples I can email a copy to you. I’d really like to know a bit more about this. My samples seem to be in German.
    Look forward to learning more!

    • Hi Sheila,

      Those sound great! We love finding examples of antique writing, too.

      However, we aren’t appraisers of items such as this so don’t have any further information to offer when comes to their value. Perhaps a local museum or library could be of assistance?

      Robyn @ Paperblanks

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