The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the monogram as "a design or mark consisting of two or more letters intertwined"; other sources insist that one letter must form part of another as they weave together. Those in the monogram business are more inclusive. To them, a monogram is a combination of initials, intertwined or otherwise, or a single decorative letter like Henry VIII's H.
By Henry's time, the tradition of monogramming was already centuries old. Early Greek coins bore the decorative initials of rulers or towns. In medieval Europe, not every ruler could write. "Their signature was their initials, coat of arms, coronet, and the like, intricately carved so it couldn't be copied, and then pressed into wax," says Joy Lewis of Mrs. John L. Strong Fine Stationery in New York City. Modern monograms, says Edward Wawrynek, a vice president of Tiffany and Company, are "a middle-class response to such heraldic emblems."
Above, Elena Keating's maiden-name initial (H for Henderson) enlivens napkins she selected for her trousseau. Both her and her husband's initials (BK for Brian Keating) head up the wedding invitation, while after-marriage goodies like a julep cup, the couple's note cards, and a glass goblet proclaim the amalgamation of their lives.