Dempsey and Carroll Stationery in Washington, DC at Studio Burke


Dempsey and Carroll has long been considered one of the finest purveyor of elegant engraved social stationery.

Today, more than 130 years after it was established, Dempsey & Carroll is still considered an authority on proper etiquette regarding everything from opulent wedding invitations to classic thank-you notes. With our history firmly rooted in this refined art form, Dempsey & Carroll remains dedicated to serving our customers and standing behind our truly exceptional products. They still maintain a store front in New York City and produce all of their products locally in the United States.

The Engraving Process 

The term engraving can refer to any process in which metal or another hard surface is either incised (carved) or incused (hammered with a stamp). In some cases, the metal object is the final work. In other cases, the metal object is then used as a plate for printing onto paper. This is the type of engraving in which Dempsey & Carroll specializes.

Engraving Process

As a form of printing, engraving is in the intaglio family, meaning it is a technique in which the area carved away is the intended shape or letter. This differs from relief printing processes, like letterpress, where everything but the intended shape or letter is carved away. In other words, an engraving or intaglio plate will have letters that recede into the metal, and a letterpress or relief plate will have letters that stick out. To begin, words and images are either cut into the metal with a sharp object, or hammered into the metal in an incuse fashion, a method similar to that used in manufacturing coins. Further, each color in a design requires its own die and a separate run through the press. This means that the paper must be perfectly placed during each run so that different colors in the design align correctly. Some of our motif cards also use a “bump,” another separate die that doesn’t use ink but simply pushes the image up even further for added texture. 

After the final hand-cutting of the image or letters, the die or plate is placed into the engraving press. The press quickly inks the plate and wipes off the excess before each impression, leaving ink in the recessed areas of the letters. When paper is fed by hand into the impression area, the press applies approximately three thousand pounds of pressure, causing parts of the soft, cotton paper to be pushed into the recessed areas. The ink that was in these areas now adheres to the paper. Careful inspection of the reverse of the paper will reveal the impression area, called a “bruise.” The bruise and the tactile feel of raised matte ink on the front of the paper are the signatures of genuine engraving and help to distinguish it from the many imitation processes. The mark of a fine engraver is a very subtle bruise—a bruise that is unnecessarily deep means that too much pressure was applied. Dempsey & Carroll is one of only a handful of stationers still using these distinctive hand-engraving techniques. Using handcrafted steel dies and copper plates, we create beautiful luxury paper products with their own unique stamp of history and tradition.

Washington, DC