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The terms paper knife and letter opener are often used interchangeably to refer to a knife-like desktop tool. In truth, they are actually for different functions and were in use at different times.

Paper knives are used for cutting open the pages of hand-produced books where the folding of printed sheets creates some closed edges that require severing of the paper. Letter openers “evolved” from paper knives into longer, blunter blades for the sole purpose of opening envelopes. Paper knives are no longer in common use, except perhaps by antiques enthusiasts and that’s why you are here!

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