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Tag Archives: letters

The fascinating world of letter locking

‘Letter-locking’ is a term coined by MIT conservator Jana Dambrogio, to refer to the techniques used to fold and seal shut letters. She has been investigating many different techniques by which this could be accomplished, ranging from the mainly decorative to the highly secure – so that the receiver could tell instantly if the letter had been tampered with. She has a series of videos on YouTube showing the various methods by which a letter could be locked, supplemented with detailed images on her website, and also this great blog post from the Folger which reminds us of the importance of making models if we want to understand a structure more fully. Currently she is conducting further research with Dr. Daniel Smith of Lincoln College, University of Oxford. Suddenly all those folds, creases and curious slits in the sides of old letters start to make sense…


Old books in the News

Over the last few months a couple of interesting book-related articles in the Guardian’s pages have caught my eye. A new book about love letters has been published by a curator from the British Library, and there is a wonderful image gallery featuring some of them:

My favourite is the one from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, which takes the form of a note written in her Book of Hours. The French text reads:  “If you remember my love in your prayers as strongly as I adore you, I shall scarcely be forgotten, for I am yours. Henry Rex forever”. I think this appeals because finding marginalia, doodles and amendments is always interesting and exciting, but seldom do you come across a note of such historical importance.

Henry VIII's love note in Anne Boleyn's Book of Hours

Photograph: British Library Board

However, at the other end of the spectrum I would like to point out that coming across a rude or ridiculous anonymous student comment in a text book after many hours in a silent University Library was always guaranteed to cheer me up no end.

Another photo gallery published by the Guardian features staff and books from Sarajevo’s Gazi Husrav Beg Library. Heritage can play a huge part in rebuilding the culture of a war-torn country by maintaining a sense of identity, history, and offering hope. I am an awe of people who risk their lives to preserve collections for future generations.