Scholars are beginning to examine an unprecedented collection of European correspondence from the late 17th and early 18th centuries--a chest belonging to a Dutch postmaster which contains some 2600 undelivered letters, 600 of which have never been opened.
In the 1970's, Sesame Street wasn't the only educational puppet show in town. The Letter People was a literacy program and television series that taught phonics with an unusual bunch of 26 characters. Here's the entire 60 episode run. The production values improved a bit as the show went on, evolving from black backgrounds and simple sets to more elaborate ones. Every Letter Person had their own theme song, featured in their introductory episode; here's all twenty-six of those in alphabetical, and thus wildly anachronic, order. Absent from the show are the songs of Misters R, X and Q (the last three Letter People to debut in the show - they'd clearly gone through design changes by then, ESPECIALLY Mr. X). [more inside]
As bread owes something to the wheat winnower, etc. So much happening in between. A letter from Ezra Pound to French critic/academic, Rene Taupin. [more inside]
The popular and venerable Twitter account Tweets Of Old continues its seasonal tradition of posting late 19th century /early 20th century children's letters to Santa.
If you ever wrote a letter to Neil Armstrong it's probably now archived at Purdue University. The first man on the moon saved over 70,000 pieces of personal correspondence, and that probably includes that letter you wrote in late July 1969 when you were in the 2nd grade.
LEGO’s letter to parents, and how not to tell a fake when you don’t see one
According to the website of the Independent newspaper, LEGO UK has verified the 1970s ‘letter to parents’ that was widely tweeted last weekend and almost as widely dismissed as fake. Business as usual in the Twittersphere — but there are some lessons here about dating type.[more inside]
Pencil and Paper Games is devoted to games you can play with nothing more than a pencil and a piece of paper (some of which can be played on the site, for those who do not have access to a pencil and paper, or remember what those are.) [more inside]
"Martha Gellhorn’s pen pals included Eleanor Roosevelt, Maxwell Perkins, H.G. Wells, her husband (later, ex-) Ernest Hemingway, and Peggy Schutze, my maternal grandmother." Author Amy Shearn shares some of the letters her grandmother received from legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn with the hope that, "if I studied Martha, the writer who wanted to be a mother, and Peggy, the mother who wanted to be a writer, some golden mean would eventually present itself."
The Art of Letter Writing investigates The New Century Standard Letter-Writer (1900), a collection of example letters for people to use as templates over the course of one's whole life," from A Clerk Apologizing to His Employers, and A Young Lady Desirous of Securing Farm-House Board, to A Gentleman to a Young Lady Friend of His about a Misunderstanding (from Wondermark)
Shortly after the Civil War, an ex-slave was asked by his master to return to the plantation. He dictated a reply that would have made Mark Twain proud, and which has been previously featured on Metafilter. In fact, the letter was so good that some folks began to question whether it was real. New research shows it was, and gives details about the lives of the master and slave.
Best Selling author Douglas Preston, along with 907 other authors, signed a letter that ran as a double full-page ad in yesterday’s print edition of the New York Times, asking Amazon to stop blocking or delaying the sale of books on their site as a tactic to lower the e-book prices that Amazon is charged by the publisher Hachette.* The three month dispute between Hachette and Amazon previously prompted a response by Amazon’s self-published authors and readers, but it took an odd turn Saturday night when Amazon posted this letter on a site called ReadersUnited.com, after sending it as an email to all of its Kindle Direct Publishing authors. In that letter they include Hachette’s CEO’s email, and have asked their KDP authors to write to Hachette’s CEO telling him what they think about cheaper ebooks. [more inside]
When was the last time you got something in the mail other than the water bill or a pizza menu? Why does mail always have to be bad news? Groups online are reviving the dying tradition of penpals and sending the most wonderful, creative letters and notes across the globe, making the moment the mail drops onto the doormat exciting instead of dread-inducing again. Bonus link - the League of Extraordinary Penpals, who "think that writing a letter snuggled under a blanket with a cup of tea and a cat by your side is a better way to spend your Friday night than hanging out at the bar."
"I had a rare Twitter username, @N. Yep, just one letter. I’ve been offered as much as $50,000 for it. People have tried to steal it. Password reset instructions are a regular sight in my email inbox. As of today, I no longer control @N. I was extorted into giving it up."—Naoki Heroshima explains how his accounts were hacked in order to force him to give up his single-letter Twitter handle. [more inside]
"Always I love you and realize what a desert life might have been without you." —Margaret Mead to anthropologist and folklorist Ruth Benedict, who remained her companion and arguably her soul-mate despite both women having husbands.
Why H is the most contentious letter in the alphabet is a quick overview of the letter H. Though the visual form of the letter has been pretty stable in Medieval writing, it's the pronunciation of the letter that has caused issues, from Catullus' poem mocking Arrius's addition of H's to words, to the Irish clash of Protestants and Catholics including how each group pronounced H. Such regional and generational shifts in pronunciation were of interest to the British Library, as documented in their Evolving English exhibit, which includes an online "mapped" catalog of sound clips (previously).
"I haven't told why I wrote the book, but I haven't told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze." A lovely little letter from E. B. White.
"We have not learned, even, to live with our fellow man. Instead we have perfected more means to annihilate him -- to wipe him (and ourselves) from the face of the Earth." A 1974 letter from Lieutenant Colonel Clyde S. Shield, lead test pilot for the Manhattan project, to his newborn grandson.
Why did Samuel Beckett write to Ernie Bushmiller? Did he feel a sense of kinship with the cartoonist whose strip he read every day? Did he see in Bushmiller a man who quietly pursued his repetitive vocation day after day, no matter what? Did the Bushmiller characters strike a chord in the creator of Vladimir and Estragon? Did Beckett first formulate some of the innovations of his later plays while pondering situations for Nancy and Sluggo? We can never know if the inadvertent surrealistic antics of Bushmiller’s tykes influenced the translator of Eluard and Breton, or what first prompted the author of The Unnamable and Krapp’s Last Tape to begin sending strip ideas to a cartoonist in Connecticut. Was it Beckett’s frustration with his literary career, or the seemingly endless difficulties in mounting Godot that led him to seek another outlet, in yet another literary form, for his ideas and emotions? Whatever the reasons, we are lucky that much of the Beckett-Bushmiller correspondence has been preserved. [more inside]
"If Shirley Jackson’s intent was to symbolize into complete mystification, and at the same time be gratuitously disagreeable, she certainly succeeded" - The New Yorker takes a look at the over 300 letters in reaction to The Lottery
The New Yorker is publishing excerpts from Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985, translated by Martin McLaughlin, on its book blog. (via) [more inside]
Bess of Hardwick's Letters brings together the correspondence of one of the most powerful women of the Elizabethan era, the builder of one of England's greatest houses and the founder of one of its greatest political dynasties. As well as telling the story of Bess's life, it offers an introduction to early modern letters and a guide to reading early modern handwriting.
Going through my parents' stuff didn't make me suddenly miss them, but I became more intrigued by them every day. I wanted to know more and more about them, to solve their mysteries. At the same time, I felt a corresponding, if conflicting, urge to speak, or write, about what many people seemed to think was unspeakable: my ever-present lack of grief. So I decided to combine these seemingly divergent impulses into an Tumblr blog called My Dead Parents, which I kept anonymous both out of respect for my family and because, after years of writing fiction, I wasn't sure if I could handle revealing so much about myself in writing.Anya Yurchyshyn writes about rediscovering her parents through their letters, after their deaths.
The Cambridge University Library houses the world's largest collection of Charles Darwin's letters: more than 9,000 of the 15,000 letters he is known to have written and received in his lifetime. They've been posting them online since 2007 (previously on MeFi), in the Darwin Correspondence Project, where we can now read and search the full texts of more than 7,500 letters, and ﬁnd information on 7,500 more -- all for free. This weekend, they added nearly all of the Darwin-Hooker letters: Over 1400 pieces of correspondence between Darwin and his closest friend, botanist Joseph Hooker. [more inside]
Letters From A Private: "...[19 year-old Pvt. D. Bruce Hirshorn] was in the Army in 1944 and 1945. He wrote home almost every single day.... Today, Uncle Bruce is the same upbeat, funny guy. He’s 87 and he loves syrup and ships!" [more inside]
A collaboration between 26 designers to create 26 space and sci-fi themed letters. A series of 26 sci-fi and space themed typographic art prints.
My Dearest Barack: A collection of letters that student Dylan Hansen-Fliedner wrote back to the Obama campaign, in response to donation requests.
Mysteries of Vernacular is a series of delightful papercraft animations about etymology, by filmmaker Jessica Oreck. Four of a projected 26 videos, one for each letter of the alphabet, have been completed so far: Assassin, Hearse, Pants, and Clue. (via)
From a January 26, 1947, contract between Kurt Vonnegut and his pregnant wife, Jane, to whom he had been married for sixteen months: "I, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., that is, do hereby swear that I will be faithful to the commitments hereunder listed..."
My father-in-law Jerry is great at word puzzles. Over the holidays, I showed him SpellTower on my iPad. By the time I took my iPad back at the end of the trip, he had already broken the SpellTower “Puzzle Mode” record on the Game Center leader board by almost 100,000 points. So I asked Jerry if he would share his strategy
This letter from Patti Smith to Robert Mapplethorpe written 22 years after they met and when he was dying from AIDS , was never delivered. The link to her reading it last fall is heartwrenching and filled with the love of old friends.
In 1956 a 12-year-old Jim Berger exchanged letters with Frank Lloyd Wright. The result was a Wright designed doghouse.
A Month of Letters is a challenge with two parts: mail something (anything!) every day the post runs in February and respond to every letter you get.
On the contrary, it seems to me that [God], on the strength of His daily acts, He must be set down a most cruel, stupid and villainous fellow.
From lettersofnote.com : In July of 1931, author and philosopher Will Durant wrote to a number of notable figures and asked, essentially, "What is the meaning of life?" His letter concluded: Spare me a moment to tell me what meaning life has for you, what keeps you going, what help—if any—religion gives you, what are the sources of your inspiration and your energy, what is the goal or motive-force of your toil, where you find your consolations and your happiness, where, in the last resort, your treasure lies. Write briefly if you must; write at length and at leisure if you possibly can; for every word from you will be precious to me. Durant received many replies, a selection of which were compiled in the book, "On the Meaning of Life." By far the greatest response, in my opinion, came from the great H. L. Mencken. It can, and should, be read below. (Description above taken straight from the linked post, as it summed it up pretty well)
George Whitman, founder of the Parisian landmark bookstore Shakespeare And Company, has died at the age of 98
Beautiful Type is a patchwork of photos and illustrations having a relationship with typography. AisleOne is focused on graphic design, typography, grid systems, minimalism and modernism. iABC is a collection of beautiful letters. Inspiration Bit has a nice archive of articles about web typography. Nicetype is about fonts, logos, posters and software. Twenty-Six Types celebrates the beautiful letters. Typenuts is type-themed iPhone and desktop wallpapers. Typoretum is about typography, letterpress and printing history. Enjoy.
Floating Worlds is a new book detailing the never-before-seen correspondence between illustrator Edward Gorey and author Peter F. Neumeyer, who collaborated on three children’s books between September 1968 and October 1969. During that period, they regularly sent each other letters and postcards, many of which Gorey embellished with illustrations. [more inside]
"... if children could go to the polls then perhaps Fred Nile, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party in NSW [New South Wales, Australia], wouldn't have the power that he has today." An 11-year old Charlie Fine writes about an issue that affects children across the Australian state of New South Wales. [more inside]
Love and Valor the movie is based on the book, Love and Valor – The Intimate Civil War Letters Between Captain Jacob and Emeline Ritner Both projects by Charles Larimer. Hear him discuss these letters on Talk of Iowa. Mentioned in this episode: University of Iowa Libraries Civil War Diaries and Letters. Crowdsourcing transcription of these letters.
In 1971 a children's librarian in Troy, Michigan wrote dozens of letters to various celebrities and political leaders and asked them to send back inspirational messages to the children. Ninety-seven of them wrote back.
I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady's gun, and not a really nice lady at that. If Mr. Bond has to use a light gun he would be better off with a .22 rim fire; the lead bullet would cause more shocking effect than the jacketed type of the .25. - The letter that changed James Bond's gun, and gave his armourer a name.
For 140 years rare manuscripts that record the private thoughts and opinions of David Livingstone, the Victorian explorer and missionary, were hidden from the public eye due to their fragile condition and frequently indecipherable text. Today a trans-Atlantic academic and scientific team, launches a major project with the publication of Livingstone's Letter from Bambarre – a spectrally-imaged 'lost' letter from Livingstone's final African expedition, written to his friend and future biographer Horace Waller.
Mickey Mantle's outstanding event at Yankee Stadium. [NSFW text] Fact-checked by Snopes. And this from a man who did a lot of outstanding things in Yankee Stadium. Letters Of Note previously.
Mapping the Republic of Letters is a cartographic tool designed by students and professors at Stanford that seeks to represent the Enlightenment era Republic of Letters, the network of correspondence between the finest thinkers of the day, such as Voltaire, Leibniz, Rousseau, Newton, Diderot, Linnaeus, Franklin and countless others. Patricia Cohen wrote an article about Mapping the Republic of Letters as well as other datamining digital humanities projects in The New York Times. The mapping tool is fun to play with but I recommend you read the blogpost where Cohen explains how to use Mapping the Republic of Letters.
"The modern hand-written love letter is dead," says Doyle. "That is the consensus. People communicate differently now – though not necessarily without meaning. They still are learning to get to know each other through the written word." Love written digitally may not have the romantic image of quill and ink (though ink-stained fingers may also have dampened some ardour in the old days), but the new medium doesn't necessarily harden the heart. Think only of the popularity of dating websites, which prove that communicating feelings of hope and tenderness in text continues to thrive in certain quarters. ~ The dying art of the billet doux