Letters from the Past

The past impacts on the present in many ways. In my WIP I write about letters from the past before the time of emails. I sometimes write a letter to my daughter and she loves receiving a message that is written on lovely paper, and I use my best pen and stamp the envelope with the prettiest stamp I can find at the time.

When I read about these undelivered letters I had already decided to write about letters from the past. Another serendipitous happening!

Undelivered letters discovered in a 17th century trunk paint a vivid life of early modern Europe and the culture of the time.

Brienne-trunk_0-303x228j

© Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

In 2012, Rebekah Ahrendt, assistant professor of music at Yale was tracking a theatre troupe that worked in The Hague at the turn of the 18th century and came across a short notice in a 1938 French journal that described a collection of undelivered letters at the postal museum and included transcriptions of seven of them.

The archive was established by the postmasters in an attempt to profit from their business. At that time, recipients were responsible for paying for any letters they received, and if the letters were undelivered, the postmasters would keep them in the hope that someday the recipient would search for the letter and pay them what was owed. The letters were stored in a trunk that had been waterproofed with sealskin.

The back of this letter — which is still locked — has been used as a notepad for accounting, probably by someone in the postmaster’s office.

02. Accounting-298x173

 © Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague. 

An example of a refused love letter.

01. Refused love letter-315x183

© Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

Some letter‐writers added enclosures, such as this colored paper dove, which bears the French inscription don de piété (‘gift of piety’), symbolizing the Holy Spirit.

03. Letter enclosure-348x202

© Signed, Sealed & Undelivered Team, 2015–2016. Courtesy of the Museum voor Communicatie, The Hague.

These letters are inspirational and I’m sure one or more will be included in my story.

Have a wonderful week, whether you write, read or dream (or do all three).

Cheers Elise

2 Comments

Filed under Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

2 responses to “Letters from the Past

  1. dianne west

    Hi Elise. Its brilliant to see you writing. I always new you had some magical talent hidden away. Best of luck with the future.

    Like

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