Open-Edge Medley, The Netherlands (1690s), France (1800s), England (1820), USA (1800s-1900s)





Modelled after DB-34–ND (ca. 1690–1710) Museum voor Communicatie’s Brienne Collection with permission; France, Lambelle (1808), Unlocking History’s Material Collection; John Keats’ letter to Fannie Brawn, Collection, 1814–1891 ( MS Keats 1–6), 1.71 (1820) Houghton Library, Harvard University; letter from the William Barton Rogers Papers, MC1, Box 2, folder (1842), Institute Archives and Special Collections, MIT Libraries; Isabella Stewart Gardner to Ms Swikler (1915); and Isabella Stewart Gardner to Mrs. Rockwell (ca. 1915).

All of the modeled letters here are of a style we refer to as “open edge,” meaning anyone with access to one of them could have a peek at the contents by puckering the letter without opening it. Open-edge letters can be found across categories (e.g. “fold + tuck + adhere” or “fold + adhere” etc.). These modeled letters were either hand-delivered or sent through the post in England, Continental Europe, and the USA over hundreds of years; they span from the late 1600s in The Hague, The Netherlands, into the early 1900s in Boston, Massachusetts.

The undelivered letter from the Brienne collection (DB 0034) was authored by a Parisian familiar with opera gossip to an opera singer in The Hague. The writer (whose name is cut off but who seems to be male) reports on plans to start an opera company in Madrid. He predicts it won’t be a success, due to the current war (the War of the Spanish Succession) and the financial difficulties of the Bourbon court in Spain. The writer closes with a request to know the prices of books that are banned in France but readily available in the Dutch Republic, saying that he will provide funds if the recipient would buy the books for him – so long as a secure way of transporting them across the border could be found.

Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Directed, and demonstrated by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries and co-general editor of Letterlocking.org and Dictionary of Letterlocking (DoLL).

Funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries in support of our project, “Unlocking History”.

Special thanks to Dr Oliver Hereford, Birmingham Fellow in English Literature of the Long 19th Century School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham; Dr Leslie Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University; Jen Munch, Conservation Intern, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Rhea Vedro, Director of Community Engagement, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Brian Hone, Studio Projects Coordinator, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Shanna Mc Kenna, Archivist, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Koos Havelaar, Archivist, Museum voor Communicatie; reading room staff, Institute Archives and Special Collections, MIT Libraries; Ayako Letizia, MIT Libraries Conservation Associate; Annie Dunn, former MIT student; Emily Hishta Cohen, MIT Libraries Intern and Graduate Student, The Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU; Barry Pugatch and Ramon, MVP staff; Mary Uthuppuru and Brien Beidler book conservators in private practice and associate editors of Letterlocking.org and Dictionary of Letterlocking (DoLL); and Dr Daniel Starza Smith Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature (1500–1700), Department of English, King’s College London, UK. and co-general editor of Letterlocking.org and Dictionary of Letterlocking (DoLL).

Cite as: Jana Dambrogio, et al. ‘Open-Edge Medley, The Netherlands (1690s), France (1800s), England (1820), USA (1800s-1900s)’, Letterlocking Instructional Videos. Filmed: September 2016. Duration: 9:39. Posted: October 2016. Video URL: [Use URL below]. Date accessed: [Date].

Copyright 2016. Jana Dambrogio, Daniel Starza Smith and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T). All rights reserved. The following copyrighted material is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) License Contact the M.I.T. Technology Licensing Office for any other licensing inquiries.

NB: Letterlock responsibly. Be mindful of open flames or hot tools.

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Open-Edge Medley, The Netherlands (1690s), France (1800s), England (1820), USA (1800s-1900s)

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