John Donne’s surviving letters at the Folger Shakespeare Library attest to his letterlocking style around 1600–1602, when he was in his late 20s and early 30s. Notoriously, these letters largely deal with the fallout from his impolitic marriage to his employer’s niece, Anne More. Donne was sacked and briefly imprisoned, and the contents of his letters are fascinating from a biographical perspective. His intricate, flashy, and apparently unique letterlocking format has never previously received comment, however. Donne cuts a lock from another piece of paper, shaping it into a kite with a long tail, folding it lengthwise, and snipping a hole from the center. Having folded up his packet, he creates a slit perpendicular to the fore-edge. The narrow tip of the lock is pushed through, trimmed at an angle, and pushed back to create a secure hook. When the lock is folded round, the hook pulls tight. Sealing wax is applied beneath the lock but emerges through the lock’s hole. When the seal stamp is impressed into the sealing wax, it is therefore both beneath and above the lock, securing it shut, and exposed, creating a highly attractive packet. Digital facsimiles of the original letters can be viewed at luna.folger.edu/.
Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Co-directed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries and Dr Daniel Starza Smith, Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature (1500–1700), King’s College London, England, UK and demonstrated by Starza Smith.
Funded by MIT Libraries.
Special thanks to MIT Video Productions (MVP), MIT Libraries Conservation Associate Ayako Letizia, Barry Pugatch, Barbara Seidl, Mary Hurley, Mr. Thomas F. Peterson, Jr, MIT Libraries, The British Academy, and Lincoln College, Oxford University.
Cite as: Jana Dambrogio and Daniel Starza Smith, ‘The John Donne Lock, England (1603)’, Letterlocking Instructional Videos. Filmed: Feb 2015. Duration: 4:05. Posted: Apr 2015. 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 creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. Contact the M.I.T. Technology Licensing Office for any other licensing inquiries.
NB: Letterlock responsibly. Be mindful of open flames or hot tools.
The URL for this video: vimeo.com/letterlocking/donne1