Letterlocking: Brienne Postal Archive: A long letter folded, tied, and placed in a wrapper
Modeled after the Museum voor Communicatie's Brienne Collection, DB 1299 with permission. Description coming soon.
In 1926, a seventeenth-century trunk of letters was given to the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague, then as now the centre of government, politics, and trade in The Netherlands. The trunk belonged to some of the most active postmasters of the day, Simon de Brienne and Marie Germain, a couple at the heart of European communication networks. The chest contains an extraordinary archive: 2600 "locked" letters sent from all over Europe to this axis of communication, none of which were ever delivered. In the seventeenth century, the recipient also paid postal and delivery charges. But if the addressee was deceased, absent, or uninterested, no fees could be collected. Postmasters usually destroyed such “dead letters”, but the Briennes preserved them, hoping that someone would retrieve the letters – and pay the postage. Hence the nickname for the trunk: “the piggy bank” (spaarpotje). The trunk freezes a moment in history, allowing us to glimpse the early modern world as it went about its daily business. The letters are uncensored, unedited, and 600 of them even remain unopened. The archive itself has remained virtually untouched by historians until it was recently rediscovered. Our international and interdisciplinary team of researchers has now begun a process of preservation, digitization, transcription, editing, and identification of letterlocking formats that will reveal its secrets for the first time – even, we hope, those of the unopened letters.
The research team comprises Rebekah Ahrendt, assistant professor in music at Yale University; Nadine Akkerman, lecturer in English at Leiden University; Jana Dambrogio, the Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator at MIT Libraries; David van der Linden, the NWO Veni Fellow and Lecturer in History at the University of Groningen; Daniel Starza Smith, Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature (1500-1700), King’s College London, England, UK; and Koos Havelaar, curator of postal history at the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague; with assistance from David Mills of Queen Mary University of London.
Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Directed and demonstrated by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries.
Funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries.
Special thanks to MIT Libraries Conservation Associate Ayako Letizia, Barry Pugatch, Ramon, Thomas F. Peterson, Simone Felton, MIT students Annie Dunn and Kate Cherian, MIT Libraries Wunsch Conservation Lab intern Emily Hishta Cohen, Mary Uthuppuru, and Brien Beidler.
NB: Letterlock responsibly. Be mindful of open flames or hot tools in the workspace.
View all the videos on the #SignedSealedUndelivered and #Letterlocking channels.
Follow us on social media @letterlocking. Follow our collaborators on Twitter @misswalsingham @NWOHumanities @MITLIbraries @LeidenHum @dcvanderlinden @muscom_nl
For more information visit Letterlocking.org and libraries.mit.edu/preserve
Learn about the 17th-century postal treasure trunk filled with locked letters at brienne.org
Cite as: Dambrogio, J, et. al. Letterlocking Instructional Video: [“Letterlocking: Brienne Postal Archive: A long letter folded, tied, and placed in a wrapper”]. Filmed: [October 2016]. Vimeo video: Duration [5:49]. Posted: [October 2016]. Video URL: [USE Vimeo URL]. Date accessed: [Date].
The URL link for this video: vimeo.com/letterlocking/FoldTie