1. Complete with silk floss and wax, this is one of the smallest pleated letters known to exist. Keeping Amalia von Solms informed of her husband's movements required great discretion: whatever Frederick Henry, the High Commander of the Dutch army, decided, was potentially explosive information. His secretary Constantijn Huygens used miniscule spy letters which could be smuggled out of a beleaguered town with ease, by carrier pigeon or tucked into a messenger's boot. Here Amalia opens the letter with a penknife before quickly hiding it again in the sleeve of her dress. The letter is written on paper and “locked shut” by folding and securing it with silk floss and sealing wax. The letter functions as its own self-closing envelope and is folded into what is referred to as a “pleated” letter, an intimate format.

    This letter resides in the Royal Archives in The Hague: Koninklijk Huisarchief, Archive Amalia von Solms, A14a-XIII-18c-1. Please follow this link to view details including transcription and images of the original letter:

    resources.huygens.knaw.nl/briefwisselingconstantijnhuygens/brief/nr/1172

    Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Directed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries, Dr Nadine Akkerman, lecturer in English at Leiden University, Joe McMasters, Senior Producer of MIT Video Productions.

    Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), VENI-project “Female Spies”, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries.

    Many thanks to Brian Chan, former MIT instructor and maker of anything, for his portrayal of Secretary Huygens and to the Huygens Institute for providing a link to the images of the original letter. Amalia portrayed by Jana Dambrogio, MIT Libraries Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator. The tiny spy letter was discovered in the Royal Archives by Ineke Huysman.

    Cite as: Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman, ‘A Tiny Spy Letter: Constantijn Huygens to Amalia von Solms (1635)’, Letterlocking Instructional Videos. Filmed: Sep 2014. Duration: 4:43. Posted: Nov 2014. Video URL: [Use URL below]. Date accessed: [Date].

    Copyright 2016. Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman, 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.

    @letterlocking
    letterlocking.org
    libraries.mit.edu/preserve
    brienne.org
    Follow our collaborators on Twitter @misswalsingham @NWOHumanities @MITLIbraries @LeidenHum

    Interested in spies and their secrets? See also Nadine Akkerman, Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) global.oup.com/academic/product/invisible-agents-9780198823018?cc=us&lang=en&;

    The URL for this video is: vimeo.com/letterlocking/tinyspyletter

    # vimeo.com/189409218 Uploaded 127 Plays 0 Comments
  2. Writing an early modern letter was often a co-operative enterprise, and a queen might just as well delegate the entire job to her secretary as dictate it to him. Here Sir Francis prepares a letter for Elizabeth's approval, writing the content and preparing it for sealing, making a slit perpendicular to the fore-edge through each panel of the folded letter. Elizabeth approves of his work, authorizing it with her signature, one that mimics that of her godmother Queen Elizabeth I (after whom she fashioned herself in all things). Finally, Sir Francis seals the letter with a paper lock, a letterlocking device also favored by the late queen. The letter was probably “locked shut” in this fashion, with a triangle-shaped paper lock that was partially laced through a slit and hole pierced through all the panels of the folded letter. Warm wax sealed the letter shut and secured the paper lock in place allowing the letter to function as its own self-closing envelope. (NB The lock is not present on the original letter therefore we can only assume the locking technique).

    Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, 79 E 234, fos. 1–2. Shown with permission.

    Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Directed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries, Dr Nadine Akkerman, lecturer in English at Leiden University, and Joe McMasters, Senior Producer of MIT Video Productions.

    Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), VENI-project “Female Spies”, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries.

    Many thanks to Martin Demaine, MITs Angelika and Barton Weller Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Technical Instructor in the Department of Material Science and Engineering, Glass Lab, and the Visiting Scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab for his portrayal of Secretary Nethersole. Elizabeth Stuart, sometime Queen of Bohemia portrayed by Jana Dambrogio, MIT Libraries Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator.

    Cite as: Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman, et al. ‘Sir Francis Nethersole and Elizabeth Stuart, sometime Queen of Bohemia: A Secretarial Letter (1628)’, Letterlocking Instructional Videos. Filmed: Sep 2014. Duration: 6:06. Posted: Dec 2014. Video URL: [Use URL below]. Date accessed: [Date].

    Copyright 2016. Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman, 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.

    Interested in spies and their secrets? See also Nadine Akkerman, Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) global.oup.com/academic/product/invisible-agents-9780198823018?cc=us&lang=en&;

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

    @letterlocking
    letterlocking.org
    libraries.mit.edu/preserve
    brienne.org

    The URL for this video is: vimeo.com/letterlocking/nethersole

    # vimeo.com/189437636 Uploaded 75 Plays 0 Comments
  3. 2.0g gum arabic crystals
    10.0g of oak galls
    2.5g iron sulfate

    1. Dissolve the gum arabic in water making a light, sticky solution, set aside.
    2. Crush two galls (they look like nuts) with a hammer. Place them in a litre beaker and cover with 75 ml of water overnight to create a nice brown colored solution. Filter out the solids.
    3. Dissolve two teaspoons of iron sulfate in 45ml of water, set aside. The blue green crystals will turn to a muddy brown color as they dissolve into solution, set aside.
    4. Mix the gall and sulfate solutions, it should produce a lovely dark blue black.
    5. Add your gum arabic solution to the ink to give it some thickness.

    Shape your quill and write!

    Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Directed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries, Dr Nadine Akkerman, lecturer in English at Leiden University, and Joe McMasters, Senior Producer of MIT Video Productions.

    Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), VENI-project “Female Spies”, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries.

    Many thanks to MIT Libraries Conservation Associate Ayako Letizia for preparing and demonstrating how to make and write with the iron gall ink; to Phoebe Dent Weil, Birgit Reissland, and Rich Spelker for their expertise and assistance in providing historic ink recipes.

    Cite as: Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman, et al. ‘Iron Gall Ink: A Quick and Easy Method’, Historic Ink Technology Instructional Videos. Filmed: Sep 2014. Duration: 4:45. Posted: Dec 2014. Video URL: [Use URL below]. Date accessed: [Date].

    Copyright 2016. Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman 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.

    Interested in spies and their secrets? See also Nadine Akkerman, Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) global.oup.com/academic/product/invisible-agents-9780198823018?cc=us&lang=en&;

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

    @letterlocking
    letterlocking.org
    libraries.mit.edu/preserve
    brienne.org
    Follow our collaborators on Twitter @misswalsingham @NWOHumanities @MITLIbraries @LeidenHum

    The URL for this video is: vimeo.com/letterlocking/irongallink

    # vimeo.com/189430777 Uploaded 66 Plays 0 Comments
  4. Most of Elizabeth Stuart’s letters are holograph, or in her own hand. Secretarial letters were the most likely to be intercepted and opened in the expectation of politically useful content within. From the moment of her husband's death in 1632 she used black wax and black embroidery floss to seal them, part of the creation of a cult of true widowhood, to signal a never-ending state of mourning. The floss resembles hair, and it's not unthinkable that some of her more intimate letters were indeed sealed with hair, as Elizabeth sent locks of hair to her followers as a sign of favour. The letter was folded and and secured shut to function as its own envelope.

    Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, 79 E 220, fos. 24–25. Shown with permission.

    Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Directed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries, Dr Nadine Akkerman, lecturer in English at Leiden University, and Joe McMasters, Senior Producer of MIT Video Productions.

    Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), VENI-project “Female Spies”, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries.

    Credits: Elizabeth Stewart, sometime Queen of Bohemia portrayed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries

    Cite as: Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman, et al. ‘Elizabeth Stuart’s Holograph Letter to Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland: A Sign of Intimacy (1636)’, Letterlocking Instructional Videos. Filmed: September 2014. Duration: 5:42. Posted: December 2014. Video URL: [Use URL below]. Date accessed: [Date].

    Copyright 2016. Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman 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 in the workspace.

    @letterlocking
    letterlocking.org
    libraries.mit.edu/preserve
    brienne.org
    Follow our collaborators on Twitter @misswalsingham @NWOHumanities @MITLibraries @LeidenHum

    Interested in spies and their secrets? See also Nadine Akkerman, Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) global.oup.com/academic/product/invisible-agents-9780198823018?cc=us&lang=en&;

    The URL for this video is: vimeo.com/letterlocking/pleated1

    # vimeo.com/189409258 Uploaded 71 Plays 0 Comments
  5. Amalia’s letter to Eleonore de Volvire is one of condolence, as Eleonore’s husband, François de l’Aubespine (1584–1670), Marquis de Hauterive-Châteauneuf and governor of Breda since 1639, had just died. The black sealing wax and black floss respectfully acknowledge Eleonore's loss – they had been married for 39 years—while simultaneously indicating that Amalia, too, mourns for her loss. The letter was folded and and secured shut to function as its own envelope.

    Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, 72 D 22, 04b, fos. 1–2. Shown with permission.

    Produced by MIT Video Productions (MVP). Directed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries, Dr Nadine Akkerman, lecturer in English at Leiden University, and Joe McMasters, Senior Producer of MIT Video Productions.

    Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), VENI-project “Female Spies”, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries.

    Credits: Amalia von Solms, Princess of Orange portrayed by Jana Dambrogio, Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator, MIT Libraries.

    Cite as: Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman. ‘Amalia von Solms’s Holograph Letter to Eleonore de Volvire: A Letter of Condolence (1670)’, Letterlocking Instructional Videos. Filmed: Sep 2014. Duration: 4:28. Posted: Dec 2014. Video URL: [Use URL below]. Date accessed: [Date].

    Copyright 2016. Jana Dambrogio, Nadine Akkerman 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 in the workspace.

    @letterlocking
    letterlocking.org
    libraries.mit.edu/preserve
    brienne.org
    Follow our collaborators on Twitter @misswalsingham @NWOHumanities @MITLIbraries @LeidenHum

    Interested in spies and their secrets? See also Nadine Akkerman, Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) global.oup.com/academic/product/invisible-agents-9780198823018?cc=us&lang=en&;

    The Vimeo URL for this video is: vimeo.com/letterlocking/pleated2

    # vimeo.com/189438940 Uploaded 124 Plays 0 Comments

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