November 02, 2020 3 min read

Keeping in touch has never been more important. As an Archive we recognise and celebrate letters and letter writing. Within our collection we hold some amazing letters from Robert Dudley’s last letter to Elizabeth I to Gandhi's letters to Sir Stafford Cripps. There are two fabulous, if we say so ourselves, books containing gems from our collection In Their Own Words volumes 1 and 2.  If, like us, you enjoy the frisson of reading someone else’s mail these are the books for you.

Perhaps you are looking for a gift for your own correspondent? In this case we have wealth of ideas for you. Do they write with a beautiful hand, the look of their letters a pleasure in itself? Then how about a calligraphy pen? The Nib Pen is lovely gift –a dip pen and pot of ink beautifully packaged in a wave shaped box. Or if you are looking for something extra special the Windsor ProseWriting Box is the epitome of Victorian elegance: a set of nibs and coloured inks in a beautifully carved box Using this how could your prose fail to sing ?

And finish that letter with a flourish and a seal. In fact it would be lovely to seal your Christmas wrapping (I know plenty of time to think about wrapping the presents yet) with a decorative red wax seal affixed using a seal set. 

One of the most prolific correspondents in history was Queen Victoria. We can learn a lot from the record she left-but think how much we could have learned had her daughter and two seriously minded gentlemen not taken it upon themselves to make sure that the record left was seemly.? Censoring Queen Victoriais a fascinating read about the men who helped craft a legend by cutting and selecting the hundreds of boxes of the queen’s letters to a mere three volumes.

There are some beautiful collections of letters which are a pleasure to read and a joy to look at : Virginia Woolf’s correspondenceillustrated by paintings from her sister Vanessa is one example   or of course letters from the divine Jane For those whose tastes are more gruesome than literary a less charming but fascinating a study of the letters received in the Jack The Ripperinvestigations 

Hold those letters (and all the other papers from important documents to shopping lists) down on the desk with a beautiful paperweight. The Round Robin paperweight is an archival quality paperweight (all glass) exclusive to The National Archives and inspired by a design from a 17th century sailors’’ petition  but there are lots more including a glorious glowing pink Suffrage paperweightOr chose one which commemorates the Blitz spirit with an image of St Paul’silluminated in Victory. 

And should your giftee be the recipient rather than the pen behind these lovely letters –perhaps they need a pretty letter rackto hold their correspondence ?  

Maybe they think they are a writer but in reality struggle to put pen to paper ? An ironic present would be self mailers-just tick the boxes and they can find the letter to fit any occasion.

Finally if you or a friend have a collection of family letters tucked away see how they can help illuminate your own family history with a guide to interpreting those treasures Tracing Your Family History Through Letters and Personal Documents 

 

Sally Hughes
Sally Hughes



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