Letters are a tactile written communication traversing centuries and continents, bringing other people, places and times to life with immediacy and personality. Here we celebrate this ancient form of exchange. Send me a handwritten postcard, will you?

A letter in the dark

A letter in the dark

A desperate and yet hopeful act, this.  People throwing letters out of trains taking them to the gulag, trusting that those letters may be found, and found, sent, and sent, reach their destination.  And how much more remarkable that some of those letters, cast into an...

A beautiful flowing hand

A beautiful flowing hand

The American chef Julia Child describes how her husband approached letter-writing in an age when trans-Atlantic telephone calls were prohibitively expensive and letter-writing was the normal way to stay in touch at a distance.  It inspired me to start writing letters...

In my pocket, in my heart

In my pocket, in my heart

From time to time I receive a long and handwritten letter from one of my brothers and I am long overdue in responding to him.  I think this comment from the German poet Hölderlin to his sister is as good a prompt as I could hope for.  How lovely that he took her...

Signs of civilization

Signs of civilization

I liked Durrell's simple assessment of two building blocks of a recovering civilization after the ravages of war: a functioning post office and a few working street lamps. See also Stefan Zweig's comments on the difficulties of communicating during war time, and Iris...

What is a letter?  A tactile written communication that bridges distance and lasts forever.

Letters on a clothes line

Picasso seems to have had an ambivalent relationship to letters.  He tortured himself by reading tirades from his ex-wife, and here, suspends letters in full view, like clothes on a...

The spirit of the letter

Luiz found this beautiful book at our favourite flea market in Geneva. I liked the cover image and title, which echoes the English idea of keeping to ‘the spirit of...

My kind of letter

Love receiving 'real' letters, and so was thrilled to find this beautiful envelope in the letter box, apparently made from an old map. I've come across map-made envelopes before, but...

In my pocket, in my heart

From time to time I receive a long and handwritten letter from one of my brothers and I am long overdue in responding to him.  I think this comment from...

Letters better late than never

The war-time life-line of letters is summed up here. Their erratic arrival in a region of Italy where the battle front moved back and forth like a changeable weather front,...

A packet of air mail envelopes

You may not have noticed, but air mail envelopes and the corresponding lightweight letter paper are dying out.  I am by now resigned to the decline, and am simply stocking...

The merry mind

The actress Ingrid Bergman had a short relationship with the photographer Robert Capa. I love this quotation from a letter he sent her, with its idea of a ‘merry mind’.  I...

A mosaic of letters

Referring to the letters between Mary Delany and her beloved sister Anne, Molly Peacock aptly describes them as a paper mosaic, given that Mary more or less invented the art...

The last and the first

Hand written cards and letters are part of an ancient but rapidly dying art, hardly helped by the high ratio of people who like or love receiving them to people...

Plus ça change…

There’s something reassuring in seeing that what appears an ‘issue’ today appeared equally so to people long ago. It puts the issue in perspective and makes it seem an eternal, pointless fuss....

Letters unopened

We use the term ‘back of the envelope’ to capture the notion of jotting down an idea or plan on the spur of the moment. The film director Roberto Rossellini...

Pebble pusher

Keats, known as a poet, was also one of history’s great letter writers.  He loved life and seized it even as it slipped away from him, embracing moments of joy centuries...

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