Sunday, August 31, 2014

Letters of Note

Forget the totally dull cover; the promise of the subtitle, "An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience" rings refreshingly true. Spanning a wide range of centuries and cultures, Letters of Note delivers a fascinating mix of politics, art, science, history and human emotion expressed through letters, faxes, postcards, and even a message carved on a layer of birch bark circa 1400 B.C.

Paradoxically - in a culture of instant everything and e-mail ephemera, where letters may be relegated to Paleolithic artifact status - former copywriter Usher (master of the widely popular blog, Letters of Note) proudly admits his love for purchasing, studying, collecting and treasuring this form of expression. These letters are culled from his vast resources. They are often presented in facsimile, and then transcribed so that the penmanship is perfectly intelligible. Sidebars feature background information on the letter writer and recipient, and place the letter within historical context. Writers include both celebrities as well as many unknown correspondents.

A few of my favorites -

A letter from Queen Elizabeth to President Eisenhower, which includes her recipes for drop scones (serves 16.)

Iggy Pop's life-changing advice to a young fan.

Clyde Barrow's praise to Henry Ford - "I have drove Fords exclusively when I could get away with one."

Annie Oakley's letter to President William McKinley as the Spanish-American War loomed, promising "a company of fifty lady sharpshooters at your disposal."

Correspondence between 12 year old Jim Berger and Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright had designed a home for Jim's father and Jim asked Wright to design a dog house for Eddie - his Labrador Retriever. He proposed paying for the architectural plans from money earned from his paper route.


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