I think that I must have acquired my copy of To the Letter by Simon Garfield from a Kindle sale quite some time ago, in fact Amazon kindly informs me that it was in 2015. It looked like a really appropriate book to read for May’s 12 in 12 Challenge which is to read twelve books on the subject of words, books and writing.
This book is a history of letter writing. It talks about the changes in the ways that letters are written, how the postal service has worked, the advent of email and the copious self-help books that have been written about the best ways to write letters. The author also includes details of famous letter writers and quotes their letters, and introduced me to the whole world of letter collecting and archiving. It is not a comprehensive history but it does include lots of interesting facts about envelopes, stamps, post boxes and so on – at least I found them very interesting. This is a book written for the general reader who wants snippets of information rather than an academic tome.
Also included throughout the book are letters by people who are not famous alongside Elizabeth Barret Browning, Virginia Woolf and others whose letters are well known. There is a correspondence between a young man posted abroad during WW2 and his girlfriend at home which is very moving and quoted at regular intervals throughout the book.
I really enjoyed this book because I like microhistories and books about things I didn’t know I was interested in until I read about them. The author has written a number of similar books including Just my Type about fonts and typefaces which I own and have enjoyed and which also fits this month’s theme.
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