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Simon de Brienne was a 17th-century postmaster in The Hague. He kept the letters that could not be delivered because the intended recipient was unable or unwilling to pay for the letter. They now form a treasure chest untouched by time: 2600 messages full of gossip, scandals and intrigues that shed light on the everyday lives and emotions that people had to deal with in those times.

Did you know that…

… the letters collected by postmaster De Brienne are the subject of an international research project called Signed, Sealed & Undelivered , for which the unopened letters were taken to a London-based dental laboratory to be X-rayed? The results will be presented in COMM in 2018/2019.
… 17th-century letters would often be folded in a special, personal way? This is known as letterlocking, a method that was used to ensure that the letter would only be read by the intended recipient. Apparently, privacy was already a hot topic as early as the 17th century.
… the letterbox is covered with seal skin? It is still in exceptional condition!
… the letters paint a picture of the lives of ordinary people in the 17th century? A quote from Dr. David van der Linden: “Many Huguenots had fled religious persecution under Louis XIV, while others were left behind in France. Written letters were the only way to keep in touch. The letters are a beautiful testament to the emotional toll that this flight and separation would take on families.

The research team consists of dr. Nadine Akkerman (Leiden University/NIAS), dr. David van der Linden (Groningen University), drs. Koos Havelaar (COMM), Jana Dambrogio (MIT Libraries), dr. Rebekah Ahrendt (Yale University) and dr. Daniel Starza Smith (Lincoln College, Oxford).



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