If you're going to write a love letter, you should probably get the name on the address panel correct. At least, if I was a fashionable young singer in the 18th century, I would probably pause a bit when opening a letter from an admirer (who had a reputation), which he seemed to have first addressed to someone else entirely.
Letter-writers are not always consistent about dating their correspondence, especially quick casual notes. In order to determine when something was written, we often have to consult postmarks or notes made by the recipient. But, much to the chagrin of researchers and librarians everywhere, sometimes the only clues lie in the actual contents of the letter.
George Bickham (1684?-1758?). The Universal Penman. London: Robert Sayer, [ca. 1760]. Purchased on the Henry S. Morgan Fund, 2012.
This charming love letter was written by the 17th-century English courtier Endymion Porter to his wife Olive. Penned in a clear italic hand, Porter professes his adoration and wishes he could leave court and come to her "for I never desired it more in my life."
Homer. L’Iliade, traduction nouvelle [par Charles-François Lebrun, duc de Plaisance]. A Paris: Chez Barbou, Moutard, Ruault, 1776. Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2011.
Until the nineteenth century it was common for works of art to be disseminated in the form of prints. But how was an artist's work transferred from paper to printing plate? In this post, we take a close look at a seventeenth-century drawing by the Dutch painter, draftsman, and printmaker Abraham Bloemaert (1564–1651) and the engraving derived from it.
Bible. Latin. Vulgate. 1555. Biblia sacra ex postremis doctorum omnium vigiliis ad Hebraicam veritatem & probatissimorum exemplarium fidem. Salamanca: Andrea de Portonariis, 1555. Purchased on the Henry S. Morgan Fund, 2011.
Life, & the world, or whatever we call that which we are & feel, is an astonishing thing. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being ... Life, the great miracle, we admire not, because it is so miraculous. It is well that we are thus shielded by the familiarity of what is at once so certain and so unfathomable, from an astonishment which would otherwise absorb and overawe the function of that which is its object.
The House that Jack Built: A Diverting Story for Children of All Ages. To Which is Added, Some Account of Jack Jingle. Shewing by Which Means he Acquired his Learning, and in Consequence Thereof Got Rich and Built Himself a House. With a Collection of Riddles Written by Him. The Whole Adorned with a Variety of Cuts by Master Collett. London: Printed and sold by John Marshall, at No. 4, Aldermary Church-Yard in Bow-Lane; and no. 17, Queen-Street, Cheapside, [between 1787 and 1798]. Purchased on the Elisabeth Ball Fund, 2011.
What do you get for the dad who has everything? Something more personal than a sweater or tie, for sure. Books tend to be a good choice, but if he has already built a stunning three-tiered library and study to house his growing collection of books and manuscripts, the latest bestseller just won't do. One year, J.P. Morgan, Jr. (known as Jack) found a perfect little gift for his father. In 1906 and 1907, Pierpont Morgan had acquired some manuscripts of the American writer Bret Harte. Largely forgotten today, Harte was one of America's most popular (and well-paid) writers of the late 19th century. Jack built on this interest of his father's by giving him, for Christmas in 1909, the manuscript of Harte's short story How Santa Claus came to Simpson's Bar.