Letters of Note

Robert Mills

Last week I arrived home to a rather heavy and large parcel. I knew what it was and proceeded to conduct an un-boxing ceremony that the Apple devotees I work with would have been proud of.  It was the gorgeous book from Letters of Note.

Here’s a summary from the inside cover:

That summary of content should be enough to convince you just how incredible this book is, but it doesn’t end there. I’ll write about the content shortly but it’s worth noting that this book is beautiful. It is clearly a labour of love for Shaun Usher who runs the Letters of Note website and compiled the book.

I had been a fan of Letters of Note for a while and had to be careful when I chose to look at the site because I would get lost for far longer than I intended reading all of the amazing letters. As soon as I saw on Twitter that a book was on the cards I knew it was a must buy.

The book was released through a site called Unbound. This is like Kickstarter but solely for books. Authors pitch their ideas, people pledge for the books they want to read and if they reach or exceed 100% of the funding needed, they get printed. It’s a great model for self publishers.

There are usually different amounts available too, so the more you pledge the more you get (extras, signed editions and so on). I pledged £30 for a first edition, cloth bound, 4 colour coffee table version. Being one of the first group to pledge meant I also had my name printed in the back. Nice touch.

Letters of Note reached 278% funding so proved to be very popular. This is great news because it means more people are reading, sharing and preserving the incredible letters contained within. The strapline on the website and book is: correspondence deserving of a wider audience.

That’s a perfect way of describing Letters of Note.

The book is hands down one of the most beautiful I own. Where possible the original letters are printed along with descriptions and transcripts of all. The range of content is astounding and you can see a little list here. Some of the letters have appeared on the Letters of Note site but others have been saved just for the book.

The first letter is one from Queen Elizabeth II to President Eisenhower in 1960. The letter includes the Queen’s recipe for scones.

What follows are another 124 letters that capture special moments, historical events, funny times, sad times, replies to fan letters, job applications, suicide notes and so much more. I’ve been looking at the book to write this post and it’s taken me a long time to get this far because once I start reading it I can’t stop, just like the site. Enough gushing, here are a few sneak peeks of other letters included:

One thing that really struck a chord with me is how special letters are. The last time I received a letter was probably around 2005 when I was living in New Zealand and people from home used to send me some. This morning I received my first Christmas card of the season and inside my friend had written a little note. It was lovely. It’s a shame that they are so rare though.

Will there be enough written correspondence in decades to come for another volume of a book like Letters of Note? Are we capturing  and writing about the important moments in letters or are they getting lost among emails and tweets? Emails of Note doesn’t have the same appeal, nor does Tweets of Note.

In his inspiring Introduction, Shaun Usher ends by saying:

Maybe, just maybe, it will inspire at least a few people to put pen to paper, or even dust off an old typewriter, and write their own letters of note.

As I sit on my sofa finishing this blog post, I can glance to my left and see my 1920′s Underwood Typewriter. It’s on the shelf looking incredible but collecting dust. Many moons have passed since it last pinged. Thanks to the wonders of eBay, I even bought new ink ribbons for it but they remain full.

With a new year around the corner it seems fitting to make another pledge. Not one of money but a pledge that from now on I will write more letters, thank you notes, general catch ups, journal entries, stories. Whatever they may be, they will be typed on the Underwood or hand written.

And they may not be good or important enough to be deserving of a wider audience but hopefully they will be good and important enough to the recipient and perhaps they’ll even make them smile. The first person on my people to write to list is Shaun himself. I need to send him a note to say thank you. I can’t wait to get writing and to hear the click click click click ping of the typewriter as I do so.