Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered

TitleSigned, Sealed, & Undelivered
Publication TypeWebsite
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsAhrendt, Rebekah, Nadine Akkerman, Jana Dambrogio, Daniel Starza Smith, and David van der Linden
Place PublishedThe Hague
Abstract

In 1926, a seventeenth-century trunk of letters was bequeathed to the Dutch postal museum in The Hague, then as now the centre of government, politics, and trade in The Netherlands. The trunk belonged to a postmaster and post mistress, Simon and Marie de Brienne, a couple at the heart of European communication networks. The chest contains an extraordinary archive: 2600 "locked" letters sent from all over Europe to this axis of communication, none of which were ever delivered. In the seventeenth century, the recipient also paid postal and delivery charges. But if the addressee was deceased, absent, or uninterested, no fees could be collected. Postmasters usually destroyed such “dead letters”, but the Briennes preserved them, hoping that someone would retrieve the letters – and pay the postage. Hence the nickname for the trunk: “the piggy bank” (spaarpotje). The trunk freezes a moment in history, allowing us to glimpse the early modern world as it went about its daily business. The letters are uncensored, unedited, and 575 of them even remain unopened. In this archive, the letters have been translated and transcribed for modern audiences.

URLhttp://brienne.org/unlockedbriennearchive
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