Cambridge Science Festival: Letterlocking at MIT

Posted April 24th, 2014 by Jana Dambrogio

Many thanks to the 100+participants including families, students, colleagues, faculty, and staff members who visited the MIT Libraries letterlocking table in Lobby 10 yesterday during the events in celebration of the Cambridge Science Festival. “This is just like a quill that Harry Potter would have used to write,” one MIT student squealed after using a peacock feather quill to write her message on the super-sized sheet of handmade paper. The tips of the iridescent plumes tickled the noses of participants, putting smiles on their faces, while they stood next to others who were completely focused on the letter before it was locked shut into a pleated letter format used by Queen Elizabeth I.

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Oh, so hard to choose which gigantic writing implement to record a secret message. We say: why choose?

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One left-handed participant pointed out how hard it was to write with the quill since right-handed scribes get to guide the quill tip across the paper and lefty’s need to push the quill. We’ll have to ask our calligrapher friends like Betty Sweren and paleography experts like Heather Wolfe what people did back in the day to prevent their ink from splattering all over the page.

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Colleagues from the Boston Athenaeum came out to join the fun.

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Before and after locking shots.

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Thanks to MIT Department of Material Science and Engineering faculty member Mike Tarkanian, for giving us a MIT bronze medallion to authenticate while sealing this letter shut. What do we do with the letter? Send it through the mail? Perhaps we should open it next week at the Preservation Week talks? Let us know what you think! Stay tuned for the movie showing how the letter was locked shut!

 

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