Shaun Usher runs Letters of Note; Lists of Note and Letterheady. Three websites with the theme of the art of handwriting. In a recent event for World Book Day, Shaun Usher spoke to the Guardian about Letters of Note:
“I couldn’t believe that no one had collected all these amazing documents before. I find it incredibly sad that we are going to lose the magic of letter writing – we are gaining speed and spontaneity through advances in technology such as Twitter and email, but we are losing the unique, considered form of communication that letters represent. When you write a letter you are in a completely different frame of mind from when you engage with social media or digital communication. These letters, and the thoughts and feelings expressed through them, just wouldn’t emerge nowadays. We must collate them for the generations ahead.”
The fact that Usher has three websites dedicated to letter and note writing is a clear indication of his passion for it. He describe’s the blog based website as an ‘attempt’ to gather and share interesting letters. It’s ironic that although the format of a blog is quite regular and linear, the letters are detached: there isn’t a narrative that runs between them: the dates, senders and receivers are different. This makes quite the eclectic collection which is ever expanding as Usher seeks to update the website each weekday.
It’s interesting that Usher discusses the letter writing form: how it is considered and much different to how we write on our computers and phones. This is why I find it interesting that Usher is homing copies of these letters on a fast-paced website. Many of these letters also, are being typed up, uniformed by the Georgia Serif font family. It makes the viewer read the words rather than admire the letter as a whole. It does make me think how we can really admire letter writing if it looks and feels the same as a regular blog. Having said this there are examples of letters which do show photographed copies. We must forget what is looks like for a moment and remember the purpose of what Usher is doing: to collect letters which were carefully crafted and have them together. I can criticise the authenticity of typed up letters; but if the point of this archive is its permanence and ease of updating with technology, then it is easier to update text formats than it will jpegs. Some of these files are at risk to corruption in the future- although I am sure Usher has a safe filing system!
Last year Usher published Letters of Note as a book with 125 interesting letters inside. Looking at pictures of it from the Flickr photostream it appears similar to Dear Robert, the iBook I have previously discussed. What I mean by this is that there are pictures of the letters, with typed up copies alongside. It also includes photographs which may have been enclosed in the letters as well. This books marries digital (typing/copying/photographing) with letter writing in an anologue-book form. Had this been presented as an iBook, it would be very ‘quiet’ so to speak, bound by its regular linear pattern; however, the physical book form allows a reader to open a page to find a letter, with no intention of discovering what letters came before and after it. This books seeks to celebrate each and every letter as a unique piece. And it’s available to be kept right on your bookshelf, frozen in time.
Flood, A. (2014) World Book Night: Leading authors line up for ‘sacred’ event. Available online: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/23/world-book-night-leading-authors-philip-pullman. Last Accessed 24th April 2014
Usher, S. (2014) Letters of Note. Available Online: http://www.lettersofnote.com. Last Accessed 24th April 2014