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Letters

Books in Brotherton Room
Introducing the different types of objects researchers in Special Collections can encounter.
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Researcher holding illuminated manuscript
Object types in Special Collections: photographs
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Dorothy Bosanquet's diary, March 1917
Object types in Special Collections: Diaries
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Letter with pen and ink sketch entitled 'Myself'.
Object types in Special Collections: Letters
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Whitaker Collection 445 fol/Map of the world
Object types in Special Collections: Maps
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Andreyev Autochrome
Object types in Special Collections: photographs
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Newspapers
Object types in Special Collections: newspapers
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Cemetery Register
Object types in Special Collections: Registers
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Literary drafts
Object types in Special Collections: creative drafts
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Page from Tony Harrison, The Loiners Notebook
Object types in Special Collections: Scrapbooks
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AntiPoverty Demonstration Flyer
Object types in Special Collections: advertisements & marketing material
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Brotherton Collection Incunabula CAR Ulm 1480 back pastedown manuscript
Object types in Special Collections: Ephemera
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minute books
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Brotherton Ovid - Silenus and a satyr
Object types in Special Collections: Art work
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Reading letters can be a powerful experience, enabling us to see into the daily lives of people often long dead. They are a common type of primary source, giving contemporary descriptions of personal and public events. Letters may also show the language, preconceptions, and prejudices of an individual in a particular place or time.

The handwriting and writing materials used can give us clues about the age of the letter, the class of the writer, their nationality and even their occupation.

Letters can be intimate or business-like; they can be revelatory or designed to conceal. People across many sections of society have written letters through history. Letters may tell the stories of people whose voices were rarely heard, from the working-classes, to women and minority cultures.

The very personal nature of letters means that access to them may sometimes be restricted. Letters may be embargoed for the lifetime of the writer, their family or associates.

Image credit Leeds University Library