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Cover of Letters of Note

The Sunday Times best-selling collection of 125 of the world's most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters

The eagerly awaited Letters of Note: Volume II is now being crowdfunded through Unbound. Pledge for the perfect companion to Letters of Note and get your name in the back of the special edition here. It's going to be just as good, or possibly even better, than the first!

Why a book?
As the pitch video explains, this book project has grown out of a website: www.lettersofnote.com, an edited collection of letters, telegrams and memos which are worthy of a wider circulation. People really seem to like the site, but there are some things a screen just can’t do. To me, letters are small artworks and this book will be catalogue of beautiful, meaningful objects.

Describe it
A large coffee-table volume with 150 letters, many of them reproduced in facsimile with an introduction by me and a transcript of the text. Unbound’s plan is to produce a physical object of great loveliness: cloth bound, using thick, uncoated paper: something that gives you the experience of holding and reading the actual letters themselves. As well as being a good read, it will make a lovely gift. It’s being printed in Germany where they understand these things.

What’s in it?
Many of the letters will have appeared on the site but I'm holding some of the best back. The main thing is that it will be an eclectic mix of the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up our lives. Here’s a random selection of what I hope you’ll find inside:


  • A 19th century letter from the Chairman of London Hospital in which he introduces 'The Elephant Man' – Joseph Merrick – to the world and asks for help from the public.

  • Virginia Woolf's unbearably sad suicide note, addressed to her husband.

  • Steve Martin’s hilarious 'personalised' form letter to a fan.

  • The poignant farewell letter of a Kamikaze pilot to his two young children, written the night before his mission.

  • A 9th century form letter from China used to apologise for having drunk too much at a dinner party.

  • William Safire’s memo containing a speech for president Nixon to deliver if the Apollo 11 mission failed and the astronauts were lost.

  • A heartbreaking series of letters from a 31 year-old woman with dementia desperately trying to contact her husband from a German asylum in 1909.

  • Queen Elizabeth II's charming a handwritten letter and personal recipe for drop scones, as sent to President Eisenhower.

  • An explanation from Albert Einstein to a young girl in reply to her question, 'Do Scientists Pray?’.

  • A fascinating letter to Winston Churchill that contains the first ever recorded usage of 'O.M.G.’

  • Leonardo da Vinci's remarkable job application letter.

Where does my money go?
This is going to take me eight months of work obtaining permissions, and agreement from all the parties included in the correspondence, as well as laying out the book and designing it so it works for the reader. That’s hundreds of hours hunched in front of my screen, most of it spent writing (you guessed it) polite letters.

Why Unbound?
The success of the site has meant I’ve had many publishers approaching me to publish a book, but the Unbound idea seems best for me. Let the people who like the site help me make the book. There will be plenty of chance for me to share progress and ask for advice as it goes along. We aim to publish in a year’s time.

I’m Shaun Usher, a 33-year-old writer who runs Letters of Note. My chosen career as a curator of correspondence is particularly interesting given that I regularly receive — and more often than not don’t reply to — abuse from exasperated friends due to my apparent inability to return their calls, emails, and, on very rare occasions, letters. I have promised to get back to them as soon as I have a spare minute. 

I live in Manchester with my fiancée, Karina, and our son, Billy.


In November of 1905, an enraged Mark Twain sent this superb letter to J. H. Todd, a patent medicine salesman who had just attempted to sell bogus medicine to the author by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature Twain received (p1,p2,p3,p4), the 'medicine' in question - The Elixir of Life - could cure such ailments as meningitis (which had previously killed Twain's daughter in 1896) and diphtheria (which had also killed his 19-month-old son). Twain, himself of ill-health at the time and very recently widowed after his wife suffered heart failure, was understandably furious and dictated the following letter to his secretary, which he then signed.  

Read more...

Letters of Note: Volume II needs you

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Hello,

It's been quite a while since I ventured into my Letters of Note shed, but I thought I'd pop in to tell you all that I've been hard at work writing the sequel Letters of Note: Volume II

I'm very aware that pledging money for something that doesn't exist yet can be a tough decision, but as you all made the leap of faith with me the first time round you will (I hope) know that the second…

Book delivery

Friday, 29 November 2013

Dear all,

We are very pleased to announce that the first books have started to be dispatched. They are sending the non-signed copies first as there has been a delay with the signed copies needing to be shrinkwrapped again. This is so that they don't get damaged in the post. These will start to be sent out as soon as this is finished (late next week/early the week after). 

If your delivery address…

A selection of the confirmed letters

Monday, 5 November 2012

9th Century Chinese form apology for drunkenness

16th Century letter from widow to late-husband

Abraham Lincoln on abolishing slavery

Annie Oakley - "50 lady sharpshooters await"

Archibald Kerr, on "Mustapha Kunt"

BBC exec, rejection of Fawlty Towers pilot

Beethoven's "Heiligenstadt Testament"

Campbell Soup executive writes to Andy Warhol

Charles Bukowski on the censorship of his novels

Charles Darwin on Natural…

Annamma Joshwa
Annamma Joshwa asked:

Dear Shaun,

We need 100 copies of this Title "Letter of Note" . I checked with in india but not getting . Could you please help me where i can get this Title .

It would be a great help for me if you could arrange to send it or let me know where from I could collect it either in India or outside india.

Regards

Annamma Joshua
Manager -Admin
Transport Corporation of India Ltd.,
"TCI House", 69 Institutional Area,
Sector -32, GURGAON 122001
INDIA.

My E-mail ID : annamma.joshwa@tcil.com

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Annamma,

I have sent you an email regarding this. If you are still after the 100 copies please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support and someone will be in contact to arrange this.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Yuri Banens
Yuri Banens asked:

Hello! I missed out on purchasing the first printing of Letters of Note, on account of being a poor student - but I would love to order a copy from the second printing. I can't find a way to do it on the site - forgive my ignorance but can you explain what I need to do to order a copy of the second printing?

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Yuri,

Thanks for getting in touch. We do still have signed copies available which you can order now. We are also going to re-print some more of the special edition so please do watch this space or sign up to our newsletter for news on when they are available. If there is anything else I can help you with please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Christen Ireland
Christen Ireland asked:

What makes the special edition special and what does it look like?

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Christen,

The special edition is only available from Unbound and is part cloth-bound. You can see what the book looks like above (next to the video). The cover is completely different to the one that is in the shops and there are much fewer of these available.

If we can help you with anything else please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Pamela Moore
Pamela Moore asked:

Hello. How do I order 2 copies of Volume 1? There is not a read with a friend option? Help. :>) thanks!

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Pamela,

Thanks for getting in touch. We've now created a 'Read with a Friend' level so you can order 2 copies together.

If there's anything else we can help with please do just ask via unbound.co.uk/support.

Best wishes,

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

Kurt Haller
Kurt Haller asked:

Hi,

Please could you tell me, if I were to buy now would I still get the Special Edition Hardback (as opposed to the mass market version)? Without my name in the back, understandably.

All the best.

Unbound
Unbound replied:

Hi Kurt,

The special editions are exclusively available from Unbound. You can buy a copy from https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-of-note/levels. If there's anything else we can help you with please get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support.

Caitlin - Community Coordinator

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