Monday, June 24, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

Letter written in 1824

As some of you know, my husband writes books ... in his spare time!  He's an IT man by day and a lover of early 19th-century literature by night. 

So far he has two books published (you can read about our book-launch party and how we commemorated that momentous occasion here) and is presently working on his third.  His topic of choice is a periodical called the Quarterly Review that was founded in London in 1809.  His present book is a collection of letters written between 1807 and 1843 by the journal’s first three editors, its publisher, John Murray, and important contributors. 

In the process of writing the book, he has handled and read many manuscripts and letters written by famous writers  -- such as Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to name only a few. 

I have often thought how nice it would be to put a copy of one of the Quarterly Review letters up in our home as the QR has been such a big part of our lives. However, my husband has always resisted the idea because he wasn't sure he would like the look and, more importantly, he didn't have a good enough print of the letters.  Until now that is. 

Last week he received a note-worthy copy of a letter because it was printed using a high-quality colour photocopier (you can see part of the photocopy above).  Previously, he’d only received black and white photocopies, which means they didn’t look at all like the originals. Because this one’s in colour, it’s much easier to get a sense of how the old paper and the ink actually look. Back then, paper was made from rags, not from wood pulp, which is one reason why the letters from the period generally are in great shape. I like to imagine how the author of the letters would look sitting at an old wooden desk writing the letter using a quill pen.

The letter at the top of the page was written by the Quarterly Review's first editor, William Gifford, which makes it meaningful to my husband.  He has spent countless hours in libraries in Great Britain and the US poring over old letters like the one above. At first he found it very difficult to decipher the old handwriting, but now he’s well acquainted with the writing of the Quarterly’s editors and publisher.

So, what we have in mind is to enlarge both pages of the letter above and then either frame them individually or, more likely, have them printed onto canvas.

I put together some inspiration photos so we could see what size and way of displaying the letter would work best for us.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them as well.

I found inspiration photos for displaying a single letter, groupings of multiple letters, and unusual ways to display letters.  

A large copy of a letter looks fantastic framed with a wide black frame.

The Old Painted Cottage

Southern Living

A single letter also can be enlarged and printed on a canvas,

Meredith Heron's Living Room from Style at Home
or onto burlap,

Melissa Mercier

or attached to wood and antiqued.

No Minimalist Here

Or one letter might be hung in a gallery wall along with an assortment of other pictures and artifacts.

Young House Love

If you have many letters, then framing them in matching gold frames and hanging them together like in the gallery wall below makes a cohesive grouping.

Pretty Stuff

Or a series of letters, framed with matching white mats and black frames, look great hung in a symmetrical grouping.


Tattered Style

Some other creative ways to enjoy letters include applying the text directly to the wall,

Style at Home
or printing the letters onto fabric and sewing them into cushions.

Alisa Burke
Have you ever displayed a favourite letter?  I think it is such a lovely way to add something personal to your home.  This is a project I'm going to work on this summer so I welcome your suggestions.

Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now


  1. No, I never have, but I love, love , this idea! What a great book for hubby to write. I am always amazed at the fabulous penmanship and just the "Proper" way letters were written, yep, worthy of framing or filling a wall!


  2. I love your letter, and it looks great on the wall. I know your hubbie must like it, too.
    Your inspiration photos are all great. ONe of my husband's friends, Angèle Parlange, took antiqu calling cards from her family's plantation (which has been in her family for over 250 years) and made fabric (or printed it on silk, I should say). She made all kinds of wonderful things from the cards!

    Super post, Grace.


  3. These all look so cool! I love the blown up envelope. I'd like to do something like that at my house :)

  4. I have not ever framed a letter but this is the most amazing idea! My favorite is the trio from Tattered Style. I can't think of a letter to do this with but I think my kids may have letters from their grandparents. Thanks for this incredible it summer there yet?

  5. all sorts of good ideas!! saw you at Serenity Now.

    i like the first wide, black frame.