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Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience Hardcover – May 6, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452134251
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452134253
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...a stupendous collection of memorable missives, often by famous people - and with facsimiles, each page is a marvel...Letters of Note is quite literally the most enjoyable volume it is possible to imagine."
-The Spectator (UK)

Starred Review " Based on the blog of the same name, this collection of letters is so handsome that it looks like a coffee-table book, but it's more than that. In it, Queen Elizabeth II sends a note to President Dwight ­Eisenhower reflecting on ­Mamie and Ike's visit to ­Balmoral Castle: she appends her recipe for scones. The chairman of the Whitehall Vigilance Committee receives a package with a note from Jack the Ripper accompanied by half a human kidney, pickled in wine: "I fried and ate it was very nise." Gandhi appeals to Hitler as the only one who can avert the impending war. Bank robber Clyde Barrow tells Henry Ford he only drives Fords. ­Francis Crick alerts his son about DNA. A wife writes to her samurai husband on the eve of battle (he died in the fighting, she committed suicide) and an ex-slave addresses his former master. This treasure trove of fascinating material includes more than 125 letters from both the famous and the unknown dating as far back as 1340 BCE, many reproduced in facsimile.A beautiful collection that should appeal to everyone. Start reading it and you're lost. "
- Library Journal

"While some might argue that the art of correspondence died with the advent of the internet, it was Letters of Note-a popular website sharing correspondence across history and spheres-that paved the way for the exceptional hardcover of the same name. The book's introduction aptly describes itself as "a museum of letters" that are as addictive as they are enlightening; featuring letters from Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, Nick Cave, Elvis and more than a few world leaders.

London-based author Shaun Usher compiled the collection of over 125 letters over the course of four years and the subjects span both private and public theatrics. A letter from Elvis Presley to President Nixon is written in-flight on American Airlines stationary, in which Presley expresses his patriotism and requests to be made a Federal Agent, "just so long as it is kept very private." Each of the letters is accompanied with a contextual note from Usher that only serves to add to the fascination and potential rabbit hole of additional research readers might find themselves falling into.

From art to music, politics, history, civil rights and drawing on just about every human emotion, it's easy to get lost in the 342-page tome. Each letter tells its own stories and it is easy to find oneself interested in new subjects. Perhaps the book's greatest virtue (and that of correspondence itself) is its ability to inject individual humanity into historical events and time periods. One highlight is a letter from a free slave to his former master, kindly rejecting an offer of a job while inquiring about the family and describing his new life. These true stories-whether they're between household names or persons unknown-reflect the great importance of interpersonal communication and the beauty of long-form written conversation."
- Cool Hunting

"While a good portion of history happened out in the open, allowing it to be preserved in the history books for everyone to read for generations, still more happened in the private correspondence of people who mattered. In Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (brought to you by the creator of the blog by the same name) you'll read letters spanning across centuries, from influential political leaders, authors, actors, murderers, and more. Each one lends a unique insight into the major events of the time, whether they're wars, cultural shifts, key moments, or important discoveries. This epistolary compilation contains over 300 letters, detailing the personal thoughts of everyone from Jack the Ripper to Kurt Vonnegut."

"This new book beautifully highlights fascinating letters ...The hardcover demands prime space on the coffee table."
USA Today's Pop Candy

"Someone should write a love letter to a new book called Letters of Note. It's a splendid collection of all kinds of correspondence through the ages: Elvis Presley fans writing to the president, children making suggestions to famous cartoonists, a scientist's poignant love letter to his late wife."
- A Way With Words

"It is a truly beautiful book."
-The Bookseller (UK)

"Every single epistle in Letters of Note is soul-stretching beyond measure."
-Brain Pickings

"An eloquent tribute to the lost art of letter writing."
GQ magazine (UK)

"...an anthology of Shaun Usher's wonderful blog of the same name. It's well worth picking up."

About the Author

Shaun Usher founded the blog-based archive Letters of Note, hugely popular internationally. He lives in Manchester, England.

More About the Author

Shaun Usher was born in St. Albans, England in 1978 and currently lives in Cheshire with his wife and two sons. He is the sole custodian of the popular blog, Letters of Note, a book of which was published in October 2013 in the UK and became a bestseller. A US edition will follow in May of 2014. His obsession with correspondence is particularly interesting given that he regularly receives--and more often than not doesn't reply to--abuse from exasperated friends and family due to his apparent inability to return their calls, emails, and, on very rare occasions, letters. His second book is underway.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 58 customer reviews
The book can be picked up and read at leisure.
Ashish Chandola
It also has letters from lesser knowns, but still equally interesting to read.
Anne-Marie G
The first book I have ever found worthy of having on a coffee table.
Melissa McCauley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Dee18 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Letters of Note started four years ago with the sole aim of bringing people, "correspondence deserving of a wider audience." The collator of the blog and book is Shaun Usher, a writer himself, and I have long been a fan of his [...] - so I was thrilled when he pitched the idea for a Letters of Note book to the crowd-sourced publisher, unbound. Eight pages at the back of the book list all of the unbound subscribers who made the Letters of Note book a reality, which is just lovely.

The book itself is a design feast. UK design studio `here design' are responsible for the cover design and typesetting; but for the sumptuous loveliness and heft, I'm quite surprised that it's only retailing for AUD$49.99 - also surprised, because Usher has included reproductions of original documents throughout the book, which adds such quality and uniqueness.

So there's a stunning reproduction of her own stationary that Annie Oakley wrote on to US President William McKinley, when she was offering her army of "lady sharp-shooters" to the Spanish-American war (he declined). There's also a full-page picture of a tablet (circa 1340 BC) from Ayyab to Amenhotep IV. A yellow legal-pad letter from John Kricfalusi includes doodles of what would later become his `Ren & Stimpy' characters.

And on the pages where letters could not be reproduced in their original form, Usher has included some stunning photographs of the correspondents. Like the haunting portrait of Virginia Woolf that accompanies her suicide note, discovered by her husband on their mantelpiece ("If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What an incredible book! LETTERS OF NOTE, collected by Shaun Usher, consists of 125 letters-- if I counted correctly-- from many different people and times. The book is big enough and certainly beautiful enough to make that dubious qualification of suitable for a coffee table. Mr. Usher often includes with the letters full-page portraits of the writers, an actual reproduction of the letter, handwritten or typed or in whatever other form of the original letter as the case may be, along with the printed letters and a short paragraph about what occasioned the letter.

This is one of those books that you can open anywhere and read a terrific letter. The first one I read was one from Bette Davis to her daughter responding to what she had written about Davis in her memoir MY MOTHER'S KEEPER. (Fortunately not every letter is the collection contains so much venom although Flannery O`Connor`s may run a close second.) I guess the lady wasn't always acting in her movies. The letter I just finished is a note from Oscar Wilde to Bernulf Clegg explaining his remark that "All art is quite useless." Part of his beautiful letter reads as follows: "A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it." In Queen Elizabeth's letter to President Eisenhower, she encloses her recipe for drop scones that she had promised him. Mary Stuart sends a letter to the brother of her ex-husband hours before she is to be beheaded: " thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime." One wonders how anyone at the NEW YORKER magazine could have not hired the twenty-three-year-old Eudora Welty after reading her charming, funny letter-- but they did. "I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation's most backward state. .
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eleni A. on December 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Just as the steward of the letters, Shaun Usher, promises at the beginning of the book, you will laugh, cry, and feel every emotion in between while flipping through the pages of this wonderful collection. The book is visually beautiful and of a clearly high-quality design, but most importantly, it showcases an exceptional range of human experiences, thoughts and emotions.
It is definitely my favourite book of 2013. As I wrote him in an email a couple of days ago: thank you for the pleasure you've given me, Shaun Usher!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Anytime you read primary documents it gives you more of an insight into people, cultures, time periods, issues, etc...This book, "Letters of Note" is a five star read for sure. It is interesting from page one with letters from Royalty, Presidents, great writers, poets, movie stars, and criminals (the Jack the Ripper letter is just down right frightening). To read letters from Flannery O'Connor and Virgina Woolf (her later is just heart wrenching) is to almost hear their words. The letter from the Queen to Eisenhower about a recipe? Greatness.

This book? I cannot recommend it highly enough. The actual letters are pictured in the book then shown in regular font so you can read (some of the handwriting is difficult to read or in other languages) so you see the letter and then enjoy the letter along with some other information about the person and why it was written.

Five stars is not enough of a rating. Can I give it more? I would if I could. Outstanding. This is one of those books that you will put on the shelf and then take it back off the shelf to read some more letters and then read and re-read.
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