Three hundred years ago, before envelopes, passwords and security codes, writers often struggled to keep the thoughts, concerns and dreams expressed in their letters personal.
A popular way is to use a technique called letter locking – folding a flat sheet of paper into a complex and turning it into its own envelope. This security strategy posed a challenge when 577 locked letters delivered to The Hague in the Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 were found in the trunk of an unpaid mail.
There were letters The guards never reached their final recipients and did not want to open and damage them. Instead, a group has found a way to read one of the letters without breaking its stamp or opening it in any way. Using highly sensitive X-ray scanners and computer algorithms, the researchers almost uncovered the unopened letter.
This is a computer-generated expansion sequence of sealed letter from 17th century Europe. Virtual enhancement was used to read the contents of the letter without opening it physically. debt: Opening courtesy of the History Research Team Archive
“This algorithm takes us into the heart of the locked letter,” the research team said in a statement.
“Sometimes opposing past studies, we could have opened these letters, but instead we took the time to read them for their hidden, secret and inaccessible qualities. We knew that the letters could reveal many more while they were left unopened.”
This technique revealed the contents of a letter dated July 31, 1697. For a certified copy of Daniel Le Perce’s death notice, there is a request from Jacques Cennox, a French businessman in The Hague, to his cousin Pierre Le Pers.
The details may seem brilliant, but researchers say this letter gives a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people – a snapshot of the business of the early modern world.
Unsold letters from the 17th century were donated in 1926 to the Dutch Postal Museum in The Hague. A letter from this body was scanned by X-ray microtomography and almost came out to reveal its contents for the first time in centuries. debt: Opening courtesy of the History Research Team Archive
In addition to the unopened letters, there are 2,571 open letters and fragments that, for one reason or another, did not reach their goal.
At that time, there was no such thing as a postage stamp and the recipients, not the senders, were responsible for the postage and delivery charges. If the recipient dies or the letter is rejected, no fee will be charged and the letters will not be delivered.
A new way to mine historical documents
X-ray scanners were originally designed to map the mineral content of teeth and have been used in dental research – until now.
“We were able to use our scanners for X-ray history,” said David Mills, a research professor at Queen Mary University in London.
“Scanning technology is similar to medical CD scanners, but because of the use of more intense X – rays, the ink used to write these letters allows us to see minute traces of metal. Can. “
The letter contained a message from Jacques Sennox dated July 31, 1697, to his cousin, the French merchant Pierre Le Pers. There is a watermark in the center with the image of a bird. debt: Opening courtesy of the History Research Team Archive
The study says the new technique has the ability to unlock new historical sources from Brian’s body, as well as other collections of unopened letters and documents.
“Using virtual magnification to read an intimate story that has not seen daylight – and has never reached its recipient – is truly extraordinary,” the researchers said in the report.
The research was published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.