As Cicero once said, ‘A letter does not blush’. While letters can be businesslike, they can also be extremely personal.
Words that were once entrusted to paper for one person’s eyes only can provide later readers with insights into the life of the sender or the cultural climate of their time. This can be a reason for keeping letters, even after the addressee has died. It is not known exactly how many letters are held in the Special Collections, but there are a great many: a recent estimate puts it at more than 500,000 items, dating from the fifteenth century to the present. This makes this collection of letters one of the largest in the country, if not the largest.