Long live the letter The dirge for the demise of letter writing in the age of e-mail usually has an undertone of nostalgia for a certain literary mode the piercing love note, the minutely detailed, sunburnt vacation letter. Typically, published collections of letters play to this tune, reprinting the letters in uniform type, editing them for clarity and to literary effect. But what we really miss about letters is showcased beautifully in Illustrated Letters: Artists and Writers Correspond, which presents letters as visual and tactile artifacts. Reprinting facsimiles of letters from scores of French artists and writers, the book demonstrates that what makes letters wonderful is the expressiveness of all their elements the stationery, the handwriting, the ink. Each of the letters comes with an English translation and contextual notes, but even readers who don't know French will want to linger over the reproductions of letters from Delacroix, Picasso, Baudelaire, and others.

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