Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered 2.0: Revealing Hidden Letters


Building on a globally successful digital humanities collaboration, “Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered” (SSU) – a public–private partnership funded by a seed grant from NWO in 2015 – this project will develop an international research network bringing together humanities scholars and scientists from Europe and the USA. SSU was formed to preserve, digitize, edit, and study the contents of a 17th-century postmaster’s trunk containing 2593 undelivered letters – including 600 which have never been opened. As one of the first digital letters projects to foreground document security, SSU combines the study of letterlocking (the history of epistolary security before the invention of the envelope) with the use of X-ray micro-tomography in order to read the closed letters without breaking their seals. This innovative project has received worldwide press coverage: see The current proposal expands SSU’s collaborative science and humanities networks to push the boundaries of early modern studies and conservation practices yet further. Our Netherlands-based project aims to read the contents of sealed letters using X-ray micro-tomography at QMUL (London, UK), then digitally unfold them using technology to be developed at MIT (Cambridge, MA, USA). Collaboration with Yale and Oxford will also be key to refining and integrating new metadata fields in EMLO, the world’s leading online, open-access catalogue of early modern correspondence. Drawing from this synergy, exchange of resources, and knowledge-sharing, the Dutch applicants will coordinate a major funding bid to further their multi-year, multi-faceted research plan.





Dr. N.N.W. Akkerman

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS)


01/09/2016 tot 31/08/2019