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Sunday, January 14, 2007

More on Yankee Bookseller

We had several individual notes from our reading of this book, and they became separated, so now this book gets a bonus post.

One of the more interesting things in this book is that Mr. Goodspeed posits handwriting has nationalities. Experts believe this to be true, as well as an historical style that can date handwriting.

There is also an intriguing exploration of the rights of ownership concerning letters and their content. Legally, how do letters compare to books? We were surprised to learn that ownership of the physical letter--stationery, envelope, (and presumably any inserts)--rests with the recipient; or if returned or unsent, with the sender. Rights to the content of the letter, in terms of the specific words and phrases used, are retained by the writer, much as the specific words of a novelist belong to the writer. Basically, book and letter are both copyrighted. Thus, a letter we have written to Tiresias may be sold by him to another, but it may not be published without our permission.

Mr. Goodspeed makes the following observation concerning written correspondence:
It is a pity that the fine art of letter-writing is almost lost . . . now with the employment of the shorthand writer, and the general use of typewriter, dictaphone, and other mechanical aids. . . .
This written more than sixty years before the prominence of email and instant messages, and the similar cries of lament. So what can You, our two Dear Readers, do? We propose to engage a correspondence by letter with any of you who would like to participate. Simply send an email with your name and address to letters -at- madaboutbooksonline -dot- com. Mr. Goodspeed would be pleased.

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