A letter caught my eye today. And the reason it did, was because it was written in 1370.

I’ve been writing a letter a day by hand since the start of February as part of International Correspondence Writing Month. And so far have had letters travel far and wide.. or not. It seems that with all our advances, the postal services, electronic and snail, may not have come as far as we think.

This situation has led me to speculate a great deal about mail service. And as it turns out, join a long chain of historical writing dedicated to what happens after we press send or drop off our written thoughts. The fact that this very current explanation was offered to Boccaccio by his friend Petrarch 645 years ago, makes me want to rush out and buy the book in hopes of discovering what happened to my letters trying to make their way to Wales.

“I know now that neither of two long letters that I wrote to you have reached you. But what can we do? Nothing but submit. We may wax indignant, but we cannot avenge ourselves. A most insupportable set of fellows has appeared in northern Italy, who nominally guard the passes, but are really the bane of messengers.

They not only glance over the letter that they open, but they read them with the utmost curiosity. They may perhaps, have for an excuse the orders of their masters, who, conscious of being subject to reproach in their restless careers of insolence, imagine that every one must be writing about and against them; hence their curiosity to know everything. But it is certainly inexcusable, when they find something in the letters that tickles their asinine ears, that instead of detaining the messengers while they take time to copy the contents, as they used to do, they should now, with ever increasing audacity, spare their fingers the fatigue, and order the messengers off without their letters. And to make this procedure the more disgusting, those who carry on this trade are complete ignoramuses…

I find nothing more irritating and vexatious than the interference of these scoundrels. It ha often kept me from writing, and often caused me to repent after I had written. There is nothing more to be done against these letter thieves, for everything is upside down, and the liberty of the state is entirely destroyed”

Petrarch, 1370

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