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Broadside entitled 'Hieroglyphic Love Letter'


This highly unusual broadside letter begins: 'REAL COPY of a CURIOUS LOVE LETTER, chiefly in HIEROGLYPHIC CHARACTERS, written by a Love-struck Painter of this City to the object of his affections, a sprightly nursery-maid in a respectable family residing at the west end of the Town.' Although not dated, the sheet was published in Edinburgh by Sanderson.

This wonderful broadside proves that, even in olden days, people understood the concept of text messaging and using symbolic emoticons. Allegedly written and designed by a love-struck artist for his sweetheart the hieroglyphic code of the letter is quite easy to decipher. To read the letter, the audience just has to replace the missing letters with the given symbol. For example, the opening line reads 'Dear Isabella', with the woodcuts of a deer and a bell replacing the missing syllables. Decoding the symbols at the end implies that the letter was written by 'Archibald Wilke'. This broadside is quite similar to the word and symbol puzzles that regularly appear in today's newspapers.

Broadsides are single sheets of paper, printed on one side, to be read unfolded. They carried public information such as proclamations as well as ballads and news of the day. Cheaply available, they were sold on the streets by pedlars and chapmen. Broadsides offer a valuable insight into many aspects of the society they were published in, and the National Library of Scotland holds over 250,000 of them.

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Probable period of publication: 1830-1840   shelfmark: APS.3.83.13
Broadside entitled 'Hieroglyphic Love Letter'
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