The archive has been collecting for 25 years
Love letters are a cultural treasure
25,000 letters, e-mails and short messages from 52 countries and four centuries – and it’s always about love: According to the linguists responsible, the collection at the love letter archive in Koblenz-Darmstadt is “the only archive of its kind in Germany”.
25,000 letters, e-mails and short messages from 52 countries and four centuries – and it’s always about love: According to the linguists responsible, the collection at the love letter archive in Koblenz-Darmstadt is “the only archive of its kind in Germany”. It was founded by Professor Eva Lia Wyss in 1997 with newspaper calls for letters. They celebrate their 25th anniversary on September 24th in Koblenz with the “Long Night of Love Letters”, which is already sold out.
Love messages and love letters can be sent to the e-mail address [email protected] or to the Love Letter Archive, University of Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz, Institute for German Studies, Prof. Dr. Eva L. Wyss, Universitätsstr. 1, 56070 Koblenz.
All kinds of declarations of love are of interest to linguists. Although most correspondence is digital in the age of cell phones, Wyss says traditional love letters haven’t died out. “On special occasions like birthdays and wedding anniversaries, people still write letters by hand, even on handmade paper and beautifully decorated.” Calligraphy, i.e. the art of beautiful handwriting, “is a trend again”.
According to Darmstadt linguistics professor Andrea Rapp, “Schatz” or “Schatzi” has been the most common pet name in love letters since the 19th century. Her colleague Wyss says that cute angels and princesses are also popular. Nicknames change over time. Wyss gives examples: “Dearest dearest beloved” in the 19th century and “ornaments” in the 1920s. Correspondence from the 1990s reads: “A frog, a pet, a pet, a royal baby, a monster, an endlessly huggable bastard.”
Archive instead of old paper
Love letters are a cultural treasure that often lie dormant in attics and boxes for decades, says the archive manager. When households are liquidated, “many see our archive as a great opportunity not to throw everything away and send us old love letters from parents and grandparents”. At the love letter meetings in Koblenz and Darmstadt, the love letters are analyzed as part of the citizen science project “Gruß & Kuss”, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to the tune of around half a million euros.
By the way, the oldest letter from the archive went to Lotte, written by Mr. Borener in 1715: “Divine fire flows in my veins, pulls me away, throws me to the feet of my goddess.”