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Researchers from MIT and other institutions have successfully uncovered the letterlocking technique that Mary, Queen of Scots, used to seal her final letter, reports NPR’s Tien Le. The spiral lock requires more than 30 steps and involves cutting out a ‘lock,’ often resembling a dagger or sword, out of the blank margin of the letter,” writes Le. “The lock acts as a needle and is sewn through the letter after folding it.”

The Guardian

An international team of researchers has found that Mary, Queen of Scots, used a complicated paper-folding technique called letterlocking to conceal the contents of her final letter, reports Alison Flood for The Guardian. MIT Libraries Conservator Jana Dambrogio explains that working on Mary's last letter “and figuring out its unique spiral lock was thrilling as a researcher – and a real a-ha! moment in the study of letterlocking.”

The Economist

The Economist spotlights how MIT researchers created a virtual technique to decipher the contents of a letter that was sealed 300 years ago. The letter was originally sealed by its sender using the historical practice of securing correspondence called letterlocking. The new virtual technique “seems to hold plenty of promise for future research into a fascinating historical practice.”


A new imaging technique created by researchers from MIT and other institutions has been used to shed light on the contents of an unopened letter from 1697, writes Matt Simon for Wired. “With fancy letterlocking techniques, you will forcibly rip some part of the paper, and then that will become detectable,” says Prof. Erik Demaine, of the method used to seal the letter.

The Guardian

Guardian reporter Alison Flood explores the new technique created by MIT researchers to virtually unseal an unopened letter written in 1697. The researchers, “worked with X-ray microtomography scans of the letter, which use X-rays to see inside the document, slice by slice, and create a 3D image,” writes Flood.


Jana Dambrogio, the Thomas F. Peterson Conservator at MIT Libraries, describes the new technique developed by researchers at MIT and other institutions that has allowed for the virtual exploration of a letter that has been sealed since 1697. “It's quite beautiful and it's thrilling that we can read it without tampering with the letter packet, leaving it to study as an unopened object,” says Dambrogio.

The Wall Street Journal

Researchers from MIT and other institutions have used algorithms and an X-ray scanner to decipher the secrets inside a letter that has been sealed since 1697, reports Sara Castellanos for The Wall Street Journal. “This is a dream come true in the field of conservation,” said Jana Dambrogio, the Thomas F. Peterson Conservator at MIT Libraries.

Inside Higher Ed

Chris Bourg, director of the MIT Libraries, speaks with Lindsay McKenzie of Inside Higher Ed about how libraries can help foster interdisciplinary discussions about artificial intelligence.  McKenzie writes that Bourg notes MIT’s, “long history of interdisciplinary research at its AI labs, the earliest of which was founded in 1959.”

Inside Higher Ed

Chris Bourg, director of the MIT Libraries, speaks with Carl Straumsheim of Inside Higher Ed about the MIT report on the future of libraries, which presents a “vision of the library as an ‘open global platform’.” Bourg notes that “providing access to credible information and the tools to assess, use, understand and exploit it…is more important than ever now.”

Boston Globe

Boston Globe reporter Kevin Hartnett speaks with MIT conservator Jana Dambrogio about a collection of letters from 1689-1707. “It’s not like when you fold a letter three times and stick it in an envelope,” says Dambrogio. “When these things are folded, some areas of the rectangle could have 8 or 10 folds in one spot.”

Live Science

LiveScience reporter Megan Gannon writes that MIT conservator Jana Dambrogio will virtually unfold a trove of unopened letterlocked notes from the 17th century. The researchers will use techniques like “3D X-ray microtomography to scan the letters and reconstruct the letterlocking strategies,” Gannon explains. “They'll also use scans to detect the ink and reconstruct the text inside.”

New York Times

New York Times reporter Eve Kahn writes about how Jana Dambrogio, a conservator at the MIT Libraries, is researching how letter writers kept their correspondence sealed and private, a process she refers to as “letterlocking.” “This is such a brand-new field of study,” Dambrogio relates.