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We are sometimes puzzled by the documents and articles we receive for digitisation within the Newman Project, in the most recent batch are two tin boxes full of duplicate letters. The text reads;

(Page One)

Dear Sir,

As my hand is rather weak, I hope you will excuse me if I leave your letter unanswered.

I am, Dear Sir, yours faithfully

John H Newman


(Page 2)

You are one of those friends and well wishers, who have so kindly addressed to me letters of congratulation on my birthday, – letters for which touched me much, and for your share in which I hereby offer you my sincere thanks.

Feb 24



There are multiple copies of this letter kept in two tin boxes:



As photocopiers had not been invented at the time this letter was composed, and each letter is an exact copy, we assume they hadn’t been copied by hand, so we were a little confused as to how these were made. This led us to look further into Letter Copy Presses and Hectographs, something Cerys had fun researching. If anyone can shed some light on the process that may have been used to produce these copies, then please drop us a comment below.

4 thoughts on “Auto reply

  1. Dear Archive Very interesting – referring to (these boxes of ) etters – how do you acquire them? I am a distant relative of the Newman (Phillips) family – Lancashire. What is the process for acceptance of a letter to the archive – for authentication/ preservation. And Is this by donation or purchase? Regards Judith

    Sent from my iPhone


    • The work we are carrying out here at the John Rylands Library is the digitation of the Newman Archive which is held at the Birmingham Oratory. So far we have photographed well over 150,000 pieces of correspondence, books, newspaper cuttings, drawings, plans, photographs and glass plate negatives, which will eventually be available online via the National Institute for Newman Studies website

  2. I think the second letter’s transcription should read, “and for your share in which” rather than “and for yours have in which”

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