These form inquiries represent the communications that might be sent by editors undertaking an edition of the papers of Margaret DeWitt as they begin their search for DeWitt records.
I. “Blind” Search Letter to Libraries
The first is a message prepared for libraries not known to own DeWitt materials. Even if the message is transmitted by e-mail, the writer’s return postal address and telephone number should be included. Most e-mail systems include a “signature” macro that enables the author to copy in this information below her or his name at the foot of the message. The message’s subject heading should carry the edition’s or project’s name. A traditional business letter (as shown below) carries such contact data in the return address at the letter’s opening:
Return mailing address
This project is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and the East Utopia University Department of American Studies. We are preparing to publish an edition of the papers of Margaret DeWitt (1841–1913). This edition will be published [online on the East Utopia University Web site] or [in volumes to be produced by East Utopia University Press].
We are now collecting photocopies and digital scans of all sur-viving letters to and from DeWitt as well as any other papers written by DeWitt or addressed to her. The fact that your collections include the papers of DeWitt’s second cousin Julia Leonard Ferguson leads us to hope that your library may hold DeWitt materials as well.
If your collections do include such manuscript or printed materials, we wish to order copies or scans at this time. While we would prefer scans, we realize that the condition of the originals and other considerations may dictate some other copy process. If scans can be provided, we prefer JPEG images of at least 300 dpi. If microfilm or paper-based copies will be made, we prefer positive to negative copies. Whatever the form of reproduction, we wish copies of both rectos and versos, even if blank, as well as any address covers or envelopes that may also be available.
Should your institution’s policies require advance payment for such orders, please advise us, and we will be happy to oblige. Otherwise, we shall send payment promptly upon receipt of the scans or copies. If digital scans can be made, would you prefer to transmit them to us by e-mail attachment or shipped by CD?
We understand that this can be a lengthy process and greatly appreciate your assistance. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding our request, please feel free to contact me by phone at 555-555-1212 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Thank you for your attention to this request.
II. A Letter to Libraries Known to Own Pertinent Materials
When the editors of the DeWitt Papers write to an institution where DeWitt materials are known to exist, the second and third paragraphs of the form letter would read as follows:
WorldCat Records and the finding aids mounted on your Web site indicate that your collections include correspondence between DeWitt and Teresa Snyder and Myrtie Maria Pedrick. We attach a list of DeWitt materials itemized in these sources. Alfonse Gaston’s biography of DeWitt also includes a reference to a draft essay by DeWitt of 7 October 1879 in the Aikman Collection at your library. We wish to order copies or scans at this time of the DeWitt materials mentioned here as well as of any other DeWitt-related items in your collections.
While we would prefer scans, we realize that the condition of the originals and other considerations may dictate some other copy process. If scans can be provided, we prefer JPEG images of at least 300 dpi. If microfilm or paper-based copies will be made, we prefer positive to negative copies. Whatever the form of reproduction, we wish copies of both rectos and versos, even if blank, as well as any address covers or envelopes that may also be available.
III. Letters to Dealers and Auctioneers
The DeWitt project’s form inquiries to dealers and auction houses that have listed DeWitt materials for sale would open with the paragraph describing the project’s scope and sponsorship. It might then continue:
We noted with interest the listing for a DeWitt letter to Susan Aikman of 12 April 1877 in your recent catalog #124. While we realize that you cannot disclose the identity of this item’s purchaser, we ask your cooperation in forwarding the enclosed letter to the client who has made this purchase.
Thank you for complying with our request. Should any other DeWitt materials come to your attention in the future, we would appreciate advance notice of their sale. If you could provide our staff with an image or detailed abstract of such manuscripts, we, in turn, could provide you with historical background for the item, as well as comments on its significance for DeWitt’s career. This might expedite preparation of your catalog entries and increase the value of the document to its eventual purchaser. From our side, it would help ensure a complete record of DeWitt material for our files.
The “To whom it may concern” letter enclosed to dealers and auctioneers for transmittal to the purchasers of a DeWitt letter would be in this style:
Mr. X, the proprietor of X Manuscripts, Inc., has kindly agreed to forward this request to you as the purchaser of the DeWitt letter of 12 April 1877 offered for sale by his firm.
[Here insert the description of the project’s scope and spon-sorship.]
We would be most grateful if you could furnish our project with a digital scan or photocopy of this item for our files. No further use of these images will be made without your permission and, of course, the reproduction will not be made available to scholars outside our staff.
Should the letter be considered for inclusion in our edition, we will honor your wishes in regard to any further publication of the manuscript and to the protection of your privacy as the item’s owner.
We hope that you will agree to cooperate in our work. For our part, we will be delighted to inform you of any new light that our research sheds on the DeWitt letter in your collection.