After reading over 7,000 original diaries in the 25 years I've been collecting, I've learned that there are 2 distinct ways in which people carefully pen their words upon their pages and one constant thought encompasses both. Lingering in the shadows of the authors mind there is the invariable thought that at one point, someone somewhere will probably read their private intimate words. The diarist writes regardless, but knowing this he or she either 1) limits the entries to general, everyday tasks and events or 2) they have such a deep unrelenting desire to put every thought, emotion and action to paper, that regardless of the possible consequences it might bring, the words are written, as if to release the author of full responsibility. Of course, I prefer the latter, not only when it comes to my own diary keeping but in collecting. This also pertains to the category, Letter Lots.
As great as any personal diary, handwritten letters tell such amazing stories, especially when someone, usually the receiver, has kept each and every letter they've received. Because of this, the story begins to unfold with every open manuscript; a story not broken by a lost letter or forgotten misplaced memory. Perhaps the rarest group of letter lots ever kept is one in which both "to" and "from" or "writer" and "receiver" (one in the same) are part of one great collection. I am blessed to have such a rare letter lot and it contains over 2,000 letters. I call it the "Lockwood/Adair" letters and you can read more about the collection under the above tab titled, "Gallery."
This is rare indeed. To actually come across handwritten diaries, letters, journals, scrapbooks, photo albums and other ephemera and yet all belonging to one family, well it's truly remarkable. I have always been so passionate about never splitting up and selling off family lots as separate pieces. I could go on and on about why, but the reasons to me seem obvious; a broken story, unanswered questions, a face without a name....need I say more.
One might think that diaries and journals are not different, but I usually categorize them separately. To me a diary is more of a personal intimate devotional with daily activities also being shared. This doesn't mean that I don't at times call it "keeping a personal journal" but the definition of "journal" is vast and because of this I categorize handwritten poetry and autograph albums, expense ledgers, copybooks, ships logs, handwritten musings and the like, under this category titled journals.
I often view these as my source of "surprises." A scrapbook filled with cards, letters, invitations, photos, school mementoes, pressed flowers or leaves, and so much more, can really tell a captivating story, especiaslly if one looks deep enough. Many times just on their own, each piece of ephemera pasted to the scrapbook pages has significant historical value but as a group so much more of the story unfolds and the historical and intimate significance only grows.
Here is another category I sometimes consider a source of great surprise. Many times vintage photo albums have handwritten notes under their photos which gives the viewer a small idea as to who this mysterious person is staring back at them. Or perhaps where a forgotten location might be, which until this moment has been frozen in time between the pages of a photo album.But on many occasions photos are not identified, yet upon a closer look through the eyes of a magnifying glass, one can gather clues and hints as to what story lies behind the soon to be discovered image.
Here is a general overview of the kind of things I collect. Then on the next page, the gallery page, you'll find just a few examples of the items in my personal collection.