Notes from a Library Volunteer: “Paul,” “Ted” and “Lisa”

Near the ground, on a shelf filled mostly with copies of Ampersand magazine and photos from past Roadworks events, stand eight unassuming hard-backed folders – the kind that hold loose-leaf papers if you want to actually make sure that they stay safe. They are titled ambiguously:

  • Paul
  • Ted
  • Our Family Travels (two volumes)
  • Lisa (two volumes)
  • Celia Said
  • Our Family Matters

These titles are handwritten & stuck on labels on the folders’ spines, but carefully gold-pressed on their covers.

I’m sure you’re wondering (as I did) what could possibly be enclosed within these folders? Get ready for this: literally thousands of painstakingly hand-set letters – it seems, in fact, to be every single letter that one Irving Weinberg ever received in his entire life. They range from advice on how to get married to descriptions of a family trip in Austria to letters his mother sent him whole he was at camp to letters his daughter sent him while she was at camp.

A short taste:

Jul. 16, 1960

Dear Mommy and Dad,

I am saying my prayers every night.

I miss you very much and hope you miss me too.

I like Mom’s pictures and wish to see more.

I hope you have a good time.

I have a rock collection and it is growing.

We played ball. I made a homer.

By                       Love, Lisa

I don’t pretend to understand what made Irving save all of these letters (to say nothing of typesetting and printing each one) but I absolutely love this strange, sincere collection.

Please visit the library at the San Francisco Center for the Book and discover them yourself.

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Zoe
Zoe
Zoe is a student at Reed College, and an amateur playwright. During the summer of 2013 she is a volunteer at SFCB contributing her time and wit to the library and her sorting talents to the California job cases in the print studio.

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