In 1697, a Dutch merchant in a letter asked to send him a copy of the death certificate of his cousin. But this carefully sealed letter was never opened for unknown reasons. However, experts managed to read its contents without breaking the wax seal.
For this, a high-resolution X-ray scanner, commonly used in dentistry, was used. This letter is one of about 600 sealed, but unclaimed letters that were placed in a chest by Simon de Brienne and Marie Germain, one of the first postmasters of The Hague.
Before the advent of envelopes, letters were folded and sealed several times. Experts say the letter, due to its dilapidation, could fall apart when trying to unfold it. Therefore, they resorted to X-ray scanning, which made it possible to detect traces of metal in the ink.
Experts hope to use this technology to read other unopened letters from the de Brienne collection, as well as hundreds of still sealed letters from the Prize Papers collection, which contains documents confiscated by the British from captured enemy ships between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Wonders of technology