Epistolary formulae and writing experience in Dutch letters from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
The paper discusses epistolary formulae and writing experience in Dutch private letters from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Reviewing research into the history of reading and writing skills in Early Modern Europe, we argue that writing experience varied in the language community across gender, social rank and time. Using the <i>Letters as loot</i> corpus compiled at Leiden University, we show that the distribution of two frequent epistolary formulae is fully in line with the distribution of writing experience. We explain this by arguing that the use of epistolary formulae was convenient to lesser-skilled writers. The paper also argues that there is no reason to assume a great influence of letter-writing manuals on the actual practice of letter writing.