It's a letter. It's a book. It's a floor wax. It's a dessert topping.
February 1, 2013 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Is there an official term to describe this style of correspondence, essentially a single long letter written in segments over months and years?

We're cataloging a piece, actually several, of correspondence. It's all from a single author to a single recipient. The first letter is dated, has a salutation, the pages are numbered 1-4 and there's a signature on p.4. The next letter, however, has a date on its first page, but otherwise simply picks up where it left off with page 5, no greeting or signature. And it goes on like that for over a hundred pages, continuous pagination, only interrupted by the date on which that section was written.

Please tell me there's a word for this!
posted by Devoidoid to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
Epistolary? Kind of generic but it does imply "carried on by letters" over time.
posted by mattbucher at 7:23 AM on February 1, 2013

An epistolary saga?
posted by MuffinMan at 7:34 AM on February 1, 2013

A serial?
posted by payoto at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2013

Mmmmmaybe, but it's not a work of fiction. It's kind of the opposite of an epistolary saga. It isn't a story told as a series of letters, it's a series of actual letters that together sort of take the form of a book...
posted by Devoidoid at 8:46 AM on February 1, 2013

A really long letter.

No really, was it ever sent? If not, could it be a personal journal written in an epistolary format?
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:48 AM on February 1, 2013

It was definitely sent as a series of letters from one person to another. The other person was doing the same thing, in fact, and we may even have that side of the correspondence here as well.

Apparently, the author refers to the format as a "progressive letter." We're probably going to go with "a series of continuously paginated letters."
posted by Devoidoid at 11:21 AM on February 1, 2013

I don't know what exactly you call it. So, kind of failing at answering the question. However, I submit The Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard as a sort of illustration of several letters forming a book.
posted by Lynsey at 11:43 AM on February 1, 2013

What do you think of referring to it simply as a "hundred-page letter in twenty-five* installments"? Were I to come across this sort of a tag during research I'd surely appreciate the specificity.

*Or whatever.
posted by mr. digits at 3:00 PM on February 1, 2013

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