In a Romanian town on the Danube river, three sisters in love with great writing jumped for joy whenever the postman delivered a new letter from giants Mark Twain, Emile Zola or Jules Verne.
Born in the second half of the 19th century, Antonie, Rovena and Emilia Schwarz devoted their lives to reading and building a treasure trove of autographs and photos, said Ilie Zanfir, director of the VA Urechia library in the eastern city of Galati.
The youngest sister, Emilia, donated 714 letters to the library in 1965.
Zanfir told AFP the first letter dates from 1891 and the last from 1961, but the majority of exchanges occurred during the women's youth, between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
Little is known about the women's private lives, except that they are of Jewish origin, never had any children and that they founded and ran a school dedicated to giving young girls an education.
In their spare time they wrote to famous writers, seeking their advice on reading and current affairs. Not without a little cheek, they also asked them for their photos.
Delighted, the literary stars wrote back. Their replies varied in length from just a few lines to a whole page of reflections on the role of women in society, literature or astronomy, the great passion of the first-born Antonie, who died in 1912 at an unknown age.
In response to Rovena, who died in 1955 aged 87, French writer Emile Zola (1840-1902) wrote: "My advice to you is that you should read my work when either your parents or your husband allow you to."
In January 1896, French novelist Jules Verne, who is known for his lasting influence on the science fiction genre, apologised for refusing to send his picture: "At my age, I won't disturb the sun any more to ask it to fix my traits on the viewfinder."