August 25, 2015
by Erin Blake
1 Comment

Folger Tooltips: Making a spreadsheet from raw Hamnet data

Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog, is more than just a searchable inventory of printed books, manuscripts, engravings, paintings, and other resources in the collection. It is also a giant data set, freely available for machine analysis. But there’s a catch: library catalog data is encoded in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging), the coelecanth of the digital world. Developed in the 1960s, this data standard is now a living fossil. It still functions for its original purpose, but doesn’t easily lend itself to analysis by digital humanists.

Raw MARC records are basically eye-readable, but they don’t make any sense until they’re parsed. The long string of digits at the start of the record tells the system how to parse what follows:

Image of block of undifferentiated numbers and letters

Example of raw MARC

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August 18, 2015
by Sarah Hovde
0 comments

Libraries ǂx Special collections ǂv Blogs

How do catalogers make library materials findable? The cataloging process has already been covered here at The Collation—identifying the item and describing its contents so that users and other catalogers alike can compare the book in the catalog record to the book in their hands or the book they want to retrieve from the stacks. At the Folger, we pay particular attention to the artifactual evidence of our items in addition to their contents, and this level of cataloging is enabled by the use of genre and form terms.

Genre and form terms describe what an item is or what physical form it takes, rather than what it is about—a book can be described as being a translation without necessarily including information describing the contents of that translation. In contrast, subject headings are terms which describe the “aboutness” of a book.

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August 11, 2015
by Abbie Weinberg
1 Comment

‘I Grapple him to my Soul with hooks of Steel’

I’m sure all of our readers know that moment when you’re looking for one thing but find something else entirely (some call it serendipity—I just call it research). Such as doing a Name Browse in Hamnet for “Adams” (I believe at the time I was looking for something edited by our former director, Joseph Quincy Adams), and discovering the heading “Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818, correspondent.” I remember being bemused by this discovery, a little perplexed as to why we would have that in our collection, and filing its existence away for another time.

This letter was again brought to my mind last week, with Caroline’s post about pins—as I’m sure many of my fellow musical theatre fans will agree (at least when they’re not busy singing along with the songs from 1776.)

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August 4, 2015
by Caroline Duroselle-Melish
5 Comments

A Pin’s Worth: Pins in Books

The object you see tucked in the gathering of the book in this month’s Crocodile Mystery is a pin.

Recently, I have become aware of the presence of pins in a number of books at the Folger Shakespeare Library. At one time, curators and conservators removed them from the books and placed them in curatorial files. Now, we leave pins where we find them if they do not risk harming the book or the reader. A note in the cataloging record alerts readers to their presence.

This discovery led me to do a bit of research on pins and what they might be doing in our books. During most of the early modern period, they were comprised of two pieces, the shank and its head, both made of metal wire, mostly brass or copper. Molten lead or tin was used to join the head to the shank.

A pin removed from Folger book F1058

A pin removed from Folger book F1058

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July 28, 2015
by The Collation
5 Comments

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: August 2015

It’s nearly August (where has the summer gone?), and you know what that means! Time for another mystery.

At first glance, the “what” of this picture may be obvious. But take a second look. What is this foreign object, and what is it doing here?

STC 2327-cropped

As always, comment with you thoughts, and we’ll be back next week with a full explanation.

July 23, 2015
by Erin Blake
3 Comments

Photostats, or, The more things change, the more they stay the same

Five weeks, and seventeen back-and-forth notes and letters. That’s what it took for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s first director, William Slade, to overcome the architects’ doubts that the library really did need a costly No. 4 Photostat machine and that it really was worth the “troublesome and expensive job” of making it fit into a two-room suite designed for a smaller, cheaper, No. 2 Photostat machine. Why was it so important for the Folger to have a high-capacity Photostat machine?

Simply put, photostats revolutionized the study of rare books in the 1910s and 1920s. For the first time, libraries could quickly make reasonably affordable reproductions of their holdings available for consultation off site. Research that had once been cost-prohibitive because it required in-person travel or photography suddenly became possible.

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July 16, 2015
by Abbie Weinberg
0 comments

State Papers Online: tips and tricks, part 2

In my first post on the State Papers Online, I discussed how to search the database for a document that you already had some sort of reference to, whether that was the document/entry number, or a page number.

In this post, I will look at ways to search State Papers Online more broadly. In general, searching State Papers Online is much like searching any other database, but there are a few things to keep particularly in mind.

Please note that all of the provisos from the first post still apply. Namely:

  • This post (like the previous one) assumes a basic familiarity with the State Papers, both in terms of what they are and how they’re organized, and in terms of the online interface.
  • State Papers Online is a subscription database. That means it is only accessible through institutions that have paid for it. The Folger’s subscription only allows on-site access, at the Folger. Other institutions may allow off-site access; if you are unsure, please contact the librarians at your institution.
  • My way is not the only way! These are tips and tricks that I’ve picked up from working with the database, and in consultation with the people who create the database. They may not work in every situation, and you may find methods that works better for you. Feel free to share in the comments!

And now, on with the searches.

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July 10, 2015
by Heather Wolfe
9 Comments

Marginal calculations; or, how old is that book?

I’d like to make a pitch for recording a specific type of manuscript annotation in printed books and manuscripts: the “book age calculation.” These calculations turn up frequently on pastedowns and endleaves, and sometimes right in the middle of texts. They are usually in pencil, but sometimes appear in ink as well, as in this example from last week’s Crocodile.

Someone in 1872 calculates that this manuscript is 174 years old.

Someone in 1872 calculates that this manuscript is 174 years old.

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