19 August 2014
by The Collation

In memoriam: Nadia Seiler

“It’s satisfying to put the pieces of a puzzle together when we can, but it’s just as exciting to think of the undiscovered treasures that might be hiding in this collection.”—Nadia Seiler

Nadia Seiler (1978-2014)

Nadia Seiler (1978-2014)

To be a great cataloger is to love a puzzle, to obsess over details, and to delight in sharing discoveries. Nadia Seiler was one such cataloger, someone whose work contributed to the scholarly record and whose joy in revealing collection materials helped shape what we do. In her seven years at the Folger, Nadia added 2,614 records to Hamnet, edited thousands more, and was responsible for describing 4,208 individual manuscripts in Folger finding aids. She identified a previously unattributed autograph poem from noted writer Hannah More to theater impresario David Garrick (Y.d.1089 (18)). Her familiarity with, and interest in, Shakespeare and the Folger’s collection made her the perfect assistant to Folger Director Michael Witmore and artist Rosamund Purcell as they prepared their 2012 exhibit, “Very Like a Whale,” which sought to forge connections between Shakespeare’s words and the spiraling associations they provoke across the Folger collection and into the domains of natural history and photography.

Describing Nadia’s accomplishments this way doesn’t do full justice to her work as a cataloger. She was a quick learner, someone who mastered the art of paleography and who rose to the challenge of describing complex manuscripts in just a few sentences. She and Heather Wolfe had a standing monthly appointment for a “manuscript cataloging party” where they would discuss the most vexing of her cataloging challenges—a party that Heather describes as “a two-person masterclass on manuscript interpretation.” Some sense of Nadia’s skills with finding paths into complicated manuscripts can be seen in her Collation posts on 17th-century recipes for treating breast cancer and on hidden collections.

Above all, she was a joyful cataloger, someone who loved to share her work with colleagues, calling them over to her desk to see what she was working on or laughing with them in the tea room about what she’d found. Her Facebook feed was full of tidbits from her work, sharing sometimes cryptic status updates—”Peg legs–17th century, depicted“—and tantalizing photos:

"This receipt book is making me hungry"

“This receipt book is making me hungry” (V.a.261). — posted on January 28, 2013

"World's largest wine cask aka Today's cataloging aka I want to go to there"

“World’s largest wine cask aka Today’s cataloging aka I want to go to there” (ART 267- 889). — posted on April 22, 2014

"So, uh...whatcha planning on doing with these ingredients" (V.a.626)

“So, uh…whatcha planning on doing with these ingredients” (V.a.626). — posted on May 29, 2014

Researchers aren’t always lucky enough to meet the catalogers who create the resources so necessary to scholarship. Those of us who worked with Nadia know how special of a presence she was. We are all lucky to have had Nadia in our lives.

Nadia with Viola, Lynn Redgrave's dog, while packing up her archives in 2010

Nadia with Viola, Lynn Redgrave’s dog, while packing up the Lynn Redgrave papers and archive in 2012

12 August 2014
by Erin Blake

Free cultural works! Come get your free cultural works!

It’s official: pictures in the Folger’s Digital Image Collection are now licensed CC BY-SA! That is, they can be used under a Creative Commons Attribution–ShareAlike 4.0 International License, one of the two Creative Commons licenses “approved for free cultural works.” That’s almost 80,000 images, and counting. We’ve already started adding images to Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedia and elsewhere, and encourage you to do the same. Here’s the message that now appears at the bottom of every page in the database: Continue Reading →

5 August 2014
by Goran Proot

Miracles lately vvrovght: the use of “vv” for “w” in 17th-century titles

In earlier posts I surveyed the use of “v” for “u” in titles and imprints of books printed in the Southern Netherlands. In both cases, this habit clearly faded out in the course of the seventeenth century. These findings, in combination with the following title page, prompt the question what happens with the combination of “V”s representing a “W.”

VV used for W on a 1606 title page. Copy Folger STC 18746

“VV” used for “W” on a 1606 title page (Folger STC 18746)

The best known example of this usage of “VV” for “W” probably is the title page of the First Folio. The reason for the usage of the combination of two “V”s is that originally the “W” was not included in the printer’s lettercase.

I was wondering whether the “VV” for “W” would disappear in the course of the seventeenth century at the same time as the “V” for “U” in title words of books printed in the Southern Netherlands. Continue Reading →

31 July 2014
by Sarah Werner
1 Comment


Sometimes books surprise us, and not always for the reasons we expect. Is there something unusual about the book below? Is is maybe a bit more narrowly oblong than usual?

a 16xx Barlement

an oddly shaped book

Two years ago, I took Rare Book School’s course on descriptive bibliography. It was a great experience—it immersed me, and a group of other similarly dedicated biblionerds (as one of my friends affectionately refers to those of us who ooh and ahh at the intricacies and oddities of rare books), into the details of producing descriptions of rare books according to the established principles of bibliographical description. (“What would Bowers do?” was our mantra.)  Continue Reading →

29 July 2014
by Rachel Stevenson

Something wiki this way comes, or, Welcome to Folgerpedia!

For the past seven months, a small team of dedicated colleagues here at the Folger have been working very hard to bring you a new online, interactive tool that we hope will inspire collaboration and serve the Folger community. With this blog post, I invite you to explore, cultivate, and contribute to the newest resource at the Folger: our wiki, Folgerpedia!

screenshot of Folgerpedia landing page

screenshot of Folgerpedia landing page

Folgerpedia is an infinitely updateable, constantly growing encyclopedia of all things Folger and of interest to the Folger community. The wiki platform (MediaWiki, the same platform as Wikipedia) allows for collaborative generation of information surrounding our collection, Library, institution, programming, education initiatives, and the literature, culture, and history of early modern England and Shakespeare. To explore its wealth, all you need to do is navigate to http://folgerpedia.folger.edu/ or put “Folgerpedia” in your favorite search engine. You can browse the site by simply enter a keyword in the search bar or by following links to highlighted or recently edited articles.

Folgerpedia presents a source for information generated by you: readers, researchers, scholars, and Folger friends who wish to share your knowledge, your research process and its results, data you have generated using our collections, and more. We encourage you to share information on your favorite topics and to collaborate with others who share your interests while also learning from users who generate content on Folgerpedia. There is so much you can do with Folgerpedia:  Continue Reading →

24 July 2014
by Guest Author

Interiority and Jane Porter’s pocket diary

A guest post by Julie Park

It’s been a critical commonplace after Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel to view the novel as the first literary form to represent psychological individuality in the context of everyday life. My research, however, examines how the spaces and objects of daily life in eighteenth-century England worked as vehicles of interior experiences in their own right. Working from this angle might change our conceptions of the novel, not only its historical relationship to how selfhood is defined, but also its relationship to the material culture of the greater society around it.

By using my Folger long-term fellowship to look at written documents of daily life from real eighteenth-century lives, I thought I might complicate claims about the early novel’s method of representing interior or psychological experience through diurnal structures. One line of my exploration was how a form of portable interiority surfaced in the small books that were designed for carrying in one’s pocket. The novel itself, in its eighteenth-century print manifestation, was pocket-sized, conveying not only its affordability and portability, but also its ability to be held in the hand and worn against the body. Just as the novel conveyed its own interior worlds to readers, the experience of reading the physical book created an interior world between the novel and its reader, even when carried into exterior settings, from pleasure gardens to carriages for travel.

Among the holdings of eighteenth-century pocket-sized books I found at the Folger is The Ladies Memorandum Book, for the Year 1796 (M.a.17), a green leather book with gold tooling around its edges. At 12×7.5 cm, it can easily be held in the palm of one’s hand. Its fore-edge is covered by a flap that extends from the front cover and is attached to the back by a gold clasp. Flipped to its back, with its diagonal seamed flap, the book resembles a modern day envelope. Yet its sides are left open, and there is a thickness to its body created by the stack of pages sewn into its spine. Further examination of the book will reveal it indeed functions as much of an envelope and a pocket as a book.

The front cover (left) and back (right) of the pocket diary

The front cover (left) and back (right) of the pocket diary

Continue Reading →

22 July 2014
by Heather Wolfe

Print or manuscript? Civilité type in early modern England

Have you ever received a fundraising letter in the mail that looks handwritten, or has a “handwritten” postscript or post-it note? This is an attempt, of course, to make the letter feel more personal. The recipient of the request is supposed to be intrigued: “Gee, this organization actually put some thought and time into their message, and I owe them a response.” This can backfire, of course, when the recipient realizes that the letter is a direct mail campaign, with nothing personal about it.

Fundraising is a time-honored tradition. Hark back to the seventeenth century, when James I began his own money raising campaign with a series of handwritten privy seal letters requesting loans, to be paid back within eighteen months.

Below is an example of an appeal for a loan to fund military provisions in Ireland. It has the equivalent of a James’s signature at the top (“By the King”) and is counter-signed at the bottom by Frances Mylles.  Continue Reading →

17 July 2014
by Sarah Werner and Erin Blake

So how do you find symbols in signature marks?


In my last post, I showed some examples of books that use symbols in signature marks. But how did I find these books and how might you find more examples? It’s one thing to search for books printed in the year 1542, since “publication year” is a standard search box and “1542″ is written in standard typography. But you can’t really type “¶” into a search box and get useful results. (Okay, you might be able to type “¶” into your search box but you’ll get something like what Hamnet spits out: “The system could not interpret your search statement.”)

I got started on this path I saw this tweet from the digitization folks at University of Oklahoma:  Continue Reading →

15 July 2014
by Sarah Werner

The symbols of signature marks

I’ve written before about what sort of information we can learn from studying signature marks, and Goran wrote recently about the use of Latin abbreviations to indicate the gathering. So I thought the time has come to look at some of the other types of marks we find in signature marks.

What comes before A?

title page of Foure Sermons of Maister John Calvin

title page of Foure Sermons of Maister John Calvin

This 1579 translation of Jean Calvin’s Quatre sermons avec exposition du Pseaume 87 (STC 4439) begins with a dedicatory epistle from the translator John Field and a letter to the reader from Calvin. The sermons themselves follow, beginning on A1r and continuing through H3v. But if the main text starts with A, how are the preliminaries signed? With symbols, obviously!

signing the opening leaves of Calvin's Four Sermons

signing the opening leaves of Calvin’s Foure Sermons

Continue Reading →

9 July 2014
by Sarah Werner

Identifying a leather bookplate

As became clear in the robust conversation around this month’s crocodile mystery, what we’re looking at is a leather bookplate—a circular, good-tooled leather bookplate stamped with the initials “E. H.” and a rose. While the object itself might have been easy to recognize, working out what the specifics of it were revealing was a bit harder. As Erin noted, the bookplate looked as if it had been cut down from a larger piece, leaving jagged edges rather than the smooth circle one might expect from a die-cut bookplate. On the other hand, the other books bearing this bookplate at the Folger show the same jaggedness. Whoever used this bookplate clearly had a number of them made, but also appears to have had them cut down to size.

On the left, the original bookplate for the crocodile mystery (144- 489q); on the right, another example of the same bookplate (STC 11905)

On the left, the bookplate used for the crocodile mystery (from 144- 489q); on the right, another example of the same bookplate (STC 11905) (click this and other images to enlarge)

So, who is this EH? I came across this bookplate when a student was working on a book with it, and there was no indication of who it belonged to in our records. But it got under my skin—I was certain that since we had others with that mark, and since it was clearly not an inexpensive bookplate, it had to be connected with an owner that could be traced. And so I began what was (in retrospect) a slightly roundabout way of working out who it was.  Continue Reading →