17 April 2014
by Sarah Werner
1 Comment

Waste not, want not

As all three commenters worked out, this month’s crocodile image is of printer’s waste used as endleaves. You can see the end of the book on the left side of the opening below (note the “finis” marking the end of the text) and the quarto imposition of the scrap paper used as part of the binding on the right side (note the brown-stained holes near the right edge, left by the clasps that were once there):

The last page of Asser's Aelfredi regis res gestae and the recto of the back endleaves of printer's waste from the 1580 Accession Day liturgy.

The last page of Asser’s Aelfredi regis res gestae (on the left) and the recto of the back endleaves of printer’s waste from the 1580 Accession Day liturgy.

The rear endleaves, showing more of the printer's waste.

The rear endleaves, showing more of the printer’s waste.

Printer’s waste is not an unusual thing to see in bindings from this period. Paper was needed to create the binding structure, leftover paper from printing books is available, and voilà! Waste not, want not. Why was there so often scrap paper from the printing process? One reason has to do with the practice of printing by sheets, which are then assembled into gatherings and into the final book: if you want 500 copies of a book, you’ll use 500 sheets of each gathering. But in the printing process, you’d typically print more than the exact number of sheets needed, accounting for errors and overage and the general vagaries of human behavior. So what do you do with those extra sheets? You repurpose them. Continue Reading →

10 April 2014
by Goran Proot

A catchy Italian design

In 1629 Agostino Mascardi’s Italian story about the conspiracy of Count Giovanni Luigi de Fieschi was published—according to a statement on the engraved title page only suggesting an imprint—in an unspecified Antwerp printing shop. Because of that, the edition is entered into the Short Title Catalogue Flanders, but in reality it is probably not a Flemish imprint at all. In this blog post, I will not go into detail about the printing history of this text, which appeared in the same year as well in Milan and Venice, but I will limit myself to a discussion of the layout elements suggesting a non-Flemish origin.

Engraved title page (fol. +1 recto) of the so-called Antwerp edition (Folger 197208)

Engraved title page (fol. +1 recto) of the so-called Antwerp edition (Folger 197208)

Continue Reading →

2 April 2014
by Jaime McCurry

Digital Stewardship: The one with all the definitions

My residency project at the Folger focuses on digital stewardship and preservation practices at the Library. This has, to my delight, involved getting my hands dirty with the Folger web collections and also allowed me to interact with a variety of digital assets being created by the Folger. Now that we’ve reviewed the basics of web archiving, I’d like to talk a little bit more about digital stewardship and digital assets.

Digital stewardship, digital preservation, digital asset… what’s it all mean? The concepts are simpler than you might think. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: digital information is sensitive. To remain accessible and usable for current and future users, digital information needs to be carefully managed through digital stewardship practices. Digital stewardship encompasses all activities related to the care and management of digital objects over time. Proper digital stewardship addresses all phases of the digital object lifecycle: from digital asset conception, creation, appraisal, description, and preservation, to accessibility, reuse, and beyond. This includes everything from choosing a well-documented and widely accepted file format when creating a new object to choosing the right metadata schema to describe the object properly, not to mention storing multiple copies of the digital object file in a variety of locations to combat threats of data loss or corruption. These latter steps, taken after the object is created and described, generally fall under the category of digital preservation. Digital preservation involves processes related to the protection and technical stabilization of digital assets to facilitate continued and future access and usability.  Continue Reading →

27 March 2014
by The Collation

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: April 2014

We’re a few days before the beginning of April still, but who doesn’t want to push this season ahead and get on with spring already? So here is our new crocodile mystery. Some of you will recognize immediately what category of object this is, and if that’s true for you, feel free to push on to try to work out the specifics. Click on the image to enlarge it, share your thoughts in the comments, and come back next week (in April!) to see the answer.


24 March 2014
by Erin Blake

V, u/v, and library transcription rules

You know the saying, “the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from?” You know Sarah’s post about the transcription practices used in The Collation, and Goran’s posts about V and U in titles and imprints of 17th-century Flemish books in the STCV? Welcome to the Anglo-American cataloging rules for transcription in early modern texts, which differ from both.

One of the frustrating things about traditional library cataloging rules is that they require converting uppercase and lowercase letters in titles to “sentence case.” That’s simple with modern publications, where “V” becomes “v” and “U” becomes “u”, but what about books published in the era when the uppercase letterform “V” could be a “u” or “v” depending on its placement in the word, and “U” didn’t exist at all? Take this engraving from the late 16th century, for instance:

Depiction of the production of silk. In the foreground, seated to right, Emperor Justinian sits under a canopy and converses with monks; in the background, seen through a window, women look after silk worms and weave silk.

Jan van der Straet, (1523-1605). Ser, siue, Sericus vermis. Antwerp: Philippe Galle, ca. 1591. Folger Shakespeare Library ART Vol. f81 no.8.

The title appears on this engraving as “SER, SIVE SERICVS VERMIS” (in English, “SILK, OR THE SILK WORM”). Because “V” was the only uppercase letterform at the time for what can appear as “u” or “v” in lowercase, what do you do with the “V”s when converting the all-caps title to sentence case?  Continue Reading →

21 March 2014
by Heather Wolfe

Aphorism therapy, or, How to cope with dishonest relatives

Poor Walter Bagot (1557-1622). A busy county official in Staffordshire and head of a large extended family with typically complicated financial arrangements, he was on the receiving end of a constant flow of requests, complaints, and excuses. Occasionally, these letters inspired him to reach for his commonplace book and inscribe an appropriate aphorism on them, or else to compose his own proverbs in order to express his growing frustration.

"Viuat Anthonius / for Francis is worse."

Detail from Folger MS L.a.570, Letter from Anthony Kinnersley to Walter Bagot, May 11, 1613. Click on this image and all other images to see the full letters.

At first I thought these aphorisms were random jottings unrelated to the content of the letters on which they were written. After all, there are other notes on many of the letters, including calculations, lists, and handwriting practice. Some letters in the collection contain proper endorsements in the same italic hand, such as “My sister Lane,” “My sister Trew.” But after reading the letters, the connection between the aphorisms and the content that triggered them was easy to spot.  Continue Reading →

19 March 2014
by Sarah Werner

From tweet to resource

This is the story of how a tweet can grow into an amazing scholarly resource. (And it ends with a plea for you to help!)

Just over a year ago, in January 2013, I was looking through the Folger’s collection of Greek texts so that I could find works for a course assignment on describing books. (My intent was to drum into them the necessity of looking at books as an activity that is separate from reading them—and what better way to do that than to ensure that they’re in a language they cannot read?) As part of that browsing, I pulled up a 1517 Aldine edition of Homer’s works, and was blown away by the abundance of annotations in the first part of the book. And so I did what I often do when I see something exciting in the reading room, thanks to the Folger’s policy permitting reader photography: I snapped a picture and tweeted it out.

a heavily annotated opening from the Folger's 1517 Aldine Homer

a heavily annotated opening from the Folger’s 1517 Aldine Homer

Continue Reading →

13 March 2014
by Guest Author

Extensions of the book

A guest post by Daniel Shore

Working in the Folger Shakespeare Library over the past eight months, I’ve felt some dissonance between the rich physical resources of the Library and the digital focus of my book project, Cyberformalism, which explores the capacity of full-text searchable archives like Early English Books Online to expand the domain of philological inquiry to new objects of knowledge. Advanced search tools, I argue, allow us to uncover the history not just of words but of linguistic forms: phrases, formulas, moods, syntactic constructions, etc. Though the philological stories I tell stretch over hundreds or even thousands of years, their main events take place primarily in my period of expertise, the seventeenth century.

Yet at the Folger I have often felt peculiarly distant from the early modern books that I’ve been writing about. Day in and day out, I’ve spent more time in front of a screen than a printed page, most often with Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP) texts, which are keyed versions of scans of microfilm reproductions of books and pamphlets that, in many cases, sit on shelves a few floors below the desk where I work. Rather than reading all the sentences in any individual book from first to last, I’ve more often read through hundreds or thousands of isolated sentences plucked from texts in the EEBO-TCP archive, sometimes wondering if “reading” is the right word for this activity. Other researchers at the Library have confided to me that they, too, have occasionally felt the dissonance of working primarily with digital texts even as the printed book sits waiting nearby. But the demands of my digital project have intensified my sense of shamefully neglecting the Folger’s real treasures.

While the primary goal of Cyberformalism is to explore the methods of philological inquiry opened up by digital texts and search engines, it also aims to situate search in a longer history of textual finding tools. To understand this history, my first port of call has been the scholarship of book historians like Anne Blair, Anthony Grafton, William Sherman, and Richard and Mary Rouse, but I’ve also leapt at the occasional opportunity to take off my digital mittens and attend to the book as a textured, three-dimensional thing, structured for use and bearing the marks of its users. One book in particular, a work of Latin philology written by the humanist Niccolò Perotti and first published in 1489 (and often reprinted—the Folger’s copy is of a 1494 edition), has prompted me to rethink my basic assumptions about the nature of search engines and finding tools more generally.  Continue Reading →

7 March 2014
by Goran Proot

V and U in 17th-century Flemish book imprints

In my last blog post I discussed the use of “V” and “U” in titles on title pages of 17th-century books published in Flanders. For this blog post I surveyed two extra elements which often appear on title pages as well: the place of publication and the name of the printer/publisher as they appear in the imprint. I wondered whether we would see the same trends when it comes to the use of “V” substituting for “U” as we had in titles.

Let us first look at the place of publication in imprints. For this exercise I selected all records in the Short Title Catalogue Flanders (STCV) with exactly one imprint on the title page which includes a year of publication. That resulted in a data set of 9,544 records of works dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. In 992 cases we are dealing with a place of publication featuring either a “u” or a “v”, including instances where a “v” is used in the place of a “u.” The places of publication include Bruges, Brussels, Coutrai (Dutch: Kortrijk), Ipris Flandrorum (Ypres), and Louvain (Dutch: Leuven). An example can explain this: to render the name of Bruges (Brugis, Brugge, Brughe, Brugghe, Brugae, etc.), the compositor could use either a “u” or a “v” and print the name as follows: “Brvgis,” “Brvgge,” “Brvghe,” “Brvgghe,” or “Brvgae.” The first graph below shows how the custom of using “u” or “v” changed during the 17th century.  Continue Reading →

4 March 2014
by Erin Blake

A print pricked for transfer

So, what’s up with the crocodile mystery for March? As I said in the comments, Tom Reedy was verrrrry close with “It looks like some sort of device using punctures along a line to allow powder or ink to pass through and transfer the outline of a drawing to another surface.” It isn’t itself such a device. Rather, it is evidence of such a device having been made. It is an extreme close-up of the back of an early 17th-century print that was used to create a pin-prick stencil:

Back of a print showing pin-prick outline of a flower

Back of plate 20 of Folger copy of Crispijn van de Passe, Hortus floridus, 1615

Engraving of two carnations

Front of plate 20 from Folger copy of Crispijn van de Passe, Hortus floridus, 1615

Continue Reading →