July 28, 2015
by The Collation

“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
1 Comment

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

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

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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June 24, 2015
by Caroline Duroselle-Melish

Publishing Against the King: French Civil War Pamphlets

From 1648 to 1653 a civil war, known as the Fronde, raged in France, with the nobility and most of the people of France on one side, and the royal government under the child-king Louis XIV and his hated chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, on the other. The main cause of this civil war was resentment towards the royal government’s encroachment on ancient liberties and increasing taxation, but the Frondeurs were divided into factions and ultimately defeated. “Fronde” means sling, which Parisian crowds used to smash the windows of Cardinal Mazarin’s supporters. The Fronde did not just take place on the battlefields; it was also a battle for minds, and the main weapon here were pamphlets, which came to be known as Mazarinades. The vast majority of these pamphlets were scathingly critical of the royal government, sometimes in scatological or pornographic terms.

An example of Mazarinade mocking Cardinal Mazarin's Italian origin and alluding to his supposed sexual relationship with the Queen Anne of Austria.

An example of Mazarinade mocking Cardinal Mazarin’s Italian origin and alluding to his supposed sexual relationship with the Queen Anne of Austria.

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June 11, 2015
by Paul Dingman

Tagging manuscripts: how much is too much?

When it comes to the subject of tagging or encoding manuscript transcriptions in XML (extensible markup language) for Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO), two important questions are how much should we tag and when should we do it.

With thousands of pages from a variety of genres, the “how much” question is a big one. For example, should tags be used to provide information about ink color, shifts in hand, size or ornamentation of letters, illustrations, marginalia, flourishes, indentations, spacing, symbols, quotations, layout, structure, lines, paper material, historical/literary connections, etymology, smudges, etc., etc.? The images of manuscript pages below give some idea of the challenges involved:

Summary of accounts of the offices of the tents and revels from 1550 to 1555. (L.b.315)

Summary of accounts of the offices of the tents and revels from 1550 to 1555. (L.b.315)

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June 4, 2015
by Abbie Weinberg

State Papers Online: tips and tricks, part 1

The Calendar of State Papers is a well-known historical resource for early modernists across a variety of disciplines. This “calendar,” or register, documents the workings of the British government during the reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts, 1509–1714. For decades, researchers used printed volumes of these calendars to search for the existence of specific documents.

Print edition of the Calendar of State Papers

Just some of the many volumes of the State Papers in the Folger’s Reading Room.

With the advent of online databases, and the cooperation of repositories such as the British Library and National Archives (where many of the documents recorded by the calendars are preserved), a database called the State Papers Online was created. It brings together not only all of the calendars but digitized versions of many of the actual documents, giving researchers a one-stop shop for their needs.

Sounds like a dream, right?

In some ways, it is. But it can also be a very frustrating experience for researcher, as they try to find the materials that they think ought to be in this database. This series of posts will hopefully help to alleviate some of that frustration, by providing some tips and tricks for working with the State Papers OnlineContinue Reading →

June 2, 2015
by Guest Author

The mystery of gridded paper

A guest post by Austin Plann Curley

For a blank sheet of paper, we thought this one was pretty interesting. But before we get to what exactly it is, let’s refresh our understanding of how paper is made.

Prior to the 19th century all paper was made by hand using a mold and a deckle. In the West the papermaker’s mold was a wooden frame with a woven mesh of copper wire. Molds were rectangular in shape, and limited to sizes that could be handled comfortably. For structural reasons, the mold was made using two gauges of wire: heavy wires attached to wooden ribs spanned the width of the frame, and a lighter gauge ran lengthwise. In the papermaking process, these features of the mold each leave their mark on the handmade sheet: the wooden ribs and wires running widthwise (parallel to the short side of the mold) leave marks we call chain lines, and the lighter wires running lengthwise leave laid or wire lines. (The Encyclopédie’s illustration of a paper mold is helpful in visualizing a mold and deckle.)

a vatman at work in a reconstructed mill at Museo della Carta e Filigrana in Fabriano

a vatman at work in a reconstructed mill at Museo della Carta e Filigrana in Fabriano

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May 28, 2015
by The Collation

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

A new month and a new mystery! What can you tell us about this? What is it and why is it interesting?

a mystery to ponder

a mystery to ponder

You know the drill: leave us your thoughts in the comments below, and come back next week for the reveal!

Update 5/30: A commenter asked about watermarks, so here is an image of the full leaf. (Or at least more of the leaf—I didn’t take the photo so I’m not entirely sure of all the context. ^SW)

the full leaf of our mystery item (click to enlarge)

the full leaf of our mystery item (click to enlarge)