Folger Tooltips: Digital Image URLs, part one

volvelle for pinpointing the north star

volvelle for pinpointing the north star

Hello Collation readers:

Today starts a new series of posts on URL behavior in our image databases, the Folger Digital Image Collection and the Folger Bindings Image Collection. You may remember previous posts providing guidance about URLs in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s OPAC Hamnet. Similarly, one of the benefits of the LUNA digital image database software is the ability for users to link via a static URL to just about any screen at all. Knowing how to create persistent and shortened URLs can be a time-saver as well as a useful way to organize your own notes or share your discoveries with others.

In this post you’ll learn how to link to a specific search, to a specific digital image, or to a zoomed-in detail; future tooltip posts will cover linking to a screen depicting an assortment of hand-selected images, to a “media group” of items pre-selected by you or someone else, and more.

But first: volvelles!

Er, apologies for that enthusiastic nonsequiteur. Truth is, I’ve always been captivated by the pop-ups and moveables made by early modern “paper engineers,” and so my examples today will be chosen from among volvelles appearing in the Folger’s interactive books.

Say for example that–like me–you have fond memories of the Summer 2009 exhibit The Curatorial Eye: Discoveries from the Folger Vault. Do you remember the paper tool for navigating by the north star that appeared in “The Technical Manual” case, from a page in the 1606 3rd edition of Thomas Blundeville’s Exercises (Folger call no. STC 3148 copy 1; Hamnet record: Yeah, me too! Very cool, right? Among my favorite cases in that exhibit were this one, and the one on “How-to Books for Everyday Living”. Both cases were curated by Head of Reader Services Betsy Walsh and Head of Circulation Rosalind Larry. I highly recommend following the above links for Betsy’s and Rosalind’s online descriptions of these early printed “tooltips.” Be sure also to listen to their audio guides; for Rosalind’s discussion of the Blundeville volvelle, check out her mp3 here.

It is worth knowing too that in recent years Folger staff have begun photographing everything that goes on exhibit, with all images of exhibited Folger collection materials added to the online Digital Image Collection, in addition to being used in online exhibitions. So although the image on the Folger website is pretty great of Blundeville’s “Rectificatorium Stellae Polaris” (or the “Rectifier of the North Starre”), I want to share a closer look via LUNA’s zoom tools.

How to link to a search, or to a digital image at

First things first. As in Hamnet, so in either of our digital image databases: the URL that appears in the nav bar of your browser is not your friend (click to big-ify).

don't try to save the digital image collections nav bar URL

don’t try to save the digital image collections nav bar URL

Under no circumstances should you bother trying to save or share with someone the hotlink from a nav bar. It just ain’t gonna work. These URLs expire; their “shelf lives” render them pretty useless pretty quickly. Instead, a “share this” button can be found at pretty much any page you may find yourself on in these databases. It is the “share this” tool that you’ll want to use in order to grab a shortened and static URL, or to quickly send your item up to any number of social media sites:

use the digital image collections "share this" feature

use the digital image collections “share this” feature

So with that important first caveat out of the way, let’s walk through what’s involved in grabbing a digital image URL that won’t “time out” on you:

Step one: search for the item. We’ve provided a variety of digital image collections search tips and how-tos on the Folger website or on this Blog;1 for the purposes of this example I’ll just remind you of the useful advanced search by call number for a known item: use the advanced search field called “Call Number (PDI)” from the “find this exact wording” dropdown … and be encouraged by the reassuring popup that indicates you’ve typed (or better yet, copied and pasted) your call number correctly! Here’s a screenshot:

digital image collection advanced search for a known item

digital image collection advanced search for a known item

Note that this sort of search will bring back all the digital images associated with a given call number; looks like all that’s currently available from STC 3148 copy 1 are the recto and verso of leaf 349:

advanced search for a known item - search results

advanced search for a known item – search results

Step two is deciding whether you are interested in linking to a specific item (or items), or instead to the search you made for those items. A decision to grab a “share this” URL at this point will result not in saving these two particular items per se, but instead you’ll be end up with a URL for the dynamically-generated thumbnail screen retrieved by your search:

digital image collection "share this" search

“share this” search result set

So here’s a caution: if what you are after is a link only to some specific item(s), a URL like this which represents search results may not fit your needs. Why? Because Folger photographers might tomorrow digitize more of the fabulous interactive and sculptural printmaking in this volume (and I surely hope they do) … and if or when that happens, those new items will “auto-magically” end up retrievable via your call number search for STC 3148 copy 1. Is this a bug, or a feature? Well, it depends on what you’re after, I guess.

OK so instead of a search, do you want to save a static URL to retrieve just one and only one of these images? That’s perhaps more straightforward: just click through to the detail view from the page of thumbnails and grab the “share this” link from the image you are interested in; e.g.:

digital image collections "share this" image

“share this” detail view

How to link to a zoomed-in detail:

OK, so far we’ve made use of the “share this” tool on a thumbnail search results view, and on a single item detail view. To save or share a detail where you yourself choose the zoom level and crop you are after, you’ll need to use the “share this” tool from the “workspace.” Here’s an example of another volvelle, a new moon and zodiac volvelle appearing in a 1588 edition of Giovanni Paolo Gallucci’s Theatrum Mundi et Temporis:

add an item to the "workspace" to share a zoom level

add an item to the “workspace” to share a zoom level

Fair warning: clicking “add to workspace” will silently open up a new tab or window, so you might need to poke around in your browser for the new screen. Once there, use the mouse-over viewing tools to resize your panel, and to set the zoom level you’d like.2

And the “share this” button will be available when you’ve got the zoom level and crop you’d like:

digital image collections "share this" zoomed-in workspace

“share this” zoomed-in workspace

Voilà, volvelle!


  1. See in particular the Quick Search Tips, Digital Image Collection How-Tos, Digital Image Collection Tutorials, Folger Tooltips: Cover-to-cover; or, for the Bindings Image Database, our Guide to Fields or Folger Tooltips: Researching bindings. []
  2. Here’s a flash-based tutorial on using the viewing tools in the workspace. []

Author: Jim Kuhn

JIM KUHN was Head of Collection Information Services at the Folger Library until September 2013.


  1. Maybe this will be covered in Part 1+n of Digital Image URLs, but I’m nervous about the above instructions on how to “save a static URL to retrieve just one and only one of these images”. For example, I was just looking for an image of Fortuna, poised on a ball, because I think the Internet might be wrong, and that the phrase “on the ball” isn’t a contraction of “keep you eye on the ball” in rounders, but rather a reference to the importance of keeping your balance in order to have good fortune (which is what I want it to be, because I think sports metaphors are overused; note, however, that I found no verbal evidence to support this, so I just sent the Fortuna image link to the friend who had wondered about it and gave up).

    But getting back to the point: when I copy-and-pasted to get a single image, as described above, the thumbnails in the upper right show ALL the images from the original search, so if my friend clicks on “thumbnails” she can see my original search (“fortuna” as a keyword) and its results. Not a problem in this case, but potentially embarrassing.

    Does that mean that if new images with “fortuna” as a keyword are added to LUNA, following that static URL will bring up the main image as before, but MORE than the 93 thumbnails in the current result?

    • Well gosh. I haven’t the foggiest idea!

      However, it is worth noting in this context that the little thumbnail window can be a bit buggy depending on whether descriptive metadata in your search results includes such “webliographical” characters as ‘&’ or ‘/’ and so on: in such circumstances the thumbnails might just spin, never actually loading in that little thumbnail stripe on the upper right.

      Now I realize that wasn’t your question but the fix I’ll suggest should feed both cats from one bowl, getting rid of both unwanted *or* unresponsive thumbnails from your detail view of a digital image.

      That is: regardless of how you got to the item you’d like to link to, once there mouse over and execute a redirect search from the description on the left. E.g. you might try this: from your link, mouse over “Call number (PDI)”, select “Search Call Number (PDI),” and click through to your detail screen. Then grab *that* share this URL: This will at least narrow your search down to just digital images associated with a particular shelfmark. Alternatively, you might try one of the numeric searches, e.g. “Digital Image File Name (PDI).”

      See how that goes, keeping in mind of course the Usual Caveats (e.g., user interface upgrades, browser (d)evolutions, &cetera).

      • Glad to know I wasn’t the only one with spinning thumbnails, though I could swear it’s relatively new that it happens when using quotation marks to indicate a phrase in the thumbnail-view search box: after performing the search, the left-hand quotation mark turns into the html code for same, the right-hand quotation mark stays as-is, and the thumbnails do the spinny-arrowy thing. But maybe I’m deluding myself when I think that using quotation marks in the generic search box does anything in the first place.

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