The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: June 2013

The last few crocodile mysteries have zoomed in on details. Here, for a change of pace, we’re zooming out to a full-page spread:

June crocodile (click to enlarge)
June crocodile (click to enlarge)

In the past crocodiles have been about categories of objects, not necessarily the specifics. But a few of you might recognize exactly what this is and who is responsible for it, and you can leave those answers in the comments below. And as always, it’s not only the specifics of the object that is of interest but what we might learn from it. Stay tuned for the reveal next week!


  • This looks like Gabriel Harvey’s copy of Lodovico Domenichi’s Facetie. The unmistakable marginalia & running titles give it away.

    • Yes, that’s it! Harvey’s hand, for those who have come across it, is distinctive. But for those who haven’t, I assume it just looks like any old hand.

      I’m happy to see any other comments about Harvey or Domenichi’s work–I’ll confess I don’t know much about it.

      And I’ll share why I chose this next week…

      • I look forward to hearing the reason for the choice! Like so many others, I find Harvey’s marginalia to be truly fascinating.

        Another reason why I was able to identify Harvey’s book here was because I’ve been reading Virginia Stern’s ‘Gabriel Harvey: His Life, Marginalia, and Library’ (1979). It features a lot of useful information regarding Harvey’s annotations and symbols (including the circle you can see here twice), as well as an extensive bibliography of books that once belonged to him (now scattered among various institutional libraries).

        This Domenichi volume was printed in Venice in 1571, and although Harvey’s notes are in Latin here, he was certainly able to read Italian. His copy of John Florio’s ‘First Fruites’ (1578) is at the Houghton Library, and his marginal comments reveal his desperation to learn Italian at this time (he was particularly annoyed, actually, because Elizabeth claimed he had the face of an Italian [“vultum . . . Itali”], and thus it seemed like he should also have the mouth and tongue of an Italian [“cur non etiam os, et linguam?”]. Harvey also possessed a copy of Scipio Lentulo’s Italian Grammer (1575), Pierre du Ploiche’s ‘Treatise in English and French’ (1578) and Antonio del Corro’s ‘Spanish Grammer’ (1590). Some of these language-learning books seemed to have been bound together, and they can now be found at the Huntington. So, although Harvey was certainly proficient in the classics, he took it upon himself to learn vernaculars as well. I’m not as familiar with this Domenichi volume as I am with Harvey’s grammar books and dictionaries, but it seems to evince nonetheless his capability with Italian in the service of his “pragmatic reading.”

  • I confess that the first thought through my head was “I don’t know whose writing that is, but I do know that he can’t trim a nib for beans.”

  • Sorry– I posted my comment without realizing others had already identified Harvey. What gave him away for me was his irrepressible pattern of using every available margin– and then some. I haven’t seen other annotators of the Folger’s books who packed so much into so little white space in 16th century books.

    All his marginalia here seems to be in Latin, but many of his annotations are macaronic.

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