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

Now that we’re back to our regular twice-weekly schedule of posts, it’s time to bring back our crocodile mystery series!1 As a refresher, the series posts a mystery item at the (approximate) beginning of each month, inviting speculations in the comments about what it is and what its significance might be. The following week one of our regular authors shares the reveal and explanation.

Here, then, is your mystery for the last month of the year 2013:

What's this?

What’s this?

Please share your thoughts and observations and questions below in the comments and come back next week for the reveal!

  1. Can’t remember why we refer to these things as crocodiles? It’s a reference to a line from Antony and Cleopatra—check out Sarah’s explanation back in the series debut. []

Author: The Collation

The Collation is the author used for "crocodile mystery" posts, Q&A's with Folger staff, and other general posts.


  1. Is it two colour printing (red first, black second) where the printer has made a mistake correctly registering the paper for the second pass through the press?

  2. It is definitely that! (The black is on top of the red so, as you note, it must have been printed second.)

    Now for the harder mystery—anyone have any thoughts on what text this might be?

    Update: See Deborah’s comment and my response below. This is a mistake and the black is on top of the red, but the problem isn’t the registration…

  3. A mistake, yes, but not actually a registration mistake …

  4. I’d have a guess at something to do with birds/ornithology maybe?

    • While Dove and Swallow are types of birds, this is not the subject of the work (and see the comments above–I accidentally misread your comment and answered it incorrectly!).

  5. Is it an almanac, by any chance?

  6. So Jordan’s got the general sense of the book right: Dove and Swallow both made almanacs that were printed in Cambridge. (That’s some pretty powerful googling mojo!) The answer of how Swallow came to overprint Dove is a bit complicated to go into here, but next week’s post will explain all!

  7. Don’t miss the stirring conclusion to this mystery, “‘Tis the season for almanacs”!

%d bloggers like this: