The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Carrie Smith

Bell’s nightmare continued

This post is a continuation of “John Bell, bibliographic nightmare.” I began to write these posts while entrenched in the difficult task of cataloging the library’s myriad copies of Bell’s 18th-century Shakespeare publications as a means of sharing a look into the unique, maddening world of Mr. Bell. In the last post, Sarah and I shared some background information about John Bell and why I considered him a bibliographic nightmare.… Continue Reading

John Bell, bibliographic nightmare

Some books are more challenging than others; some bibliographic questions are more complicated than others. This is the first of two posts that looks at a particularly challenging cataloging question. Today’s post will set up the challenge; the next one will take you into the nitty gritty of the “bibliographic nightmare” that is John Bell. 1 John Bell (1745-1831) was a bookseller and a printer who was a major player in the London book trade and who has been alternately referred to as enterprising, pugnacious, and “that mischievous spirit, the very Puck of booksellers.” 2 One of his claims to fame is being the printer with the curious distinction of having discontinued the use of the long ‘s’.… Continue Reading

Battling over 18th-century rights to Shakespeare

In working on the Shakespeare Collection NEH grant-funded project for the past year, I have learned more than I ever imagined possible regarding the history of eighteenth-century publishing, particularly the “Shakespeare copyrights” and ownership disputes between booksellers. The feud between booksellers Jacob Tonson and Robert Walker is just such an example. In the early eighteenth century, the Tonson firm held the copyright for Shakespeare works, publishing fine editions by popular editors such as Alexander Pope and Nicholas Rowe.… Continue Reading

Cataloging and preserving the Shakespeare collection

Cataloging and Preserving the Shakespeare Collection is a three-year project at the Folger Shakespeare Library funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Catalogers are working to create and upgrade definitive records for the Folger’s more than 5,000 Shakespeare works in print from the 18th through 20th centuries. In addition to cataloging the books and making the records available online, the project brings together a team of curators, conservators, and reference members in order to conserve the materials for future generations of scholars, with procedures such as sending high spot volumes for off-site deacidification, as well as housing vulnerable materials in phase boxes, to preserve structural integrity.… Continue Reading