The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Erin Blake

I learned to read Secretary Hand!!!! (And so can you)

Ever seen little kids at the swimming pool excitedly shouting “Look what I can do!!!!” after daring to jump off the big-kid diving board? That’s me right now, having just returned from Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I took Heather Wolfe’s week-long paleography class, “The Handwriting & Culture of Early Modern English Manuscripts.” Look what I can do!!!! I can read Secretary Hand!!!!… Continue Reading

A Photographic Facsimile from 1857

The July Crocodile Mystery showed a “detail from a printed play” and asked what’s up with the strangely uneven tone of the page. What’s up is that although the text is printed, it is not printed in ink. It is a severely and unevenly faded photographic print. Here is the full page: Leaf 18 from James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps’s 1857 photographic facsimile of The famous victories of Henry the fifth.… Continue Reading

New Vault Material Walks Into a Library…

New staff members (and researchers!) are sometimes surprised to find that on-order and newly received collection materials show up in Hamnet searches. Many special collections libraries keep that information staff-only until the material has arrived, been processed, and sent to the vault. But it doesn’t feel right to us to hide information that might be useful to researchers. Even if you can’t see an item right now because it was only ordered yesterday, you at least know that it exists, and is on its way.… Continue Reading

Manuscripts in libraries: catalog versus finding aid

When searching for manuscripts at the Folger—or pretty much any special collections library—it helps to know that manuscripts often lead a double life. Many exist simultaneously as part of a library, and as part of an archive, and libraries and archives have different ways of collecting, organizing, and describing material. Libraries contain deliberately purchased items, and these items tend to be arranged in a human-devised order (“artificial arrangement” in Information Science jargon).… Continue Reading

Looking through the hole in a torn-open letter

Well, I thought the January 2017 Crocodile Mystery was going to be a tricky one, but Misha Teramura not only identified the phenomenon correctly (an endorsement written across the hole created when an early modern letter was torn open at the wax seal), he pinpointed the letter in question: Folger MS L.a.874, a letter from Edward Stafford, 12th Baron Stafford, Stafford Castle, to Walter Bagot and Walter Chetwynd, 6 May 1599. … Continue Reading

Folger Tooltips: Making the most of Hamnet’s “Keyword Anywhere” search box

I used to hate Hamnet’s one-box “Basic Search”—the landing page you get when you click the “Search” tab at http://hamnet.folger.edu—but two things happened last Thursday to change this. What caused the change of heart? Read on. First, the Basic Search now defaults to “Keyword Anywhere*” instead of “Name Browse.” This means that even if you meant to select a different search option, you at least stand a chance of getting something useful if you just type something then hit “Enter” without thinking.… Continue Reading

Uncut, unopened, untrimmed, uh-oh

Do you despair when when you hear “decimate” used to describe a reduction of more than ten percent? Does seeing the caption “Big Ben” on a souvenir postcard showing a London clock tower rather than the largest bell within it make you cringe? If so, heed this warning: never use the phrase “uncut leaves” when describing a book. Even though you know that you’re using it with precision, and even though I know that you know, using it at all keeps a confusing phrase in circulation.… Continue Reading

An unfinished gold-tooled binding

July’s Crocodile mystery asked: why is this binding interesting? There are any number of answers, but the one I had in mind was: it’s unfinished. Last week’s picture shows the front cover of Folger call number STC 13051.3, the 1630 edition of A helpe to memory and discourse: with table-talke, as musicke to a banquet of wine. It’s 14 cm high, bound in dark blue goatskin, and has a strange-looking pattern of gold-tooled flowers and circles.… Continue Reading

Signature statements in book cataloging

Today’s post returns to the cliffhanger at the end of Tuesday’s Physical description in book cataloging overview: if [4], CXXII leaves : ill. ; 31 cm (fol.) forms a complete physical description in a library catalog, then what’s up with a4 A-O8 P10 and where does it fit in? a4 A-O8 P10 is an example of a signature statement, sometimes also called a collation (one of the many meanings of “collation” for which this blog is named).… Continue Reading

Physical description in book cataloging

Does a4 A-O8 P10 make perfect sense to you? If so, please read on anyway. This isn’t a post on how to decode a collational formula. It’s a post about what to expect (and what not to expect) in the “physical description” portion of a library catalog record for a book.1 In other words, the part that looks like this in a Hamnet record, taking the record for the 1513 Venetian edition of Macrobius’s Commentaries on the Dream of Scipio as an example:2 Example of a “physical description” in a Hamnet record.… Continue Reading

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