The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery

A promptbook in disguise

It’s time to pull back the curtain on last week’s crocodile mystery: that weird woven material is a close-up photograph of the cover of a promptbook! Both commenters who took a guess last week came pretty close. This particular promptbook was used during an 1838 production of Woman’s wit, or, love’s disguises at the Tremont Theatre in Boston, probably by an actor named Thomas Barry, who performed in New York and Boston during the mid-19th century.… 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


Scissors inside books?

The rusty outline we showed in last week’s Crocodile post is, as one of our responders, Giles Bergel, correctly guessed, from a pair of scissors. It appears in Folger First Folio number 58, in Henry IV, part 1 (pp. 50-51). This First Folio is currently in the Folger Great Hall, along with nineteen other First Folios, for the exhibition First Folio!Continue Reading


Spirit rapping and other things that go bump in the night

This month’s Crocodile Mystery was a bit of a trick, rather than a treat (although hopefully this post will fulfill the treat aspect)—as far as I know, it really is just a fancy, decorated letter A. This is one of those situations where context is everything! It appears at the top of the hand-written cover of the 1864 second edition of A discovery concerning ghosts: with a rap at the “spirit-rappers” by George Cruikshank.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: November 2016

Welcome to the November Crocodile Mystery! Take a look at the image below and tell us, if you can, what it is and where it appears in our collection? As always, leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, and check back next week for a more detailed post! Edit: Photo software seems to be trying to make this mystery even more complicated than it already is; please note that if you click on the image for a larger version, that image is (for some reason I cannot suss out) displaying upside down.… Continue Reading

I have sent you a Privy Seal…

The answer to last week’s crocodile mystery? As Jan Kellett correctly pointed out in her comment to the October Crocodile Mystery, the red-orange concentric circles in this image are an “offset mark made by a seal.” The mark was made by the waxy residue and impression from a privy seal which was once enclosed within a letter. Early modern letters often mention things enclosed (another letter, seeds, a lock of hair, a recipe, a poem) but rarely do we see the proof of such an enclosure.… Continue Reading


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