29 July 2014
by Rachel Stevenson

Something wiki this way comes, or, Welcome to Folgerpedia!

For the past seven months, a small team of dedicated colleagues here at the Folger have been working very hard to bring you a new online, interactive tool that we hope will inspire collaboration and serve the Folger community. With this blog post, I invite you to explore, cultivate, and contribute to the newest resource at the Folger: our wiki, Folgerpedia!

screenshot of Folgerpedia landing page

screenshot of Folgerpedia landing page

Folgerpedia is an infinitely updateable, constantly growing encyclopedia of all things Folger and of interest to the Folger community. The wiki platform (MediaWiki, the same platform as Wikipedia) allows for collaborative generation of information surrounding our collection, Library, institution, programming, education initiatives, and the literature, culture, and history of early modern England and Shakespeare. To explore its wealth, all you need to do is navigate to http://folgerpedia.folger.edu/ or put “Folgerpedia” in your favorite search engine. You can browse the site by simply enter a keyword in the search bar or by following links to highlighted or recently edited articles.

Folgerpedia presents a source for information generated by you: readers, researchers, scholars, and Folger friends who wish to share your knowledge, your research process and its results, data you have generated using our collections, and more. We encourage you to share information on your favorite topics and to collaborate with others who share your interests while also learning from users who generate content on Folgerpedia. There is so much you can do with Folgerpedia:  Continue Reading →

24 July 2014
by Guest Author

Interiority and Jane Porter’s pocket diary

A guest post by Julie Park

It’s been a critical commonplace after Ian Watt’s The Rise of the Novel to view the novel as the first literary form to represent psychological individuality in the context of everyday life. My research, however, examines how the spaces and objects of daily life in eighteenth-century England worked as vehicles of interior experiences in their own right. Working from this angle might change our conceptions of the novel, not only its historical relationship to how selfhood is defined, but also its relationship to the material culture of the greater society around it.

By using my Folger long-term fellowship to look at written documents of daily life from real eighteenth-century lives, I thought I might complicate claims about the early novel’s method of representing interior or psychological experience through diurnal structures. One line of my exploration was how a form of portable interiority surfaced in the small books that were designed for carrying in one’s pocket. The novel itself, in its eighteenth-century print manifestation, was pocket-sized, conveying not only its affordability and portability, but also its ability to be held in the hand and worn against the body. Just as the novel conveyed its own interior worlds to readers, the experience of reading the physical book created an interior world between the novel and its reader, even when carried into exterior settings, from pleasure gardens to carriages for travel.

Among the holdings of eighteenth-century pocket-sized books I found at the Folger is The Ladies Memorandum Book, for the Year 1796 (M.a.17), a green leather book with gold tooling around its edges. At 12×7.5 cm, it can easily be held in the palm of one’s hand. Its fore-edge is covered by a flap that extends from the front cover and is attached to the back by a gold clasp. Flipped to its back, with its diagonal seamed flap, the book resembles a modern day envelope. Yet its sides are left open, and there is a thickness to its body created by the stack of pages sewn into its spine. Further examination of the book will reveal it indeed functions as much of an envelope and a pocket as a book.

The front cover (left) and back (right) of the pocket diary

The front cover (left) and back (right) of the pocket diary

Continue Reading →

22 July 2014
by Heather Wolfe

Print or manuscript? Civilité type in early modern England

Have you ever received a fundraising letter in the mail that looks handwritten, or has a “handwritten” postscript or post-it note? This is an attempt, of course, to make the letter feel more personal. The recipient of the request is supposed to be intrigued: “Gee, this organization actually put some thought and time into their message, and I owe them a response.” This can backfire, of course, when the recipient realizes that the letter is a direct mail campaign, with nothing personal about it.

Fundraising is a time-honored tradition. Hark back to the seventeenth century, when James I began his own money raising campaign with a series of handwritten privy seal letters requesting loans, to be paid back within eighteen months.

Below is an example of an appeal for a loan to fund military provisions in Ireland. It has the equivalent of a James’s signature at the top (“By the King”) and is counter-signed at the bottom by Frances Mylles.  Continue Reading →

17 July 2014
by Sarah Werner and Erin Blake

So how do you find symbols in signature marks?


In my last post, I showed some examples of books that use symbols in signature marks. But how did I find these books and how might you find more examples? It’s one thing to search for books printed in the year 1542, since “publication year” is a standard search box and “1542” is written in standard typography. But you can’t really type “¶” into a search box and get useful results. (Okay, you might be able to type “¶” into your search box but you’ll get something like what Hamnet spits out: “The system could not interpret your search statement.”)

I got started on this path I saw this tweet from the digitization folks at University of Oklahoma:  Continue Reading →

15 July 2014
by Sarah Werner

The symbols of signature marks

I’ve written before about what sort of information we can learn from studying signature marks, and Goran wrote recently about the use of Latin abbreviations to indicate the gathering. So I thought the time has come to look at some of the other types of marks we find in signature marks.

What comes before A?

title page of Foure Sermons of Maister John Calvin

title page of Foure Sermons of Maister John Calvin

This 1579 translation of Jean Calvin’s Quatre sermons avec exposition du Pseaume 87 (STC 4439) begins with a dedicatory epistle from the translator John Field and a letter to the reader from Calvin. The sermons themselves follow, beginning on A1r and continuing through H3v. But if the main text starts with A, how are the preliminaries signed? With symbols, obviously!

signing the opening leaves of Calvin's Four Sermons

signing the opening leaves of Calvin’s Foure Sermons

Continue Reading →

9 July 2014
by Sarah Werner

Identifying a leather bookplate

As became clear in the robust conversation around this month’s crocodile mystery, what we’re looking at is a leather bookplate—a circular, good-tooled leather bookplate stamped with the initials “E. H.” and a rose. While the object itself might have been easy to recognize, working out what the specifics of it were revealing was a bit harder. As Erin noted, the bookplate looked as if it had been cut down from a larger piece, leaving jagged edges rather than the smooth circle one might expect from a die-cut bookplate. On the other hand, the other books bearing this bookplate at the Folger show the same jaggedness. Whoever used this bookplate clearly had a number of them made, but also appears to have had them cut down to size.

On the left, the original bookplate for the crocodile mystery (144- 489q); on the right, another example of the same bookplate (STC 11905)

On the left, the bookplate used for the crocodile mystery (from 144- 489q); on the right, another example of the same bookplate (STC 11905) (click this and other images to enlarge)

So, who is this EH? I came across this bookplate when a student was working on a book with it, and there was no indication of who it belonged to in our records. But it got under my skin—I was certain that since we had others with that mark, and since it was clearly not an inexpensive bookplate, it had to be connected with an owner that could be traced. And so I began what was (in retrospect) a slightly roundabout way of working out who it was.  Continue Reading →

3 July 2014
by The Collation

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: July 2014

Just in time for the holiday weekend, a new crocodile mystery!

your July mystery

your July mystery


This month’s crocodile mystery will be, for many of you, obvious as a category of object. So there’s an extra challenge: what else can you say about its identity? (Full disclosure: I have a hunch on this, but would love to get confirmation or a different answer from your collective wisdom. And as your reward, we might get to update the associated record in our catalog!)

1 July 2014
by Guest Author

William Dethick and the Shakespeare Grants of Arms

A guest post by Nigel Ramsay

For many visitors to the Folger’s Heraldry exhibit, “Symbols of Honor,” the stars will be the three original draft grants on paper of Shakespeare’s coats of arms. These belong to the English heralds’ long-established institution, the College of Arms in London, and they have never before been out of England.

the three drafts of the grants of arms to Shakespeare's father

the three drafts of the grants of arms to Shakespeare’s father

The Shakespeare grants can be seen to be in the hand of the herald William Dethick. It is surely more than probable that they represent what he discussed with William Shakespeare and wrote down at the time, when the two men were together one day at the College of Arms.

Of course it’s a pity that the resultant formal grants—calligraphically-written parchment documents that would each have had a painting of the Shakespeare arms—no longer survive. Shakespeare’s own archive disappeared centuries ago. Just what the parchments looked like can easily be imagined, however, by looking at some of the contemporary examples of such documents that are in the show. (See, for example, this grant of arms to Stephen Powle.) We can also be absolutely sure that William Shakespeare did use the coat of arms that is the subject of the first two drafts, since this coat appears on his funerary monument in the parish church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Continue Reading →

24 June 2014
by Goran Proot

An argent lion rampant: coats of arms in 17th-c. books

In recent months, the Folger Shakespeare Library added a rare emblem book to its holdings, a thin quarto bound in pasteboards holding 24 unnumbered leaves . The emblem book presents itself as a “new year’s gift” containing 13 engravings: one coat of arms and twelve emblems executed by the prolific engraver Frederik Bouttats. The author of the text is a Jesuit who remains anonymous.

Title page of the 1658 emblem book. The printer’s device of printer Cornelis Woons, the “golden star”, is hand-coloured. Folger 267921, fol. π1 recto.

Title page of the 1658 emblem book. The printer’s device of printer Cornelis Woons, the “golden star,” is hand-colored. (fol. π1r)

The book was produced in 1658 by the Antwerp printer Cornelis Woons, who was active in that city between 1645 and 1673, the year of his death. Woons was a productive printer: the Short Title Catalogue Flanders currently lists 147 titles that refer to him. At least one of those titles is a false imprint: a 1686 edition mentioning his name appeared 13 years after his death and probably has a northern origin, as it discusses the reasons why the reformed faith should be—“according to its own foundations”—untrue to God. The fact that Woons’s name became a method of obfuscation for works with sensitive content can be considered an indirect marker for his success.  Continue Reading →

19 June 2014
by Heather Wolfe and Guest Author
1 Comment

Let’s make a model!

Co-written by Heather Wolfe and Jana Dambrogio

In 2010, Jana Dambrogio and I were thinking independently about slits and stabs in early modern letters. Jana, after having had made many models of the letters of Tomaso di Livieri from the 1580s and 1590s (housed in the Fondo Veneto, Sezione II, in the Vatican Secret Archives), had just seen a letter in London from Elizabeth I that was similar in structure to a format used by her humble Venetian. In this pre-envelope era, some of Livieri’s letters had vertical slits that aligned when the letter was folded shut. A triangular paper wedge was cut from one of the corners of the letter and threaded through the slit to “lock” it shut.

image of teaching model prior to being opened

image of teaching model prior to being opened (model made by Jana Dambrogio)

Detail of a teaching model as it is being unlocked, demonstrating the function of the slit and the triangular piece of paper.

detail of a teaching model as it is being unlocked, demonstrating the function of the slit and the triangular piece of paper

Continue Reading →