3 July 2014
Just in time for the holiday weekend, a new crocodile 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
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 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
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-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
Heather Wolfe and Guest Author
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 (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
Continue Reading →
17 June 2014
Deborah J. Leslie
On occasion, interesting and unusual aspects of books, manuscripts, and prints catch the attention of the cataloger at work on them. The office of the Cataloging and Metadata Department (located on Deck A right below the Paster Reading Room) is an open area with a large table in the center, which makes it really easy to show each other the cool stuff we come across. Something interesting, unusual, and cool crossed my desk recently, and it seems a shame not to share it with a wider community.
title page of John Newton’s Tabulae mathematicae
John Newton’s Tabulae Mathematicae, or, Tables of the Naturall Sines, Tangents and Secants, published in 1654, offers up exactly what the title promises: hundreds and hundreds of pages of dense numbers in tabular form. Tucked in among its 452 unnumbered pages is a folded leaf containing (wait for it … ) a table. So far, nothing unusual.
Now we’re getting to the fun part. When the folded leaf is unfolded, we see a lot of wasted space, in stark contrast to the compact printing everywhere else. Continue Reading →
12 June 2014
Sometimes when keyword searching Hamnet, the results include mystery matches: when you Ctrl-V to find the word you’re looking for on the page, it’s not there. That’s because some fields only display on the “MARC view” tab. Usually the information isn’t worth making public. For example, what displays as:
is served up by this underlying Machine Readable Cataloging, or MARC:
The only hidden piece of information is “CMS 20101102″ – the initials of the cataloger who created the record and the date the record was finished.
Sometimes, though, information in a non-public note seems worth bringing to light. When keyword searching for “fingerprints” the other day, the results included the Hamnet record for Folger call number STC 22459b.2 for no apparent reason. That’s because “fingerprints” only appears in a non-public note, which can be revealed by clicking the MARC view tab:
If the information wasn’t meant for public viewing, who was it meant for? Answer: staff of the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). It’s in the 509 field, which Folger ESTC catalogers used in the late 1990s and early 2000s to send messages back and forth to ESTC Headquarters. Sometimes entire conversations about an item take place in the 509. Continue Reading →
10 June 2014
So the mysterious eye of this month’s crocodile belongs to no other than Shakespeare, as some readers immediately recognized:
Droeshout’s engraving of Shakespeare on the title page of the First Folio
More specifically, it is Shakespeare’s
left right eye as depicted in the third state of the Droeshout engraving from one of the Folger’s copies of the First Folio. If you’re wondering why I chose his eye as the June crocodile, that previous sentence is key: the portrait of Shakespeare engraved by Martin Droeshout for the First Folio exists in 4 different states, 3 of which can be seen in copies of the First Folio (the fourth state wasn’t introduced until the Fourth Folio in 1685).
The first thing to remember in understanding this series of images is that copper plates can be altered, even in mid-production, so that changes can be introduced to an image. (To refresh your understanding of how engravings and etchings are made and how long copper plates can be used, read these posts from Erin Blake.) So it was possible for Martin Droeshout to introduce the following change from the first state of his Shakespeare portrait to the second: Continue Reading →
4 June 2014
For your June crocodile mystery, something to cast your eye over:
I spy with my little eye, this crocodile mystery
What is this, how many pertinent details can you point to, and why might it matter? Leave your guesses below and come back later this week to find the answer!
29 May 2014
Recently, Jan van de Kamp, a scholar from the Netherlands, contacted me with the question of whether I knew a method to extract all religious steady sellers from the Short Title Catalogue, Netherlands (STCN). He would like to use that information to prepare a contribution to the Brill Companion to Dutch Protestant Piety, 1480–1820, in which Jan will discuss the production of edifying literature published in the Netherlands in the period 1570–1820.
When I hear the term “steady seller,” I immediately think of the work De imitatione Christi by late 14th-century Augustinian monk Thomas à Kempis, which by all means was the steady seller of all times. De imitatione Christi has been printed over and again, and the work is still available today—including as an edition for smart phones. And indeed, there are over 140 editions of this work listed in the STCN, the online bibliography of pre-1801 hand-press books published in Dutch or in the Netherlands. Of that list, 79 editions were produced in the north (the present-day Netherlands) and 57 in the south (present-day Flanders). In addition, six editions bear a so-called fictitious Flemish address, but were in fact produced in the protestant north. This is exactly the kind of work Jan is interested in: religious or devotional books with a long publishing history. Continue Reading →
22 May 2014
In conservation, the drying or humidification of paper poses particular challenges when dimensional and visual characteristics of the original paper are to be retained. Because of this, the drying of an artifact is a key step in its treatment. There are a range of paper drying techniques from which the conservator can select and adapt in order to enhance the outcome of each treatment.
The traditional Japanese Karibari board is a type of drying panel that can be used in this process (Karibari in Japanese means temporary mount). The Karibari board controls and slows the drying rate while keeping the artifact under tension on the frame. Paper conservators use their judgment and experience to select the most appropriate drying technique for paper and media applied onto it.
Last January we decided to construct our own Karibari board with the experience of our visiting Conservation Trainee Hsiu-Mei Huang from Taiwan. Over seven days, we selected, cut and pasted Japanese mulberry paper of varying thicknesses onto a wooden panel and allowed each layer to dry for a full day before we proceeded to the next layer. As we began the labor-intensive construction of the Karibari board, we thought it would be interesting to document the process. On the first day local photographer Zacarias Garcia was invited for a visit to the conservation lab, and we soon realized that a video would be the best medium for showing our work. Continue Reading →