May 5, 2015
by Sarah Powell
Comments Off on A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

There is a place in the north Atlantic Ocean where emerald waters and sandy shores await your toes—at least, according to a 2015 holiday brochure on Barbados. The royalist Richard Ligon scarpered there in 1647 after backing the losing side during the English Civil wars (1642–1649) and finding himself a “stranger in my owne Country.” Three years later he returned to England and wrote about his escapades in A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, first published in 1657. The words in this month’s crocodile challenge are Ligon’s (from page 96 of his account) but they come to us via the secretary hand of Henry Oxinden on the verso of the back endleaf of his miscellany (ca.1642–1670; V.b.110).

the May crocodile (click on the image to see the full, zoomable page)

The Folger’s transcription of these lines reads:

Sugar as itt hath a facultie to preserue. all fruits that grow in the
world from corruption, & putrefaction, so it hath a vertue being
rightly applyed to preserue men in their healthes.

Well done to all the Collation readers who came close with their transcriptions. In addition to what was transcribed in the comments section, we also noticed a second “t” on “itt” and a period between “preserue” and “all.”

And a spoonful of sugar goes to Stephen Ferguson who noted that Oxinden is paraphrasing Ligon’s sweet prescription for good health and long life:  Continue Reading →

April 30, 2015
by The Collation

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: May 2015

This month’s crocodile is more of a challenge than a mystery. We are looking for paleographer beginners and lifers to have a stab at these lines and tell us the truth about sugar. If you think you know whose handwriting this is, even better …

What does this say? (to view this is more detail, click the image; the lines in question are the three that the manicule points to)

What does this say? (To view in more detail, click the image; the lines in question are the three to which the manicule points.)

Please leave your answers in the comments below. You don’t need to worry about transcription conventions, but if you’d like, you can consult the transcription guidelines we follow on The Collation. And come back next week for the reveal!

April 23, 2015
by Caroline Duroselle-Melish and Georgianna Ziegler
Comments Off on How an 18th-century clergyman read his Folio

How an 18th-century clergyman read his Folio

The Folger Shakespeare Library has never acquired another copy of a Shakespeare Folio since the Folgers’ time—until now. We recently added number 38 to our collection of Fourth Folios (S2915 Fo.4 no.38). Published in 1685, this was the last of the four great printings of Shakespeare’s collected plays during the 17th century. It was followed in 1709 by the first “modern” edition, by Nicholas Rowe, who followed the Fourth Folio text but added scene divisions, stage directions, and a character list (dramatis personae) for each play.

Several printers and publishers collaborated on the Fourth Folio, following the frequent practice in 17th-century England to share the printing and the financial risks involved in making a large book. The title page exists in three different states listing some or all of the contributors, possibly indicating that the financing of the book changed over time and that new partners were brought in to rescue the project. In our copy, the imprint has been torn away so that it is impossible to identify which issue of the title page this is.  Continue Reading →

April 16, 2015
by Paul Dingman

Golden quills and paleography skills

In my last post about EMMO‘s progress, I briefly mentioned Practical Paleography or “PracPaleo,” our intentionally relaxed, no-registration-required introduction to transcribing secretary hand for readers and staff at the Folger Shakespeare Library. This time around, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the notable and versatile results of this new initiative.


Since paleography has usually been taught at the Folger in an intensive, controlled class format—a group of regular participants meeting on a set schedule—this series of ten one-hour sessions, each one optional, meeting every other week with an always changing set of participants was a bit of an experiment to see how—or if—paleography could work in such a decidedly different configuration. The experimental series concluded at the end of March, and I think that by a variety of measures the experiment has been a success.

In addition to the achievements of providing paleographical knowledge, letting people connect with the Folger’s collections in a new way, and getting several manuscript pages transcribed, the EMMO team has been able to test our process of encoding-while-transcribing further with the Dromio software. And broadening accessibility to manuscripts—one of EMMO’s main goals—helps us vet and interpret transcriptions. An account of a few golden quill awards from PracPaleo highlights some of these intellectual benefits.  Continue Reading →

April 14, 2015
by Sarah Werner
1 Comment

Correcting with cancel slips

correcting item 3 (sig. 1[8]r)

correcting 4 lines (STC 25286; sig. 1[8]r)

Thanks to my last post, when Mitch Fraas and I were looking at how different copies of the same book handled having a printer error (Judas instead of Jesus, in that case), I’ve spent the last week with cancel slips on my mind—those pieces of papers that are pasted in to correct printing mistakes. Once you start looking, you can find cancel slips in a huge range of uses and states. (And as long-time readers know, I’m always interested in printer’s mistakes and how they can be corrected.)

What do you do if you’ve misprinted one of three propositions central to the 1599 Westminster conference? You print the corrected third proposition and paste it over the error—cheaper than reprinting the whole sheet (the whole book is only two sheets long) and easier than pasting in a canceled leaf.

Of course, for shorter errors, printers often included a list of errata—known mistakes in the book that users are invited to correct on their own. But what if your errata has errata? Paste in the correction, like the printer does for this 1660 Homer:  Continue Reading →

April 9, 2015
by Abbie Weinberg
1 Comment

Folger files; or, a fetch-quest come to life

“MS. corrections to the text, by the author (Folger files).” Such an innocuous note in the Folger copy note field of the record for our second copy of Philip Massinger’s The Bond-man (STC 17632). Meaghan Brown, the Folger’s CLIR Fellow, came across it while doing a survey of our collection of early modern drama. There are hundreds of notes like it in Hamnet. In most cases, the “Folger files” referred to are either the Case Files or Curatorial Files.

The Case Files are the records from the purchases the Folgers themselves made: as items were acquired, they were given a case number, and associated documentation—such as the bookseller’s catalog, correspondence, newspaper articles about the sale, even labels from packing slips—was carefully saved. They are an amazing source for provenance research and simply knowing more about a particular item. The Curatorial Files are similar, collecting documentation on noteworthy items in the collection.

However, in this case, that note sent me on a two day treasure hunt through Folger institutional archives to try to sort out what, exactly, was going on.

It started out as a simple enough request: Meaghan asked if I could find the file on this item, so that she could verify exactly why the manuscript annotations are being attributed to Massinger himself.

The Hamnet record gave me my starting point—well, what should have been my starting point:  Continue Reading →

April 7, 2015
by Sarah Werner and Guest Author

Keeping your Jesus and Judas straight

Co-written by Sarah Werner and Mitch Fraas

One might think that when printing the New Testament, one would want to avoid at all costs mixing up Jesus and Judas. However, this month’s crocodile shows that such mistakes did happen:

the typo in the 1610 Geneva Bible in John 6:67, with "Iudas" instead of Jesus

the typo in the 1610 Geneva Bible (STC 2212) in John 6:67, with “Iudas” instead of Jesus

As two commentators simultaneously identified the mystery, the image shows a well-known misprint from the 1610 Geneva Bible (STC 2212) in John 6:67, in which instead of Jesus speaking to the apostles, Judas is identified as the speaker.

Bible errors can be amusing in and of themselves, but what brought this one to our attention is a recent class that Mitch Fraas was teaching with Zachary Lesser at the University of Pennsylvania. For that class, they pulled out Penn’s copy of this bible, and discovered that the error had been hand corrected:  Continue Reading →

March 26, 2015
by The Collation
Comments Off on Q & A: Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints

Q & A: Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints

carolinedurosellemelishIn January, Caroline Duroselle-Melish joined the Folger as the new Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints, a position that gives her responsibility over books and prints through 1800. She has worked with a wide range of collections in university and independent rare book libraries, including serving as Rare Book Librarian at the University of Rochester and, most recently, as Assistant Curator at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Caroline has published on a range of topics associated with early modern printing, including studies of Ulisse Aldrovandi’s library and the trade relations between Frankfurt and Bologna. Her graduate degrees include the French equivalents of an ALA-accredited MILS, an MA in history, and a graduate-level French degree in the History of the Book. We are delighted to have her join the Library and the crew of Collation contributors.

Welcome to the Folger! Have you had a chance to find any favorite items or aspects of the Folger collections?  Continue Reading →

March 24, 2015
by Erin Blake
Comments Off on Taming a tight binding

Taming a tight binding

You know how some old bindings gently let a book stay open on its own, at a comfortable angle? And how other old bindings seem to willfully resist, taunting you by starting to close just as you get the book weights perfectly arranged? This post introduces a simple tool that can help tame those tight bindings: a V-shaped wedge of lightweight plastic.

Plastic wedge holding a book open for reading.

Plastic wedge holding a book open for reading.

The Folger Reading Room has a number of plastic wedges of different sizes, known in-house as “Vivak wedges” thanks to the brand name of the plastic, which can be cut with board shears, and bent by hand. With the wedge in place, the pages stay open at a safe angle for the book, and a reasonable angle for reading. Not great, but reasonable.

Book with tight binding held part-way open with a plastic wedge.

Book with tight binding held part-way open with a plastic wedge.

Vivak wedges are also useful in the Cataloging and Metadata Department, where careful transcriptions of title page text are key. Propping a book open to its title page with a plastic wedge is a space-saving alternative to setting up a book cradle. It’s also much safer for the books when dealing with brittle paperbacks, like this Czech edition of MacbethContinue Reading →