June 24, 2015
by Caroline Duroselle-Melish

Publishing Against the King: French Civil War Pamphlets

From 1648 to 1653 a civil war, known as the Fronde, raged in France, with the nobility and most of the people of France on one side, and the royal government under the child-king Louis XIV and his hated chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, on the other. The main cause of this civil war was resentment towards the royal government’s encroachment on ancient liberties and increasing taxation, but the Frondeurs were divided into factions and ultimately defeated. “Fronde” means sling, which Parisian crowds used to smash the windows of Cardinal Mazarin’s supporters. The Fronde did not just take place on the battlefields; it was also a battle for minds, and the main weapon here were pamphlets, which came to be known as Mazarinades. The vast majority of these pamphlets were scathingly critical of the royal government, sometimes in scatological or pornographic terms.

An example of Mazarinade mocking Cardinal Mazarin's Italian origin and alluding to his supposed sexual relationship with the Queen Anne of Austria.

An example of Mazarinade mocking Cardinal Mazarin’s Italian origin and alluding to his supposed sexual relationship with the Queen Anne of Austria.

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June 11, 2015
by Paul Dingman

Tagging manuscripts: how much is too much?

When it comes to the subject of tagging or encoding manuscript transcriptions in XML (extensible markup language) for Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO), two important questions are how much should we tag and when should we do it.

With thousands of pages from a variety of genres, the “how much” question is a big one. For example, should tags be used to provide information about ink color, shifts in hand, size or ornamentation of letters, illustrations, marginalia, flourishes, indentations, spacing, symbols, quotations, layout, structure, lines, paper material, historical/literary connections, etymology, smudges, etc., etc.? The images of manuscript pages below give some idea of the challenges involved:

Summary of accounts of the offices of the tents and revels from 1550 to 1555. (L.b.315)

Summary of accounts of the offices of the tents and revels from 1550 to 1555. (L.b.315)

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June 4, 2015
by Abbie Weinberg
Comments Off on State Papers Online: tips and tricks, part 1

State Papers Online: tips and tricks, part 1

The Calendar of State Papers is a well-known historical resource for early modernists across a variety of disciplines. This “calendar,” or register, documents the workings of the British government during the reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts, 1509–1714. For decades, researchers used printed volumes of these calendars to search for the existence of specific documents.

Print edition of the Calendar of State Papers

Just some of the many volumes of the State Papers in the Folger’s Reading Room.

With the advent of online databases, and the cooperation of repositories such as the British Library and National Archives (where many of the documents recorded by the calendars are preserved), a database called the State Papers Online was created. It brings together not only all of the calendars but digitized versions of many of the actual documents, giving researchers a one-stop shop for their needs.

Sounds like a dream, right?

In some ways, it is. But it can also be a very frustrating experience for researcher, as they try to find the materials that they think ought to be in this database. This series of posts will hopefully help to alleviate some of that frustration, by providing some tips and tricks for working with the State Papers OnlineContinue Reading →

June 2, 2015
by Guest Author

The mystery of gridded paper

A guest post by Austin Plann Curley

For a blank sheet of paper, we thought this one was pretty interesting. But before we get to what exactly it is, let’s refresh our understanding of how paper is made.

Prior to the 19th century all paper was made by hand using a mold and a deckle. In the West the papermaker’s mold was a wooden frame with a woven mesh of copper wire. Molds were rectangular in shape, and limited to sizes that could be handled comfortably. For structural reasons, the mold was made using two gauges of wire: heavy wires attached to wooden ribs spanned the width of the frame, and a lighter gauge ran lengthwise. In the papermaking process, these features of the mold each leave their mark on the handmade sheet: the wooden ribs and wires running widthwise (parallel to the short side of the mold) leave marks we call chain lines, and the lighter wires running lengthwise leave laid or wire lines. (The Encyclopédie’s illustration of a paper mold is helpful in visualizing a mold and deckle.)

a vatman at work in a reconstructed mill at Museo della Carta e Filigrana in Fabriano

a vatman at work in a reconstructed mill at Museo della Carta e Filigrana in Fabriano

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May 28, 2015
by The Collation

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

A new month and a new mystery! What can you tell us about this? What is it and why is it interesting?

a mystery to ponder

a mystery to ponder

You know the drill: leave us your thoughts in the comments below, and come back next week for the reveal!

Update 5/30: A commenter asked about watermarks, so here is an image of the full leaf. (Or at least more of the leaf—I didn’t take the photo so I’m not entirely sure of all the context. ^SW)

the full leaf of our mystery item (click to enlarge)

the full leaf of our mystery item (click to enlarge)

May 27, 2015
by Caroline Duroselle-Melish
Comments Off on A Renaissance best-seller of love and action

A Renaissance best-seller of love and action

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s 26 copies of various editions of Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso attest to its success during the 16th and early 17th centuries (a success that continued for much longer, but that is another story). An epic poem replete with love and action, Orlando Furioso was an international bestseller worth having in one’s library even if one did not read it. It blended the austere literary tradition focused on war that developed around the memory of the medieval French king Charlemagne with the magical elements and love interests found in Arthurian legend—on top of which Ariosto added an ironic tone and humanist outlook. Loosely based on the Chanson of Roland, the epic follows the deeds of the fictive knight Orlando throughout the known world, including a trip to the moon. In it, Europe defends itself against invasion by the King of Africa, and the plot pits Christians against Saracens, with Orlando falling in unrequited love with a pagan. A significant side plot follows the Christian warrior Bradamante and her Muslim lover Ruggiero, who Ariosto presented as the ancestors of his patrons, the d’Este family.

Publishers competed with each other in producing new editions of the Orlando—the Universal Short Catalogue lists close to 200 pre-1601 editions—offering different features to always attract more customers: one could own an Orlando in a pocket or a large-size edition (the majority of the editions were in a quarto format), with editorial commentaries of various length, and with or without illustrations.

Early illustrated editions

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May 21, 2015
by Erin Blake
Comments Off on Meet the Hamnet HBCN (“Handy Butt-Cover Note”)

Meet the Hamnet HBCN (“Handy Butt-Cover Note”)

When libraries replaced card catalogs with computer catalogs, researchers lost a crucial piece of information: an at-glance indication of relative trustworthiness. Consider this thin slip of paper from the Folger’s card catalog, for example:

Accession-level record from Folger card catalog

Accession-level record from Folger card catalog

Looks fairly preliminary, right? That’s because it is. This is an “accession slip” (referred to in some libraries as a “flimsy”). It was typed up in the Acquisitions Department, then filed in the card catalog as a place-holder until the item could be cataloged.

Now look at the same accession-level information as it would have appeared in Hamnet:

Same accession slip information as it would appear in an online catalog

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May 19, 2015
by Sarah Hovde

“A superfluous luxury”: the St. Dunstan illuminated editions

If you’re a regular user of the internet, you probably saw a multitude of images posted for the Bard’s birthday a few weeks ago. I can almost guarantee, though, that few were as opulent as the contribution from the University of Missouri Libraries Special Collections Tumblr: a beautiful leather-bound set of Shakespeare’s Sonnets with some striking illuminations.

On a whim, I did a quick search to see if the Folger also had a copy of this set—and we do! It was photographed for our Bindings Image Collection and is now fully cataloged in Hamnet (Folio PR2848 1901a Sh.Col.).

St. Dunstan Sonnets (front covers; part I on left)

St. Dunstan Sonnets (front covers; part I on left)

The colophon shows us that this is a St. Dunstan edition, specially illuminated for Howard T. Goodwin and signed by the illuminator, the publisher, and a representative of the University Press.

St. Dunstan Sonnets (colophon, part I)

St. Dunstan Sonnets (colophon, part I)

A revival of the lost art of illumination

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May 7, 2015
by Abbie Weinberg

Guten Tag! Como vai? Parlez-vous français?

Spring is Conference Season for many academics, allowing us to travel far and wide for our academic and professional enrichment. Sometimes, we find ourselves traveling in places where the local language is not one of the ones we are most comfortable with. (Until someone invents a time machine, my relative fluency in classical Latin isn’t going to help me order dinner, is it?)

So what’s a traveling scholar to do? Today, one of the more common answers is probably “download a translation app for my smart phone.” However, before the predominance of smart phones, one might first have reached for a foreign language dictionary or phrasebook.

If you’ve ever walked around with a “pocket sized” Berlitz or Lonely Planet book of words and phrases in your travel bag, you’re really just continuing a tradition that has been going on for 400+ years.

While the Folger holds dictionaries in many different languages (and combinations of languages), of particular note is our collection of polyglot dictionaries. These seven- or eight- language “dictionaries” are more than basic Word X = Word Y kind of books. This genre of book is based on Noël de Berlemont’s Flemish-French colloquies and dictionary, of which the earliest surviving copy is a 1536 Antwerp edition at HarvardContinue Reading →

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 →