December 23, 2014
by Sarah Werner
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Farewell to 2014

The end of the year is a time that invites self-reflection and speculation for the future. As the editor of The Collation, late December makes me want to assess how our year here went—how many readers did we reach, how much information and entertainment did we convey, how well did we open up our collections? So here is a quick look at what 2014 brought us. Continue Reading →

December 18, 2014
by Guest Author

Storming Shakespeare: creating an artists’ book

A guest post by Jan Kellett

Editor’s note: When the Folger acquired the lovely artist’s book Storming Shakespeare from Jan Kellett last year, Erin Blake asked if she would be willing to share some information with our readers about the making of the book. The post that follows is Kellett’s account of the inspiration and physical process of creating Storming Shakespeare

After working for a while as a book conservator I started to write, illustrate, and bind miniature books. Making anything in miniature is a challenge, and I enjoy finding solutions to some of the trickier situations miniatures present. When I had the idea for Storming Shakespeare, there was a wealth of material I wanted to include so my solution was to make a triple dos-à-dos binding, which could encompass the text, quotations, and illustrations all in the same book.

Jan Kellertt's Storming Shakespeare

Jan Kellett’s Storming Shakespeare

This is the finished book, showing the three parts: the first part is the essay about Shakespeare’s use of storms in Julius Caesar, King Lear, and The Tempest; the second part, (facing front on the right side of the picture) consists of quotations from Julius Caesar and King Lear with drypoint and monotype illustrations; and the third part in the center (here facing away from us) deals with the storm in The Tempest, using quotations and illustrations, and bound in such a way as to convey the ethereal dreamlike nature of the play.  Continue Reading →

December 16, 2014
by Heather Wolfe

Hard hands and strange words

Until you get the hang of it, Henry Oxinden’s secretary hand is just plain difficult. Take a stab at this passage from p. 469 of his Miscellany (ca. 1642-1670), Folger MS V.b.110, extracted from a sermon delivered by Charles Herle at Winwick, Lancashire, in 1654. It is typical of the entire manuscript.

Henry Oxinden's lovely secretary hand. Folger MS V.b.110, p. 469.

Henry Oxinden’s lovely secretary hand. Folger MS V.b.110, p. 469.

What does it say? Our crack team of advanced paleographers transcribed Oxinden’s messy and abbreviated secretary hand as follows:

Certainly if there bee any thing glorious in the world it is
a minde that contemnes that glory. Diogenes had more
of the two, more of it by his contempt, then Alexander
by his command of it, even then when he commanded himselfe
to bee made a God. p.21.

When perusing early modern English manuscripts, it is tempting to skip the words that don’t make sense and focus on the ones that do. In the presence of copious content that is legible and interesting, why get stuck on a few words that probably aren’t that important anyway?

But what if they are important? Continue Reading →

December 11, 2014
by Paul Dingman

A transcriba… what?

The typical first awkwardly formed question is, “A transcriba…what, wait, what is it, again?” (Answer: “Transcribathon, an event running from noon to midnight in which we transcribe and encode manuscripts, the very first experimental event of its kind for Early Modern Manuscripts Online.”) The next question following fast on its heels is usually, “Why would anyone want to do that for twelve hours?”

Well, over 35 transcribers, many of whom had never tried their hands or eyes at early modern paleography before, could tell you: because it’s fun! Part of that enjoyment no doubt comes from the satisfaction of puzzling out just what word a particularly strange-looking collection of letters could possibly be and another part arises from glimpsing into the thoughts of people living four hundred years ago.

Also, cake was involved. Continue Reading →

December 9, 2014
by Erin Blake
1 Comment


Simran Thadani’s wild guess for the December Crocodile Mystery, backed up by Martin Antonetti and Deborah J. Leslie, is our winner. This month’s image is a close-up of the lower right edge of a mezzotint engraving. The lines that look like warp and weft are, in fact, rows of tiny black dots crossing each other at right angles.

Detail of lower right edge of a mezzotint.

Detail of lower right edge of a mezzotint.

This happens to be a fairly coarse mezzotint, with the grain easily visible to the naked eye. Here’s the full image, which depicts Mary of Modena, consort of King James II, and their baby son. (Or was he their son? Anti-Catholic rumor-mongers called James Francis Edward Stuart “the warming-pan baby,” an impostor allegedly smuggled into the birth room in a warming pan to take the place of a still-born child.) Our crocodile image was a detail of the bottom right portion of the plate, where the image meets the text.

Mezzotint of mother with baby

Peter Schenk (1660–1718 or 19). The young prince of Walles [sic]. Mezzotint, circa 1688. Platemark 249 x 182 mm. Folger ART 230988 (click to enlarge)

Continue Reading →

November 25, 2014
by Sarah Hovde

How the “Mastiffs” reached the Folger

In June 1878, the novelist Anthony Trollope and a dozen of his friends boarded the yacht “Mastiff” in Scotland for its maiden voyage, a trip to Iceland. They stayed just over a week, but the episode provided Trollope with enough material for a book, How the ‘Mastiffs’ Went to Iceland. It was published barely two months later by Virtue & Co. of London (and is now available online via the Internet Archive).

Among the company were two brothers: John Burns, the owner of the Mastiff and their host, and James Cleland Burns. It was at John Burns’s request, and with his financial support, that Trollope wrote up and published the account of their journey.

"Mastiffs" title page and frontispiece (screenshot of IA copy)

“Mastiffs” title page and frontispiece (screenshot of IA copy)

While the Folger does not have a copy of How the ‘Mastiffs’ Went to Iceland, it does have another book with very strong ties to the Mastiffs. The book below is from our Shakespeare collection. Continue Reading →

November 19, 2014
by Heather Wolfe

So much for goats, or, cute creatures in coats of arms

John Guillim’s partial manuscript draft of A Display of Heraldry (ca. 1610) was featured in our recently closed exhibition, “Symbols of Honor: Heraldry and Family History in Shakespeare’s England.” We showed an opening depicting “Fishes skynned” and “Crusted fishes” and compared it to a similar opening in the printed Display of Heraldry (London, 1611).

Examples of suitable fish for coats of arms, both "crusted" and "skinned."

Examples of suitable fish for coats of arms, both crusted and skinned. Folger MS V.b.171, fols. 79v-80r.

This was a difficult decision, since the fish were competing against so many other completely wonderful monsters, mammals, birds, minerals, plants, trees, fruits, stars, elements, and humors—as well as buildings, clothing, tools, weapons, and other “artificial” charges.

Below are a few of the animals and insects from Guillim’s draft, beginning with a unicorn (which in my household is definitely considered a real animal). Eventually the manuscript will be digitized and transcribed in full and you’ll be able to see and search all images and text.

IMG_20141119_105651 unicorn

“So muche for Goates.” Now to unicorns.

Continue Reading →

November 13, 2014
by Abbie Weinberg
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Research round-up

One of the best bits of my job as a reference librarian here at the Folger (oh, who am I kidding? They’re all “best bits”) is answering research questions from scholars who are not on site. I really enjoy being someone’s hands and eyes, to look at our collection materials when they cannot. These questions have sent me off in directions I never would have dreamed of; there is no better way to learn a collection than to use it, and I am certainly getting the opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of our collection. Here are a few of the research questions I have been allowed to delve into recently. Many thanks to all of the researchers mentioned herein for their gracious permission to post this!

Henry Wotton’s The Elements of Architecture, 1624

Richard Foster, the Fellows’ Librarian at Winchester College in England, wrote to us asking if someone could take a look at sig. L4v of Wotton’s The Elements of Architecture, since it was noted in the Hamnet record that there were manuscript corrections to the text. Indeed there are, and so I dutifully took a picture and sent it off, not thinking too much of the request—until I got Mr. Foster’s reply. Continue Reading →

November 6, 2014
by Erin Blake
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Folger Tooltips: The limits of “Set Limits” in Hamnet

Following up on last month’s post about the new-and-improved “Limit location” in Hamnet, the one that lets you quickly limit your search to one of four locations, including just Vault material, I thought I should say a few words about the limits of the “Set Limits” feature.

Set limits first

Hamnet display with "set limits" link circled

When you go to a Search screen, the system very helpfully puts the cursor in the text box, prompting you to start typing. So, naturally, you start typing search terms, picking options from the drop-downs, and feeling very proud of yourself for knowing just the right combination of And, Or, and Not to get what you want. Then, working from top to bottom, left to right, you see the “Set Limits” link at the lower right, and decide to make your search even more accurate by limiting it to just Vault material, and just French-language material, and just material created between 1550 and 1625, or whatever, so you click “Set Limits.”  Continue Reading →