February 3, 2015
This month, the Conservation Lab is working on items that reflect a wide range of Folger activities and holdings.
Some of the most beautiful books in the Folger’s collections are those with embroidered bindings. But such books are also among the most fragile. Here, book conservator Linda Hohneke takes a pretty little copy of Edward Gee’s Steps of ascension to God acquired last year and creates new housing to protect it, a custom-made box with a “back to the basics wrapper”:
preparing a custom-made box and wrapper for a fragile binding
Another item being worked on is one adopted at Acquisitions Night in 2013: Charles Kean’s scrapbook, with 69 leaves and approximately 600 watercolors and 24 engravings. After paper conservator Rhea DeStefano spent many hours mending tattered edges and missing corners, head of conservation Renate Mesmer joined separated leaves with new Japanese paper guards so that the gatherings could be sewn back together. The treated volume will be shown off at this year’s Acq Night on February 5th. Continue Reading →
January 27, 2015
Got your tickets yet? Acquisitions Night is just over a week away! This once-a-year event directly supports the growth of the collection by giving people the chance to “adopt” selected items acquired over the past year—that is, reimburse the purchase price to the library so that more material can be purchased. Attend in person to enjoy a buffet dinner, talk with Folger staff, and examine almost one hundred new items with your own eyes (you’re under no obligation to adopt). Can’t make it in person? It’s also possible to adopt online.
Although you can’t take adopted items home with you, you’re free to come visit them in the future. You will also be acknowledged in the item’s Hamnet record, if you wish. Looking for a gift for the person who has everything? Why not adopt?
Prices start as low as $250. All adoptions are fully tax deductible.
Selections this year include… Continue Reading →
January 20, 2015
Below are four copies of Hamlet. They’re four editions of a French translation by Carlo Rusconi, and at first glance look fairly similar. However, they have some significant differences, such as publisher, date, and inclusion in a series. In order to make sure that someone searching Hamnet for French translations of Hamlet knows what they’re finding, their catalog records each need to reflect these small but important differences, as well as specifying their location in the Folger Library. (Since these are part of the Shakespeare collection, all four are in the vault.)
The two translations of Hamlet below, on the other hand, are quite easy to tell apart: they have noticeably different cover styles, were published at least fifteen years apart by different firms in different countries, and they’re in different languages (Polish and Croatian), with different translators. Continue Reading →
January 13, 2015
As I was answering a reference question yesterday relating to heraldic funeral processions in Folger MS V.a.447—a heraldic miscellany written by John Guillim shortly after he was made Portsmouth Pursuivant of Arms—my eyes snagged on a subsection near the end titled, “The names of all Coloures pertaining to Lymminge.”
Detail from Folger MS V.a.447, leaf 47r.
The list of names immediately made me think of the colors that J. Crew and other clothing companies come up with each season (see this recent Huffington Post article) or the thousands of nearly-identical interior paint hues at Home Depot and Lowes, each with a unique name: sangria, ballet slipper, arctic, etc. These names are descriptive and confounding at the same time, requiring an image or a description to truly make sense. In early modern Europe, the names mostly relate to pigments, minerals, and place of origin, but even these names can be evocative and mysterious, such as ultramarine (a brilliant blue that comes from beyond the seas), [black]smith’s coal, and Spanish brown. And then there’s sanguis draconis, or dragon’s blood, a blood-red resin used mostly for medicinal purposes but listed here by Guillim. Continue Reading →
January 8, 2015
After watching NASA’s test-launch of the Orion Spacecraft last month, I was inspired to dive into the Folger’s collection of astronomical texts. Quite by accident, I stumbled upon the works of John Bainbridge. I’ve had just enough history of science for that name to ring a bell, so I decided to go digging, into both his texts and life.
Bainbridge was educated at Cambridge and received his MD in 1614, at the age of 32. While he did practice medicine, first in Leicestershire and then later in London, he appears to have spent a good amount of time and energy studying astronomy and mathematics as well. Bainbridge first came to the attention of his contemporaries for his 1619 book, An astronomicall description of the late comet from the 18. of Nouemb. 1618. to the 16. of December following (Folger STC 1208).
Title page of Bainbridge’s first book, published in 1619
His book includes a full illustrated chart of the comet’s path: Continue Reading →
January 6, 2015
What better play to consider on the twelfth night of Christmas than Twelfth Night?
Viola Allen and James Young as Viola and Sebastian (1904)
Although there are discrepant practices today whether the Feast of the Epiphany—marking the visit of the Three Kings to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child—is celebrated on the 5th of January or the 6th, in Elizabethan England, the Epiphany was celebrated on the 6th. Like other festivities in the season, Twelfth Night was a time of topsy turvy celebrations inverting social order: boys crowned in mock religious processions, heavy drinking and lavish feasts, parody and misrule replacing stern morality. It was, of course, also marked by song and performance.
So, what does this all have to do with Shakespeare’s play? Continue Reading →
December 30, 2014
To create more work space, we’re starting to sort through the hundreds of “ready reference” books that fill the shelves in the shared staff areas on Deck A, pulling out volumes that really don’t need to be kept that handy. For example, it’s a safe bet that Art Information and the Internet (How to Find It, How to Use It), written in 1998, won’t be of much help in 2015. This project brought me face-to-face with the magnificent but totally out-moded A.L.A. Portrait Index—all 1600 pages of it—which I hadn’t looked at since Art History Bibliography and Library Methods class in 1993. Please allow me to introduce you to this venerable resource, created by the American Library Association and published by the Library of Congress in 1906. Spoiler alert: the darned thing turns out to be useful to us after all.
Four inches of shelf space taken up by the A.L.A. Portrait Index (Photo by Erin Blake)
The Portrait Index was designed “to enable librarians, authors, students, publishers, and editors to turn directly to portraits which would otherwise be found with difficulty or might elude their search altogether.” Using this resource, they could look up any of tens of thousands of names to find the specific page of a book or periodical where that person’s picture appeared. Here’s a sample, showing the start of Ben Jonson’s entry:
A.L.A. Portrait Index, page 776, top portion. Click image for link to full source (Source: Internet Archive)
Continue Reading →
December 23, 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
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 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
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.
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 →