March 5, 2015
by Guest Author

“This Play I Red” and other marginal notes on reading

A guest post by Claire M. L. Bourne

As a long-term fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library this year, I have been surveying all the English playbooks in the collection—from 1500 to 1709—in order to understand changing conventions of dramatic typography over the first two centuries of printing plays. This is slow, painstaking work, but it is showing me that early modern typographic experimentation was often keyed to innovations in theatrical performance. I’m interested in how printers, publishers, playwrights, and other agents in the book trade harnessed the capacity of print to account for extra-lexical effects created in the theater by, for example, actors’ voices and bodies, the particularities of stage architecture, the temporality of performance, and new technologies like moveable scenes. In other words, instead of looking to marginalia and readers’ marks to make claims about how plays were read, I am studying how plays were designed to be read.

That said, working systematically through so many plays here has not only yielded vast amounts of data about the typographical arrangements of early modern plays in print; it has also provided access to a corpus of readers’ marks, notes, and emendations, many of which would be difficult to find in a surgical strike on the Folger’s resources given that their presence in these books is not always mentioned in the copy-specific notes in Hamnet, the library’s online catalog.  Continue Reading →

March 3, 2015
by Paul Dingman

EMMO: advancing and expanding

During the last few months, the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project has been gathering strength and reaching farther both inside the Folger Shakespeare Library and outside to individuals and organizations. These actions have translated into the passing of several key milestones, and members of the EMMO team are very excited about what this progress promises for 2015 and beyond.

The Advanced Early Modern English Paleography Workshop, sponsored by EMMO and the Folger Institute in mid-December 2014 was a great success, with 16 early modern scholars from near and far joining together for a whirlwind week of transcribing activity. Heather Wolfe and I carefully considered many of the manuscripts in the Folger’s early modern collection to find works fitting for the participants’ research interests but also sufficiently challenging for everyone involved—in other words, not just secretary hand but hard secretary hand!  Continue Reading →

February 24, 2015
by Erin Blake

Knowing your Adams from your Adams: decoding library catalog citations

Picture, if you will, a 16th-century Continental edition of Ovid, an 18th-century illustrated history of London, and a 19th-century book about the American west. Now picture which one of the three might be “in Adams.” Which one did you pick? Years ago, when I was doing dissertation research at the British Library Map Library, everyone in my circle knew that “Adams” referred to the standard bibliography of London topographical books published between 1604 and 1851. It was disorienting to discover later that people working with Continental 16th-century publications had their own “Adams,” as did people working with Americana.

In other words, it’s trick question: all three could be “in Adams,” and as long as you’re talking with other specialists, everyone would know which Adams you mean by context. Traditionally, library catalogs assume that everyone is a specialist, and that a description needs to fit on a 3 x 5 inch card. That’s how we ended up with online catalog citations like these ones:  Continue Reading →

February 18, 2015
by Abbie Weinberg
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Research round-up: February 2015

The theme of this month’s post, which features two questions regarding 19th-century sources, is “We have materials beyond the early modern period!” As our collection development policy states, in addition to seeking primary source material on English and continental civilization in the early modern period, we also collect materials on “English drama in the eighteenth century” and “Shakespeare-related material to the present.” Hmm, perhaps we should add a tag-line—Folger Shakespeare Library: More than the long 16th century. Continue Reading →

February 11, 2015
by Heather Wolfe and Caroline Duroselle-Melish
1 Comment

Unwanted doodles in a Shakespeare quarto

Our new curator of early modern books and prints, Caroline Duroselle-Melish, and I were up in the conservation lab a few days ago, consulting with book conservator Adrienne Bell on the optimal opening for safely digitizing a quarto edition of Henry VI, Part 3 (STC 21006a copy 1) in preparation for our “Wonder of Will” commemoration activities next year at the Folger. While inspecting the book, we noticed that the title leaf and last leaf were much thicker than the other leaves, and entirely blank on their versos. That seemed strange, so we looked at the title page through transmitted daylight to investigate further. This is what we saw (click to enlarge the images in this post):

Verso of title page to 3 Henry VI (London, 1600) viewed through transmitted daylight.

Continue Reading →

February 3, 2015
by The Collation
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Another peek into the Conservation Lab

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

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
by Erin Blake
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Acquisitions Night: February 5, 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.

Screenshot for Online adoptions 2015

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?

Hamnet record reading "Adopted by Helen and David Kenney, in honor of Jerome Harclerode"

Prices start as low as $250. All adoptions are fully tax deductible.

Selections this year include… Continue Reading →

January 20, 2015
by Sarah Hovde
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A brief introduction to RDA

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.)

Four Hamlets (French, 1875-1877)

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
by Heather Wolfe

An early modern color guide

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 xxr.

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
by Abbie Weinberg
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From comet tales to bear tails

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 An astronomicall description of the late comet

Title page of Bainbridge’s first book, published in 1619

His book includes a full illustrated chart of the comet’s path: Continue Reading →