The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Arithmetic is the Art of Computation

Yes, the answer to last week’s Crocodile mystery is as obvious as it seemed. We were looking for a number which unites the table, the fractions, and the superfluous but artful penmanship. Answer: 60, of course! What we are actually looking at here is nothing more than a simple division sum from the 17th century where A = 1/2 = 30, B = 1/4 = 15, C = 1/5 = 12, D = 1/3 = 20, E = 1/6 = 10.… Continue Reading


Folger Tooltips: Making a spreadsheet from raw Hamnet data

Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog, is more than just a searchable inventory of printed books, manuscripts, engravings, paintings, and other resources in the collection. It is also a giant data set, freely available for machine analysis. But there’s a catch: library catalog data is encoded in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging), the coelecanth of the digital world. Developed in the 1960s, this data standard is now a living fossil.… Continue Reading

Libraries ǂx Special collections ǂv Blogs

How do catalogers make library materials findable? The cataloging process has already been covered here at The Collation—identifying the item and describing its contents so that users and other catalogers alike can compare the book in the catalog record to the book in their hands or the book they want to retrieve from the stacks. At the Folger, we pay particular attention to the artifactual evidence of our items in addition to their contents, and this level of cataloging is enabled by the use of genre and form terms.… Continue Reading

‘I Grapple him to my Soul with hooks of Steel’

I’m sure all of our readers know that moment when you’re looking for one thing but find something else entirely (some call it serendipity—I just call it research). Such as doing a Name Browse in Hamnet for “Adams” (I believe at the time I was looking for something edited by our former director, Joseph Quincy Adams), and discovering the heading “Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818, correspondent.” I remember being bemused by this discovery, a little perplexed as to why we would have that in our collection, and filing its existence away for another time.… Continue Reading

A Pin’s Worth: Pins in Books

The object you see tucked in the gathering of the book in this month’s Crocodile Mystery is a pin. Recently, I have become aware of the presence of pins in a number of books at the Folger Shakespeare Library. At one time, curators and conservators removed them from the books and placed them in curatorial files. Now, we leave pins where we find them if they do not risk harming the book or the reader.… Continue Reading

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