The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

I have sent you a Privy Seal…

The answer to last week’s crocodile mystery? As Jan Kellett correctly pointed out in her comment to the October Crocodile Mystery, the red-orange concentric circles in this image are an “offset mark made by a seal.” The mark was made by the waxy residue and impression from a privy seal which was once enclosed within a letter. Early modern letters often mention things enclosed (another letter, seeds, a lock of hair, a recipe, a poem) but rarely do we see the proof of such an enclosure.… Continue Reading


Faire Europe: Ortelius, Mercator, and the continents

Maps, today, are ubiquitous. We have them in our phones, on our public transit, on walls and signs everywhere you turn. Many people learn to read and interpret them from an early age. Conventions that we don’t even know are conventions guide our understanding of maps. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. For people in the 16th and 17th centuries, geography and cartography were rapidly changing and expanding fields, as European knowledge of other parts of the world grew by leaps and bounds.… Continue Reading

A Recipe’s Place is in the Classroom

The Folger Shakespeare Library is many things: an internationally-renowned research library, a museum, a performance space, a center for innovative digital initiatives, and home to some of the best air conditioning on Capitol Hill (not something to be overlooked during our sticky Washington, D.C. summers). But it’s also a classroom, or even many different kinds of classrooms: education is central to the Folger mission, and every year the Folger offers hundreds of programs designed for all kinds of classrooms, from bright, lively elementary-school homerooms to spare, echoing college lecture halls, and from traditional school-houses filled with desks and chalkboards, to pioneering online learning communities populated by students from around the world.… Continue Reading

“To benefit the suffering Belgians”

As several readers quickly guessed, last week’s crocodile image was a photograph of a Russian edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The “ghost” type in the image is due to a glassine (translucent paper) jacket around the volume, which obscures the printed text of the cardboard cover below. This edition was translated by Modest Tchaikovsky (dramatist, librettist, and brother of the Romantic composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky)1, and published in 1914 by I.… Continue Reading


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