The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Tagged: illustrations

A Renaissance best-seller of love and action

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s 26 copies of various editions of Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso attest to its success during the 16th and early 17th centuries (a success that continued for much longer, but that is another story). 1 An epic poem replete with love and action, Orlando Furioso was an international bestseller worth having in one’s library even if one did not read it.… Continue Reading


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.… Continue Reading

Four states of Shakespeare: the Droeshout portrait

So the mysterious eye of this month’s crocodile belongs to no other than Shakespeare, as some readers immediately recognized: Droeshout’s engraving of Shakespeare on the title page of the First Folio More specifically, it is Shakespeare’s left right eye as depicted in the third state of the Droeshout engraving from one of the Folger’s copies of the First Folio. If you’re wondering why I chose his eye as the June crocodile, that previous sentence is key: the portrait of Shakespeare engraved by Martin Droeshout for the First Folio exists in 4 different states, 3 of which can be seen in copies of the First Folio (the fourth state wasn’t introduced until the Fourth Folio in 1685).… Continue Reading

A practical look at the Practical Science of Printing

title page for Fertel, La science pratique de l’imprimerie In 1723, a Frenchman named Martin-Dominque Fertel published a book on printing, La science pratique de l’imprimerie. It’s good to look at early printing manuals, especially when one is trying to understand how early printing works, so I was delighted to learn that the Folger acquired a copy of the book from the Veatchs in September 2012.… Continue Reading

Two disciplines separated by a common language

I should have seen it coming when the Art History professor and the English professor started talking with each other about “print culture” (names omitted to protect reputations). It soon became clear that one had been talking about the circulation of printed pictures, the other had been talking about the circulation of printed words, and neither wanted to let on that they hadn’t been talking about both all along.… Continue Reading

Secret histories of books

This month’s crocodile mystery was a bit more challenging than recent ones (perhaps not helped by my cryptic “suitable for April” introduction), but Aaron Pratt guessed the gist of it: the image was a detail of a page printed in black, usually referred to as a mourning page. Here is the full context, with the bit we were looking at taken from the middle of the left-hand page: leaves A3v-A4r of Josua Sylvester’s Lachrymae Lacrymarum (click to enlarge in Luna)… Continue Reading

Myth-busting early modern book illustration, part two

The last round of book illustration myth-busting looked at how copper plates wear out (and how they don’t wear out). This time, I’d like to take a bucket of archival research and dump it on a related myth. How many acceptable impressions can you get from an engraved copper plate before it needs reworking? Conventional wisdom says “not too many,” or “not nearly as many as with woodcuts,” or “somewhere between a few dozen and a few hundred.” How about 6,425?… Continue Reading

Colored print or color print?

Consider the following physical description in Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog (it’s for an edition of Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of women, also published as Shakespeare’s heroines): xl, 340 p., [12] leaves of plates : col. ill. ; 28 cm. The first part translates as “the printed portion of this book consists of 40 pages numbered with sequential roman numerals followed by 340 pages numbered with sequential arabic numerals, plus 12 unnumbered plates at some unspecified location or locations amongst those pages.” The second part, after the colon, translates into the vernacular much more succinctly:  “col.… Continue Reading

News of St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572

When the Swann Auction Gallery catalog for the March 15 sale crossed my desk, I flipped through as usual, looking for things that might fit the Folger’s collection development policy. I wasn’t paying too much attention, since it was primarily a sale of Americana, but a German illustrated news sheet of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre caught my eye, so I went to the online auction site for more information: (Click image for full view) It turned out to be one of Franz Hogenberg’s so-called Geschichtsblätter (“history broadsheets”), a series several hundred prints depicting the Wars of Religion that Franz Hogenberg and his successors published from 1569 to 1637.… Continue Reading

Woodcut, engraving, or what?

When a reader needs  to verify the printmaking technique behind an early modern book illustration, I’m always happy to grab my favorite 10x loupe and head up to the Reading Room to have a closer look. By popular request, here are some of the things I look for, and some books and websites that can help. Background: relief and intaglio Before the invention of lithography in the 1790s, two basic techniques for mechanically reproducing illustrations existed: relief printing and intaglio printing.… Continue Reading