The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Manuscript reunions

Sometimes we come across a manuscript on the market that looks vaguely familiar, and sends us scrambling to Hamnet to figure out why. I was reminded of this last week when a bookseller offered us a “naval return for Queen Elizabeth I signed by Fulke Greville” (in his capacity as Treasurer of the Navy), consisting of the naval charges at Deptford for September 1600. Turns out we already have six such items, cataloged as Folger MS X.d.201 (1-6). When I went down to the vault to compare these manuscripts to the images sent by the bookseller, I experienced a small jolt of recognition.

First, here’s the image of the naval expense summary we just purchased, front and back (click on any image to enlarge it):

Deptford naval charges, September 1600 (front; detail) Courtesy of bookseller
Deptford naval charges, September 1600 (back; detail) Courtesy of bookseller

And here’s an image of one of the expense summaries already at the Folger, front and back, also for September 1600, but from Woolwich instead of Deptford:

Woolwich naval charges, September 1600 (front; detail)
Woolwich naval charges, September 1600 (back; detail)

Notice the similar texts and signatures (Greville and Trevor, plus Lydyard, instead of Ellis). But ALSO note the nineteenth century pencil notes identifying the signatures and thus attaching value to the rather banal document (“Sr. Fulke Greville Ld. Brooke Chancr. of Exchqr Author & Poet “very rare”). Yep, same hand on both the Folger manuscript (purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Folger from the English bookdealer N.M. Broadbent in 1926) and the one that we just acquired last week. Four out of the six expense summaries have these pencil notes, and all of these were part of the batch acquired from Broadbent (X.d.201 (2-5)).

We also have the expense summary from Deptford for December 1600 (X.d.201 (6)), with the same three signatures as the just-acquired expense summary from Deptford for September 1600, as well as an additional signature (that of Peter Buck). It doesn’t have the pencil notes, and came to the Folger at a later date from a different source, but the hands of the text itself and the endorsement are identical to the new acquisition. X.d.201 (1) also came from a different source and lacks the pencil notes—Mr. and Mrs. Folger acquired it from a bookseller named Tregaskis in April 1925 (cat. 901, no. 336).

Deptford naval charges, December 1600 (front; detail)
Deptford naval charges, December 1600 (back; detail)

So at some point, all seven items (plus many others) were probably sitting next to each other in a bundle. Over two centuries later, five of them were still keeping company and were annotated in pencil by a collector or dealer (X.d.201 (2-5) plus the one just purchased). Four of them found their way here in 1926,  and another found its way here in 2011.

This sort of reunion is not completely unusual. In 2007, we were able to reunite two parts of an Elizabethan manuscript grimoire (with magic spells and conjurations), based largely on the evidence of a nineteenth century owner who had paginated it in a distinctive blue ink (Folger MS V.b.26 (1-2), and in BookReader views in Luna of volume 1 and volume 2). The part of the manuscript already at the Folger was paginated 15-205. The part of the manuscript that appeared on the cover of a Sotheby’s (London) auction catalogue in July 2007 was paginated 206-235. We’re still hoping to find pp. 1-14!

detail from last leaf of V.b.26 (1) showing blue page number "205"
detail from V.b.26 (2) showing blue page number 206

And in November 2010, we were able to add a fourteenth volume to the thirteen volumes of the famous “Cross-Hopkins Diaries,” which record details about plays and farces performed at Drury Lane Theater between 1747 and 1776. Here is an image from W.a.104 (13), which includes details of performances between November 20 and December 18, 1775 written in the hand of the prompter William Hopkins, and below that an image from the manuscript we acquired last year, also in Hopkins’s hand, for performances between September 21 and December 23, 1776.

Drury Lane performances from 1775
Drury Lane performances from 1776

The confusing thing about this acquisition was that The London Stage, pt. 5, p. xvii, printed in the 1960s, already mistakenly listed this manuscript as being at the Folger. We were pleased to transform that prescient piece of misinformation into something accurate.

We’ve also been able to add to various existing archives of family papers at the Folger, as strays become available. It seems right to bring these items back together—to place them next to each other in the vault after a long separation. It enhances their individual and collective research value, ensures that they will never lose each other again, and makes a curator feel like the world is just a little more organized and right.

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