The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: June 2014

For your June crocodile mystery, something to cast your eye over:

I spy with my little eye, this crocodile mystery
I spy with my little eye, this crocodile mystery

What is this, how many pertinent details can you point to, and why might it matter? Leave your guesses below and come back later this week to find the answer!


  • Why, I’d recognize that gorgeous eye anywhere! Is an eye-crop (not quite an eye selfie) of a portrait of Shakespeare? Such gorgeous cross hatching and fine shading.

    • clearly the right eye, probably of a man, slightly turned to the (his) right, the light coming from the (his) left. The person is looking to the onlooker. What strikes is the lack if whimpers (so, more reason it is a man?). It is an engraving of high quality (though a pity it cannot be enlarged at least a bit more), i think mixed with some etching, for the lower eyelid and maybe also for the white of the eye. The lower eyelid shows some weakness of the hand handling the etching needle. Might be dated around 1600 +

  • So should the lines of life that life repaire
    Which this (Times pensel or my pupill pen)
    Neither in inward worth nor outward faire
    Can make you liue your selfe in eies of men

  • Is it the second impression of the Folio? I’ve never looked at it so closely, but I think I remember reading that the highlights in the eyes were one of the things that Droeshout tinkered with in between the first and second. Or was it the second and third…?

  • Emma and Mitch–both of you are very close. This is the Droeshout portrait that’s used in the First through Fourth Folios, but this copy is from the First Folio and the portrait is in its 3rd state. The key difference is in the eyes: in the 3rd state, the highlights are different and there’s actually (inexplicably) an extra strand of hair… There’ll be tons of details in my next post explaining how to differentiate between the 4 states of the portrait!

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