The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

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

Just in time for the holiday weekend, a new crocodile mystery!

your July mystery
your July mystery


This month’s crocodile mystery will be, for many of you, obvious as a category of object. So there’s an extra challenge: what else can you say about its identity? (Full disclosure: I have a hunch on this, but would love to get confirmation or a different answer from your collective wisdom. And as your reward, we might get to update the associated record in our catalog!)


    • Yes—that’s what it looks like to me, too. And it was on the inside pastedown of one of our books, so that’s certainly an appropriate place to find a bookplate. Now for the real mystery that I need help on: whose is this??

  • This appears to be the mystic rose of the Rosicrucians, which is a hidden cross, the EH forming the cross bar. The upturned triangle signifies of water, one of the four elements, and also is laden with all kinds of references to 3 – the trinity being one of these. The general appearance is ecclesiastical black – my guess would be a bishop or archbishop.

  • Looks like it might be a rectangular leather bookplate that was cut down by hand: you’d expect a late 19th- or early 20th-century circular bookplate to be die-cut, but this is unevenly trimmed around the edges.

  • “Edward Hailstone” perhaps? Item 1148 in the American Art Association’s auction sale of “New Jersey memorabilia and rare and valuable books and documents” November 22d and 23d 1915 is “From the library of Edward Hailstone with his gilt-stamped circular leather bookplate.” [Full disclosure: got that by typing “circular leather bookplate” and “EH” into the Google search box. The “EH” comes from an unrelated entry in the same catalog.]

    According to Hamnet, Folger O570 has a “circular gilt-tooled armorial bookplate of Edward Hailstone” and P2251.5 has a “circular armorial bookplate of Edward Hailstone” — and about a dozen other records just mention Edward Hailstone as former owner, or mention his “bookplate” without further details. His name is only mentioned in the local notes, though, there’s no heading for him as former owner, so you have to search by keyword.

    It’s a stretch to call this bookplate “armorial” though.

  • The flower has me stumped. You’d expect a stylized rose to have five petals, not six, and a stylized Tudor rose to have ten petals (five each for the combined York and Lancaster). Maybe a stylized daffodil or narcissus seen head-on? But then the leaves are wrong…..

  • I Googled Edward Hailstone Rosicrucian and got a reference to a “Catalogue of the Interesting Contents of Walton Hall, Near …, Volumes 1-3
    By Edward Hailstone”
    From this, he was obviously very interested in the occult/magic/mystical subjects.

    This link, which I reached by Google also, gives some further info on EH It shows the same bookplate as in the second Folger example.

  • My suspicion all along has been that this belongs to Edward Hailstone, although I have not yet turned up a direct link between Hailstone and this particular bookplate—but Erin’s shared hunch makes me think I’m not being unreasonable in making the connection. I’ll share more in my next post about how I came up with Hailstone as a possibility, but I would still love it if I came up with a better connection than a hunch about initials and a shared aesthetic!

    • Edward Hailstone’s own catalogue may list the books you have in the Folger. (Digitised by Google)

      Erin, I unfortunately cleared my history this morning and can no longer retrace my steps to find the reference. I may have mis-remembered, because in the book ” Magic Symbols” by Frederick Goodman he states ‘The cross appears in many non-religious contexts, yet in magical symbolism it is often disguised, because it has such a rich variety of symbolic interpretations.
      An example of such a hidden cross may be seen in the emblem of the bees taking honey from the rose, in fig 160. In fact this symbol is from an important text related to the secret fraternity of the Rosy Cross, and in almost all their magical figures we find some indication of the rose (usually a seven-petalled rose) and a cross. in this image the cross is found in the stem of the rose itself…..”

      i’ve found an online image of this, it bears a striking resemblance to EH’s book plate:

      The image comes from the title page of the “Summum Bonum -True Magic, Cabala, Alchemy, of the True Brothers of the Rose Cross, “1629, attributed to Robert Fludd.

      Sorry to be so wordy.

  • I recently sold a book that was owned by Edward Hailstone—you can see it at It has the unambiguous armorial plate mentioned in some of the other comments. I noticed that the roses on the armorial plate have the typical five petals we usually see rather than the six present in the mystery plate, but I think I would privilege the similarities between the two plates more than something like this; an expectation of consistency isn’t always a fair one. Basically, I’m inclined to share Sarah’s hunch. That said, there might be a way to get more certainty.

    Do either of the books with the mystery plate appear in the auction catalog of Hailstone’s stuff? It’s titled Catalogue of the Interesting Contents of Walton Hall, Near Wakefield. The property of the late Edward Hailstone, Esq., F.S.A. (1891). You can find it on Google Books. The copy I sold shows up in there, and so do the ones I looked up in the Beinecke catalog as well as a few that I saw on Hamnet.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)