The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: October 2019

For this month’s Crocodile Mystery, we ask you, our wonderful readers:

What is this thing, and what is it made of?

As always, comment with your thoughts and guesses and we’ll be back next week with more information!


  • October 2019 Crocodile: depiction of a fireworks assembly is suggested, although a rocket is not obvious in the image.

  • Does using EEBO constitute cheating? If so, ignore the rest of this post…

    Apparently this is a ‘Fier-Lance’, as described in John Bate’s ‘Mysteries of Nature and Art’ (1654). According to the description it’s made of a tube of hollowed-out wood or moulded pasteboard, a quill filled with gunpowder (that’s the thin stick at the centre) and layers of different types of fireworks mixed with more gunpowder. So basically this isn’t just a plain rocket that will explode in the air and that’s that, it’s a rocket that is designed to display different shapes of fireworks in succession and switch from ‘stars’ to ‘serpents’, a bit like modern fireworks. Quite clever, really. You’d almost be tempted to try it out if it weren’t so madly dangerous…

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