The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: August, 2020

Some types of publication have fairly standard proportions. For example, you can be pretty sure this oblong volume isn’t a Bible or a play text:

book cover
Front cover of The pen’s excellencie, or, The secretaries delighte / Written by Martin Billingsley. [London] : Are to be solde by Io: Sudbury & George Humble in Popeshead alley, [1618?]. Call number: Folger STC 3062.3
If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably a Berlemont-style international phrase book or a penmanship manual. As it happens, I don’t have to guess: it’s a penmanship manual, namely, an edition of Martin Billingsley’s The pen’s excellencie (call number: Folger STC 3062.3).

I also don’t have to guess what’s inside the tall, skinny leather cover in this photograph. It’s time for the August 2020 “What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?” so you have to guess….

Use the “Leave a reply” box at the end of the post to share what you think it might be. Come back to The Collation next week to have a look inside.


  • My first guess would be an almanack with printed columns or a ledger for daily observations or a book of tables of some sort with columns running vertically. Another guess for me would be some sort of scientific drawings, maps or mechanical diagrams with fold out pages. The front edges of the text block look in the photo to be folded. I have seen a large tall book like this shape was a book on perspective with diagrams and fold out pages, etc. (much wider and taller than what this book appears to be, but almost same proportions – not knowing the scale in this photo..). Seeing places for straps or catches, puts the book in another realm than an ordinary text. It will be interesting to see how far off I am! ha!

  • As Jane and Ray note this is a common format for ledgers, but Dawn notes the folded pages at the front so, yes, it could be diagrams, a map, tables, etc.

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