The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: July 2022

Whose fingerprint is it? Is it a reader’s, printer’s, or binder’s fingerprint? I’ve been asking myself this question since I saw this trace in a Reformation pamphlet 1. It is placed in the gutter of the page and it is of a dark brown color ink (rather than black). Any thoughts on this are welcomed.



  • Well, it’s a bit hard to tell from the image, but to me it looks as though those are really two fingerprints (probably index and middle finger) placed very closely together, presumably to push down and hold the pamphlet in place. So the most logical conclusion would be that those are the fingerprints of whoever removed the binding / the facing page, i.e. either an early owner or the binder.

  • It’s purely a guess, but I’d suspect the binder got some glue on his(?) finger. It is not unreasonable to think it could be “his” or “her” because nuns were occasionally employed in the printing trade.

  • If the fingerprint is on the first page of a section or signature perhaps it was the result of a careless printer picking up a pile of already dry and folded sections.

  • It looks like two fingerprints (thumbprint and fingerprint?) pressing down on the inner bound border of the codex perhaps to open the volume for some reason? Does the work have annotations in the same ink?

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