The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Elizabeth DeBold

Fortune’s Fools: early tarot cards

As several of you guessed last week, this month’s crocodile mystery showed an early tarot card. When treating a copy of a 1673 edition of Vincent Reboul’s “Le Pelerinage de S. Maximin,” Folger conservators discovered two tarot cards used to reinforce its binding.  I came across these cards, which were given their own call numbers and catalog entry when they were removed, some years ago and snapped this photo.… Continue Reading

The Art of the Prompt Book

Most library visitors to the Folger expect us to have books in our collections. Some know that we also have art, manuscripts, and even objects. Yet, any exploration into our collections means that researchers will inevitably encounter an item that could be described as including printed, manuscript, and even artistic content, all in one. Heather Wolfe has eloquently described such “hybrid” materials as “consist[ing] of a mixture of thematically-connected printed, manuscript, and graphic material gathered from a variety of sources into a single binding.”… Continue Reading

Birdbrained

Thanks to everyone who took a guess on this month’s Crocodile Mystery! As several of you pointed out, the teaser image is of some breed of cockatoo or cockatiel. Although I usually know a hawk from a handsaw, I will leave questions about exactly which species or sub-family of Cacatuidae this artistic rendition is meant to represent to experts. The hand-colored print itself is an early- to mid-nineteenth-century lithograph of Act III, sc.… Continue Reading

Announcing the Earle Hyman Collection

Earlier this year, the Folger Shakespeare Library was privileged to receive the Earle Hyman Collection, including many of the actor’s personal papers, photographs, and theatrical ephemera, as a gift from his family and friends. Although we’re closed for renovations, we wanted to highlight this fabulous collection, as well as to recognize Mr. Hyman, his achievements, and his enormous contribution to theater worldwide.… Continue Reading

“To Madame Sarah”

Sarah Bernhardt is, for many, synonymous with the melodramatic. One of the most well-known and celebrated actresses of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, she was described by contemporaries as “indefatigable;” “an actress without a rival;” and “a queen of art.” Actor Sir Herbert Tree called her, simply, “the greatest woman I have ever known.”  She was so iconic, some referred to her as “the Bernhardt” or “the divine Sarah.”… Continue Reading

All the Purposes of a Library: a piece of blue ephemera

Thanks to all of you who participated in guessing for this month’s Crocodile Mystery! As some of you noted, it is a book bound in eighteenth-century waste paper, particularly waste paper related to a late eighteenth-century edition of the Cyclopaedia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences by Ephraim Chambers. The tricky part is figuring out exactly what kind of waste it is.… Continue Reading

A Wyncoll’s Tale

Let’s face it, every special collections library has at least a few mystery items in the vault that are quietly passed down over the decades from curator to curator (or cataloger to cataloger, or acquisitions librarian to acquisitions librarian). These items exist in a liminal space of low-level awareness and quietly dissipating institutional knowledge, awaiting the elusive day when they can be remembered and identified.… Continue Reading

Stuff in Books: a conundrum

When we think of book history, most of us focus on the creation, dissemination, and reception of texts. But as many scholars have begun to discuss in the last few years, books and manuscripts ended up being used in many different ways unrelated to their status as textual objects. Once we begin to consider what purposes bound books and manuscripts might have served beyond their primary function as sources of knowledge and learning, the list gets long fairly quickly.… Continue Reading

“What’s in a Name?” or, Going Sideways

When, in Act 2 of William Shakespeare’s famous teen suicide play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet muses “[w]hat’s in a name? That which we call a rose / [b]y any other word would smell as sweet,” it’s lucky for her that she isn’t speaking to a librarian. Although her sentiment is poetic, we librarians prefer to be a bit more precise when it comes to terminology.… Continue Reading

Folger collections in times of war

As you guessed, the image from last week’s Crocodile Post is a hand-drawn plan for a vault. This particular one was intended to store the Folger’s rare books during World War II. The hand-drawn plan is the work of Stanley King, the president of Amherst College from 1938-1946. Ever since the death of Henry Folger in 1930, the Folger Shakespeare Library has been under the administrative auspices of Amherst College—Folger’s alma mater.… Continue Reading