The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Erin Blake

Words with pictures, or, What’s in a name?

One of the points I like to make when I teach the History of Printed Book Illustration at Rare Book School is that images and words affect each other. The course deliberately focuses on illustrations—that is, on pictures and text that comment on each other, and affect each other’s meaning. It’s not just the aesthetic design and choice of subject that create meaning in book illustration, it’s the relationship between the visual and the verbal elements.… Continue Reading

The “Greco Deco” Folger Shakespeare Library

The About page for this blog declares that The Collation “seeks to present bite-sized glimpses of the materials found within our walls.” That’s a bit tricky at the moment: like most of the rest of the Folger staff, I haven’t had a glimpse within those walls since March 13, when we began teleworking to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The District of Columbia is now under a stay-at-home order so I can’t even glimpse the outside of those walls.… Continue Reading

A late 15th-century tapestry fragment with visible restorations

Yes, indeed, the Folger collection item the March 2020 Crocodile Mystery is two-toned because of fading (and yes, indeed, it is a tapestry). Congratulations and thanks to Elisabeth, Ed, and Carolyn for their comments. The mystery wasn’t quite solved, though: the darker areas were not protected from light by being folded under or covered by something opaque, as was proposed in the comments.… Continue Reading

What are ancient coins doing at the Folger Shakespeare Library?

Thanks for the great guesses at the identity of the November 2019 Crocodile. It’s tempting to pick one at random and just run with it (“Why yes, it is King Lear’s lost button!”) but in fact, Robin Swope’s guess that it’s an old coin is correct. It is, in fact, a bronze prutah of Porcius Festus, Roman procurator of Judea. It’s dated the 5th year of Emperor Nero’s rule, which means it’s from 58 or 59 CE.… Continue Reading

Printed Elizabethan poetry now included in Union First Line Index

As of September 2019, researchers have 35,261 more reasons to use the Union First Line Index of English Verse, hosted by the Folger Shakespeare Library. The database now contains all first lines, not just manuscript first lines, from Elizabethan poetry: a bibliography and first-line index of English verse, 1559-1603, by Steven W. May and William A. Ringler, Jr., the three-volume landmark published in 2004 (London and New York: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004).… Continue Reading

Drawn by Hayman, etched by Gravelot, preserved in Folger ART Vol. b72

For the June 2019 “Crocodile Mystery” we asked you to spot the differences between these two pictures: The main difference, of course, is that one is pretty much the reverse of the other. There are significant compositional differences too, though: Background figures in A do not appear in B Running man holds out an open palm in A and a sword in B Scabbards and legs in A make oblique angles; in B they are parallel or near-parallel (they’re also moved so that figures in both A and B can draw their swords right-handed).… Continue Reading

Untangling Lady Day dating and the Julian calendar

Folger X.c.92 (3) is my new favorite manuscript: it’s a letter written in Paris that single-handedly demonstrates the fact that “new style” dates refer to two different calendar modernizations. One modernization has to do with the Christian calendar’s reckoning of “the year of our Lord.” The other relates to the Julian calendar having gradually become ten days behind the seasonal year thanks to its miscalculation that a leap year is needed every four years, no exceptions.… Continue Reading

The key to removing a card catalog rod (literally)

Thanks for all the great guesses at the identity of the December Crocodile! In fact, the mystery object is a tool for removing the rod from a particular type of card catalog drawer (see Folgerpedia‘s Card catalogs article for information about our card catalogs and how to use them). Ironically, Richard M. Waugaman’s tongue-in-cheek proposal that it’s a worn-out corkscrew comes closest to the actual function: this type of card catalog rod is removed by jamming the tool onto the end of the rod and pulling, just like you’d pull a cork from a bottle.… Continue Reading

A “lost” drawing by Ellen Terry

Is it possible to lose something you never had? The other day I managed to “lose” a 1905 sketch of a theater interior by actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928). I had caught a glimpse of it when sorting through a small group of recently acquired letters, and was looking forward to having a closer look later. As far as I could tell in a glance, it was either a rough sketch looking out from the stage, like this 1768 engraving of the Amsterdam Schouwburg by Simon Fokke (1712-1784): …or it was a rough sketch looking towards the stage, like Simon Fokke’s companion engraving of the same theater: I didn’t want to interrupt my sorting, though, so anticipation about the mystery theater kept building.… Continue Reading

Proof print from the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery

As a couple of you guessed correctly last week, the June Crocodile Mystery is a proof for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery print of Lady Macbeth illustrating Macbeth, act 1, scene 5. In the finished state, which was printed from the same plate after additional work was done on it, the background is darker, and figure of Lady Macbeth has been filled in.… Continue Reading