The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Erin Blake

What’s in a playbill?

The Folger collection includes approximately 250,000 playbills, the single-sheet precursors of today’s multi-page theater programs. By the 1750s, London playbills had developed the standard layout you see in this blog post. They presented an evening’s entertainment as a sort of theatrical equivalent to a modern restaurant posting their daily bill of fare, where a repertoire of various dishes for each course appears in a different combination every night.… Continue Reading

A briefing on brevigraphs, those strange shapes in early printed texts

Most people reading this will know that “&” and “and” mean the same thing. Some will also know that the ampersand’s “&” shape originated from the handwritten word “et” (Latin for “and”). The  “e” and the “t” are combined into a single character, making “&” the best-known example of a brevigraph. Instead of writing out “et cetera” you can simply write “&c.”… Continue Reading

Expurgation with decoration: type ornaments as replacement text

Thanks for the great comments on last week’s Crocodile Mystery. Everyone scores ten points, with full marks going to the two commenters who correctly identified the publication. It is, in fact, a block of nonsense that replaces an expurgated paragraph of text. I wish I could show you the whole page of the Folger copy, but unfortunately, the visual note-to-self shown here is all I’ve got until the Folger re-opens after major renovations.… Continue Reading

Documenting mistakes in our documentation

If someone points out a typo in an online Finding Aid or a Hamnet catalog record, we gratefully say thank-you, fix it, and (usually) move on. Sometimes, though, a big enough mistake has been around for a long enough time that we can’t just move on. We have to take extra steps to find the source of the mistake, and make sure its ghost doesn’t come back to haunt scholarship.… Continue Reading

24,000 “preliminary” catalog records are better than nothing!

At least, we hope the approximately 24,000 “preliminary records” added to the Folger’s online catalog yesterday are better than nothing, which is what Hamnet had for most of these books since going live in 1997. Today’s Collation post explains where this big batch of records came from, and how to navigate their perils and pitfalls if you come across them in your research.… Continue Reading

Using cardboard spacers to fill gaps on the shelf

Sometimes the simplest tools are the best. This post is a tribute to the humble hunk of folded cardboard.1 Cardboard spacer filling the gap on the shelf while two large volumes are in use. All photos are by me, Erin Blake. You know how when you take a book off the shelf, you stare at the empty space for a fraction of a second, waiting to see if the books on either side stay standing-up?… Continue Reading

Creating John Gregory’s Bas Reliefs at the Folger

Who carved the John Gregory’s bas reliefs on the facade of the Folger? Readers of last week’s Collation post will know that the apparently obvious answer—John Gregory—is incorrect. Sculptor John Gregory (1879–1958) definitely created the works of art, but professional stone cutters chiselled away the marble until it exactly matched the plaster casts of Gregory’s full-size clay models. Carver on site at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 1931.… Continue Reading

Re-discovering three-cornered notes

A couple of years ago, when I had Saturday Duty in the Reading Room, a group of early-19th-century letters came across the desk. I noticed right away that one of them had unusual diagonal fold lines: Folger Y.d.23 (82x), a note from A. Bunn to R.W. Elliston, opened out to show the entire quarter-sheet of writing paper. It was a slow Saturday, so I spent some time figuring out how the creases lined up with each other, then folding sheets of scrap paper to match.… Continue Reading

The “Quartermaster’s Map” of England and Wales

Thanks for the excellent guesses on the identity of the August Crocodile Mystery! If you’ll permit me to indulge myself, I’ll prolong the suspense a little longer by showing some examples of what it might have been, but isn’t (and if you won’t permit me, no one’s stopping you from scrolling down now to read the answer). As several people pointed out, the tall and skinny binding is the sort of thing you’d expect for a ledger or some other kind of  financial account book.… Continue Reading

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