The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Erin Blake

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. 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? You know the heart-sick feeling of having them start to schlumph before you have time to set the first book down and stick your arm back into the gap?… 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. I’ll return to this photo later.… 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: 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 identiy 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

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