The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Erin Blake

An unfinished gold-tooled binding

July’s Crocodile mystery asked: why is this binding interesting? There are any number of answers, but the one I had in mind was: it’s unfinished. Last week’s picture shows the front cover of Folger call number STC 13051.3, the 1630 edition of A helpe to memory and discourse: with table-talke, as musicke to a banquet of wine. It’s 14 cm high, bound in dark blue goatskin, and has a strange-looking pattern of gold-tooled flowers and circles.… Continue Reading

Signature statements in book cataloging

Today’s post returns to the cliffhanger at the end of Tuesday’s Physical description in book cataloging overview: if [4], CXXII leaves : ill. ; 31 cm (fol.) forms a complete physical description in a library catalog, then what’s up with a4 A-O8 P10 and where does it fit in? a4 A-O8 P10 is an example of a signature statement, sometimes also called a collation (one of the many meanings of “collation” for which this blog is named).… Continue Reading

Physical description in book cataloging

Does a4 A-O8 P10 make perfect sense to you? If so, please read on anyway. This isn’t a post on how to decode a collational formula. It’s a post about what to expect (and what not to expect) in the “physical description” portion of a library catalog record for a book. In other words, the part that looks like this in a Hamnet record, taking the record for the 1513 Venetian edition of Macrobius’s Commentaries on the Dream of Scipio as an example: International Standard Bibliographic Description (yes, there is an international standard) calls this part of the record the Material Description Area.… Continue Reading

New STC call numbers for old

The Great Reclassification has begun! As some of you may know, all newly-acquired vault material at the Folger is shelved in the order it was accessioned except for publications that fall within the scope of  A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 compiled by A.W. Pollard & G.R. Redgrave, better known at the Folger as “STC” (also well-known as “Pollard and Redgrave”).… Continue Reading

Photo-manual illustration

As Jeff and Anthony commented on last week’s Crocodile Mystery, this picture is unusual because it is an engraved portrait copied from a photograph rather than from a drawing or painting. Specifically, it is a steel engraving by George Hollis (1793–1842) based on a daguerreotype by J.E. Mayall (1813–1901), and it depicts Madame [Céline] Celeste (1814–1882) as Princess Katherine in Shakespeare’s Henry V: A comparison of the daguerreotype-based steel engraving with a drawing-based copper engraving of Mrs.… Continue Reading

Folger Tooltips: Making a spreadsheet from raw Hamnet data

Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog, is more than just a searchable inventory of printed books, manuscripts, engravings, paintings, and other resources in the collection. It is also a giant data set, freely available for machine analysis. But there’s a catch: library catalog data is encoded in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging), the coelecanth of the digital world. Developed in the 1960s, this data standard is now a living fossil.… Continue Reading

Photostats, or, The more things change, the more they stay the same

Five weeks, and seventeen back-and-forth notes and letters. That’s what it took for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s first director, William Slade, to overcome the architects’ doubts that the library really did need a costly No. 4 Photostat machine and that it really was worth the “troublesome and expensive job” of making it fit into a two-room suite designed for a smaller, cheaper, No.… Continue Reading

Meet the Hamnet HBCN (“Handy Butt-Cover Note”)

When libraries replaced card catalogs with computer catalogs, researchers lost a crucial piece of information: an at-glance indication of relative trustworthiness. Consider this thin slip of paper from the Folger’s card catalog, for example: Looks fairly preliminary, right? That’s because it is. This is an “accession slip” (referred to in some libraries as a “flimsy”). It was typed up in the Acquisitions Department, then filed in the card catalog as a place-holder until the item could be cataloged.… Continue Reading

Taming a tight binding

You know how some old bindings gently let a book stay open on its own, at a comfortable angle? And how other old bindings seem to willfully resist, taunting you by starting to close just as you get the book weights perfectly arranged? This post introduces a simple tool that can help tame those tight bindings: a V-shaped wedge of lightweight plastic.… Continue Reading

Knowing your Adams from your Adams: decoding library catalog citations

Picture, if you will, a 16th-century Continental edition of Ovid, an 18th-century illustrated history of London, and a 19th-century book about the American west. Now picture which one of the three might be “in Adams.” Which one did you pick? Years ago, when I was doing dissertation research at the British Library Map Library, everyone in my circle knew that “Adams” referred to the standard bibliography of London topographical books published between 1604 and 1851.… Continue Reading