The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Erin Blake

Printer’s waste or endleaf?

Last week’s crocodile mystery concerned the nature of a fragment of paper used to repair a letter from Thomas Cromwell to Nicholas Wotton written in 1539. This mystery is probably not the first, or the last, time that our answers are not perfectly satisfactory. We offer some identifications, theories, hunches, and further questions, below. If you think we are on the wrong track, be sure to let us know! … Continue Reading

The material history of… ?

The phrase “history of the book” is commonly used as a catch-all for the history and study of the physical components and technology behind traditional printer’s-ink-on-folded-paper-in-a-binding books, whether or not the thing being studied is itself a traditional book or component of such a book. Studying papermaking and the physical properties of paper (for instance, “Learning to ‘read’ old paper“) is part of book history… unless  the paper’s theoretical destiny is to be drawn on.… Continue Reading

How (not) to mend a tear

Going through a box of early 19th-century playbills recently, I was puzzled to see something paper-clipped to an area of loss on the right-hand edge of a bill, as if someone had attached a little note to it:… Continue Reading

Learning to “read” old paper

Have you ever wished there were a summer camp for bookish grown-ups? A retreat where we can spend a week amongst our own and not worry about being teased for loving libraries or getting hit in the glasses by a dodgeball? There is such a place, and it’s called Rare Book School. Originally based at Columbia University, RBS moved to the University of Virginia in 1992 and has continued to grow ever since.… Continue Reading

Colored print or color print?

Consider the following physical description in Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog (it’s for an edition of Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of women, also published as Shakespeare’s heroines): xl, 340 p., [12] leaves of plates : col. ill. ; 28 cm. The first part translates as “the printed portion of this book consists of 40 pages numbered with sequential roman numerals followed by 340 pages numbered with sequential arabic numerals, plus 12 unnumbered plates at some unspecified location or locations amongst those pages.” The second part, after the colon, translates into the vernacular much more succinctly:  “col.… Continue Reading

News of St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572

When the Swann Auction Gallery catalog for the March 15 sale crossed my desk, I flipped through as usual, looking for things that might fit the Folger’s collection development policy. I wasn’t paying too much attention, since it was primarily a sale of Americana, but a German illustrated news sheet of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre caught my eye, so I went to the online auction site for more information: It turned out to be one of Franz Hogenberg’s so-called Geschichtsblätter (“history broadsheets”), a series several hundred prints depicting the Wars of Religion that Franz Hogenberg and his successors published from 1569 to 1637.… Continue Reading

Fore-edge paintings

Following up on Sarah’s What’s that? post from last week, full marks to everyone who said “fore-edge painting” (also acceptable, though less to the point, “1631 x 401 pixel digital image” and “Wilton House“). Here’s the same image, not cropped as tightly, so you can see the end papers and a glimpse of the fingers fanning out the leaves: And here is the fore-edge of the same book, closed:… Continue Reading

The road to Acquisitions Night 2012

This Thursday is Acquisitions Night, the annual benefit to support Folger collections. It’s something of a three-ring circus: buffet dinner in the Great Hall, conservation demonstrations at one end of the Paster Reading Room, and—in the center ring—dozens of newly-acquired vault items spread through the rest of the reading room for visitors to enjoy and, perhaps, adopt. Since “Acq Night” is very much on my mind this week, I thought this might be a good opportunity for a curator’s-eye-view of the event.… Continue Reading

Woodcut, engraving, or what?

When a reader needs  to verify the printmaking technique behind an early modern book illustration, I’m always happy to grab my favorite 10x loupe and head up to the Reading Room to have a closer look. By popular request, here are some of the things I look for, and some books and websites that can help. Background: relief and intaglio Before the invention of lithography in the 1790s, two basic techniques for mechanically reproducing illustrations existed: relief printing and intaglio printing.… Continue Reading

Wagner and Shakespeare meet in Bayreuth

Back in August, I posted about a unique artists’ book  from 1995. Today, I’d like to showcase an example from the other end of the twentieth century, an artists’ book created in 1908 by American painter Pinckney Marcius-Simons (1867–1909). In his altered copy of a French edition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream printed in 1886, watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor) cover every page from edge-to-edge.… Continue Reading