The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Heather Wolfe

Where do family trees come from?

Why is a tree coming out of this dozing man’s belly, you may ask. When I began working on the Folger’s next exhibition, Symbols of honor: Family history and genealogy in Shakespeare’s England (July 1 to October 26, 2014), I wondered the same thing. This is Jesse. The text below this image includes a passage from Isaiah (11.1), which Christians interpret as prophetic: “the Virgin shall spring of the roote of Jesse But there shall come a rod forth of the stocke of Ishai, and a graffe shall growe out of his roote.” Jesse, father of King David, was the root from which the ancestors of Christ sprung.… Continue Reading

An example of early modern English writing paper

The crocodile posted on Friday was correctly identified by Philip Allfrey as a watermark of Queen Elizabeth’s arms encircled by the Garter. In his comments, Mr Allfrey provided a useful account of how he identified the watermark and the letter on which it appears. He also went the extra mile and used various Folger databases and the Gravell Watermark Archive to identify the papermaker, John Spilman!… Continue Reading

Unbidden guests, moldy pies, and other holiday drama

As we enter the holiday season and look forward to spending time with our families and friends, it is of course always useful to take a moment to reflect upon the antics of other people’s families. Even better if those families are over four hundred years old. And even better if their antics are described in English secretary or italic hand.… Continue Reading

EMMO: Early Modern Manuscripts Online

The Folger is thrilled to share the news that we are the recipient of a generous three year National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to create Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO), an online searchable database of encoded semi-diplomatic transcriptions of all Folger manuscripts from the period 1500-1700. That’s the final product, anyway. Getting there is going to be quite an adventure for us, one that we plan to share with you on The Collation at regular intervals once we get up and running next year.… Continue Reading

Pirates, hats, herring, and iron pots! The case of Captain Thomas Hubbard

When we get to “deposition day” in paleography class, one of the manuscripts that the students usually transcribe is Folger MS L.d.673, in which one John Bartholomew confesses to buying six iron pots, but no hats. Bartholomew states that he purchased the pots from one “Captaine Hubbart,” “before the bringinge in of the last two prises.” It is so short and so without context that the students don’t know what to make of it, and often don’t trust their initial reading of “pottes” and “hattes” and “prises.” When I tell them that the deposition is actually about pirates, they are still circumspect.… Continue Reading

Don’t try this at home (unless you are a professional brewer)

Here’s a little transcription exercise for our Crocodile readers: This is the title of a recipe in a book of culinary and medical receipts compiled between approximately 1675 and 1750 by a few generations of related women: Rose Kendall and Ann (Kendall) Cater of Kempstone, Bedfordshire, 1682; Elizabeth Clarke; and Anna Maria Wentworth of Wolley, Yorkshire, whose grandfather was Giles Clarke of Lyons Inn, London, and who later married Peter Bold of Bold Hall, Lancashire, 1725/26 (I’ve taken this information directly from the Hamnet record).… Continue Reading

Learning to write the alphabet

Learning to write the alphabet is one of the first stages of writing literacy. For early modern English children, this meant first learning to read the letters of the alphabet (printed in black letter) from a hornbook. They then learned to write the letters of the alphabet in one or both of the two main handwritten scripts, secretary and italic. For this, they relied on manuscript or printed copybooks or exemplars, usually supplemented by instruction from a writing master at a writing school, a private tutor or family member, or usher in a grammar school.  … Continue Reading

Filing, seventeenth-century style

When we think of filing today, we think of digital files and folders, and manilla folders, hanging files, and filing cabinets. But what did filing look like in early modern England? How did people deal with all their receipts and bills and letters when they wanted to keep them? What evidence of filing systems still survives?… Continue Reading

A manuscript misattribution?

This post was originally going to be titled “Murder in the Archives” and was going to be about an account in William Westby’s 1688 diary (Folger MS V.a.469) of the discovery of a dismembered body found scattered on a dung hill and in two “houses of easement” (latrines) in London, the revelation of which caused panic throughout the city. I often use Westby’s description of the murder and subsequent confession and punishment of a French midwife accused of killing her abusive husband on “diary day” in paleography class.… Continue Reading

A letter from Queen Anne to Buckingham locked with silk embroidery floss

No, it’s not Lady Gaga’s hairline or the frizz on one of those creepy troll dolls.  Last week’s crocodile mystery is in fact a close up of silk embroidery floss that had been tightly wrapped around a folded letter, with seals placed over the floss on the front and back of the packet to secure it. When the floss was cut to open the letter, the floss frayed, and the seals remained intact. … Continue Reading