The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Heather Wolfe

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

A third manuscript by Thomas Trevelyon/Trevilian

Many Collation readers are already familiar with the Folger’s Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 (Folger MS V.b.232), and the fabulous Trevilian Great Book of 1616 at the Wormsley Library. Both manuscripts, created by Thomas Trevelyon/Trevilian  (b. ca. 1548), have been published in facsimile, and the Folger version is also fully digitized. … Continue Reading

Such a lucky pretty little library…

We thought we’d kick off your weekend with an amusing and fascinating hybrid book that is ripe for research. The as-yet unidentified compiler of this late seventeenth-century, ca. 800-leaf volume, a recent acquisition at the Folger, describes it in many flowery ways. He introduces it as a “Vade-Mecum Memorial Manual of Muses, or Compleate Compendious Complexe and Companion, of Learned Languages and Sciences, Scarcely another to be seen so short, small and full.”… Continue Reading

An exercise in collaborative editing: Anthony Bagot’s letters and Nathaniel Bacon’s pirate depositions

As part of their paleography training, my paleography students always spend a bit of each afternoon working in pairs on transcriptions. It gives them a break from being in the “spotlight” as we go around the room reading manuscripts line by line, and allows us to shift from reading out loud to the detail-work of semi-diplomatic transcription. Two or three sets of eyes are much better than a single set in terms of efficiency and accuracy, and students learn from each other in a way that they can’t learn from me.… Continue Reading

Believe it or not: strange accidents and reports

  Early modern jokes and curiosities have a way of making us feel like insiders and outsiders at the same time. We’ll encounter jokes such as “A mad man is as stronge as two / Because he is a man besides himselfe” and think, Hey, I get it, early modern folks are just like us, and if I were eight years old I would think this was hilarious!… Continue Reading

This post is brought to you by the letter L

This letter L is an example of a cadel initial, or lettre cadeau, with anthropomorphic features; that is, it is a letter created out of knot-work and caricatured or grotesque faces of people (actually, it is zoomorphic as well, with that lovely panting dog). It appears on leaf 2 of Folger MS V.a.320, an English manuscript version of Sir Henry Finch’s Nomotechnia, viz.Continue Reading

Pew-hopping in St. Margaret’s Church

Manuscripts of unusual shapes and sizes are always fun to investigate, and we recently had the opportunity to reevaluate a particularly large and interesting one, a ca. 1600 “pew plan” written on a piece of parchment (Folger MS X.d.395), in preparation for the current exhibition, Open City: London, 1500-1700.… Continue Reading

Thomas Shelton’s shorthand version of the Lord’s Prayer

Commenters to last week’s post, Heirloom apples and pears, anyone?, correctly identified the shorthand text found in Henry Oxinden’s miscellany (Folger MS V.b.110) as the Lord’s Prayer written out according to Thomas Shelton’s method of shorthand, called tachygraphy. Below is the prayer and Creed from the last leaf of the Folger copy of the 1674 edition of Thomas Shelton’s Tachygraphy: The most exact and compendious method of short and swift writing, that hath ever yet been published by any followed by the manuscript version from Oxinden’s miscellany:… Continue Reading