The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Rachel B. Dankert

Not for the faint of heart

Thanks to everyone who registered a guess for this month’s Crocodile Mystery and congratulations to those of you who answered correctly! As many of you pointed out, the oddity in the final disposition of characters is Macbeth’s full-bodied presence on the stage—usually we just see his head, held aloft by Macduff! Read on for the gory details… A while ago, I wrote about the stinky ingredients used to create the effect of the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth.… Continue Reading

A Blessing to Booksellers

In her 1616 mother’s advice book, The Mothers Blessing, Puritan author Dorothy Leigh exhorts her readers: “Teach a childe in his youth the trade of his life, and he will not forget it, not depart from it when he is old.” This well-known Bible verse explains the lifelong project of labor for spiritual learning required for the practicing Christian. Leigh’s godly advice applies to her readers at all stages of life as they learn the precepts of faith in youth through their adulthood until their old age when they shall reap the fruit of their spiritual labor in death.… Continue Reading

Trappings of the stage

Thanks to those who registered your guesses on our most recent Crocodile Mystery. All of the guesses gazed upward, when the answer actually lay underfoot. While these strange designs resemble theatrical lighting effects, they are, in fact, designs for stage trap doors. R.B. [Bayley] was not satisfied with the status quo. Here, we see a dissatisfied theater-worker write to theater impresario and actor Robert William Elliston to argue his perspective.… Continue Reading

Three chords and the truth

There are moments when a song is the best way to convey an emotional message. Even though songs are mostly public things, they still can feel intensely personal. Popular songs in early modern England were sung in ballad form. At the intersection of oral, print, visual, and dance cultures, ballads had a wide appeal across class and rural/urban divides. Their broad appeal and presence in everyday life, combined with emotionally profound subjects made ballads the perfect accent to scenes in Shakespeare’s plays onstage.… Continue Reading

The Pirates of H.M.S. Pinafore

The mystery man in the Crocodile Mystery image is the Englishman W.S. (William Schwenck) Gilbert, the librettist and playwright, in costume as King Claudius. Gilbert, along with composer Arthur Seymour Sullivan, created during the 19th century some of the most beloved and enduring works of comic opera, such as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and Ruddigore.… Continue Reading

A recipe for brioche (knitting)

…a Collation KAL (knit-along). Cast on We built our friendship with knits and purls over coffee in the Folger Tea Room. Sharing patterns, exchanging techniques, and giving fiber recommendations are still staple conversation topics for us seven years after we first met. It seemed a natural fit, then, for us to co-author a post about a knitting surprise we found in the Folger collection (and not this kind).… Continue Reading

Play it again, Ham

As a Folger staff member, I am used to seeing Shakespeare’s face everywhere, but the image from this month’s Crocodile Mystery made even me do a double take. This month’s mystery was a stumper! The Hamlet behind Shakespeare/Yorick was Edwin “Eddie” Foy, a famous comic performer of the vaudeville era. Of all the roles available to a performer in Foy’s irreverent domain, it is curious that Hamlet is the one that haunts this jokester’s career.… Continue Reading

This Post Stinks, or, ‘I hope that the stuff will not smell too vilely’

John Masefield has a burning question he needs answered. Literally. Writing from his home Hill Crest in Boar’s Hill, Oxford, the Poet Laureate asks theater production veteran Allan Wade a crucial question about staging his home theatrical production of Macbeth.1 He registers a particular anxiety about the potential for stinking up the place—and not with bad acting. Autograph letter signed from John Masefield, Oxford, to Wade [manuscript], 19th or 20th century, [after 1917].… Continue Reading

Idols of the Reformation

Thank you to all who weighed in on this month’s Crocodile Mystery! Many people recognize October 31, 1517 as a major milestone in the beginning of the Protestant Reformation—the date that it is said Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg. To mark that occasion, I thought it would be fitting to have a Reformation-themed Crocodile post!… Continue Reading

Folger Collections related to Dramatic Performance

In hopes that we can help theater historians discover more about relevant Folger holdings through their own explorations, we have created this post on “named” collections at the Folger that relate to actors, dramatic performance, and the texts used by actors to stage drama. We hope it elucidates some of the “librarian’s short-hand” that we started to demystify in a previous post.… Continue Reading