The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Sarah Hovde

The mystery of the Shakespearian cartoons

I first encountered this book three years ago, in 2015. Intrigued by its sparse catalog record, which at that point consisted of a cataloger-supplied title (“[Cartoons based on quotes from Shakespeare]”), an estimated page count, and little more, I went down to the vault to retrieve it. It turned out to be a little volume of, well, cartoons based on quotations from Shakespeare, interpreted in settings humorously far-removed from their original contexts; almost square, with a plain leather binding and some small gilt embellishments bordering the front cover.… Continue Reading

Sonnets by Shakespeare…’s spirit?

As the common saying goes, only death and taxes are certain. However, consider the uncertainties that can accompany any tax season: missing W-2s, e-file services incompatible with your browser, shifting standards, mathematical errors…… Continue Reading

The Shakespeare stamps

As several philatelically-astute readers quickly identified, the portrait of Shakespeare shown in last week’s Crocodile mystery is from a stamp!     These one shilling stamps were issued annually for a number of years at the turn of the 20th century. Each stamp used the same image of Shakespeare, a depiction loosely adapted from his memorial in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, printed in a different color each year.… Continue Reading

A nineteenth-century family circus

A few months ago, I wrote about the process of creating brief catalog records for the Folger’s playbill collection. Since then, I’ve completed records for playbills from London and all of Scotland, and have begun working my way through playbills from the rest of England. Recently, I came across a playbill for a performance by Cooke’s Royal Circus in Birmingham. I thought the name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it until I checked our catalog and remembered that I had cataloged another playbill for Cooke’s Royal Circus over the summer.… Continue Reading

Shakespearian novelties- er, novelettes

I was pretty intrigued when I pulled this case marked “Shakespearian novelties” from the shelf in the Vault… … then I realized that it actually said “Shakespearian novelettes,” and my excitement dimmed a little. Novelizations and other prose adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays (and sometimes even poetry) are not exactly uncommon these days. Narrative stories based on Shakespeare’s plays have abounded since the publication of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespear in 1807.… Continue Reading

How to catalog 100,000 playbills (give or take a few thousand)

You’re probably aware that a significant amount of the Folger’s collection remains uncataloged; the majority of items have at least brief records in our online catalog Hamnet, but even today some collections are accessible only through the card catalog. We don’t like that any more than you do—we want all our materials to easily findable, in one place! However, we have so many materials and only a small staff, and we don’t want to put inaccurate information into the catalog just to have something there.… Continue Reading

The Guild of Women-Binders and the “bindings of tomorrow”

It’s not uncommon for me to encounter small presses, publishers, and binderies with which I’m unfamiliar in the course of my regular work at the Folger. However, few of them have as intriguing a story as the Guild of Women-Binders, which I discovered in our catalog earlier this month. The Guild of Women-Binders was started by Frank Karslake, a London bookseller with ambitious ideas, but little actual experience in bookbinding.… Continue Reading

A promptbook in disguise

It’s time to pull back the curtain on last week’s crocodile mystery: that weird woven material is a close-up photograph of the cover of a promptbook! Both commenters who took a guess last week came pretty close. This particular promptbook was used during an 1838 production of Woman’s wit, or, love’s disguises at the Tremont Theatre in Boston, probably by an actor named Thomas Barry, who performed in New York and Boston during the mid-19th century.… Continue Reading

“A triple badge in Coventry ribbon”

When I retrieved Sh.Misc. 1639 from the shelf, I wasn’t sure what to expect from an item described on the catalog card as “Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebration. Mementoes, tickets, programs…” Many of the components turned out to be fairly common–though no less interesting!—pieces of ephemera such as programs, fundraising letters, performance tickets, and even a train schedule. But one item was a little more exciting.… Continue Reading

“To benefit the suffering Belgians”

As several readers quickly guessed, last week’s crocodile image was a photograph of a Russian edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The “ghost” type in the image is due to a glassine (translucent paper) jacket around the volume, which obscures the printed text of the cardboard cover below. This edition was translated by Modest Tchaikovsky (dramatist, librettist, and brother of the Romantic composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky), and published in 1914 by I.… Continue Reading