The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts By: Sarah Werner

John Bell, bibliographic nightmare

Some books are more challenging than others; some bibliographic questions are more complicated than others. This is the first of two posts that looks at a particularly challenging cataloging question. Today’s post will set up the challenge; the next one will take you into the nitty gritty of the “bibliographic nightmare” that is John Bell. John Bell (1745-1831) was a bookseller and a printer who was a major player in the London book trade and who has been alternately referred to as enterprising, pugnacious, and “that mischievous spirit, the very Puck of booksellers.” One of his claims to fame is being the printer with the curious distinction of having discontinued the use of the long ‘s’.… Continue Reading

A book’s fingerprints

Last week’s crocodile mystery may have been a bit too mysterious, but I hope that today’s post will inspire you to look for similar mysteries on your own. Here’s a close-up detail of what I was asking about: As with nearly all photographs shared on this blog, if you click the image, a larger version will open in a new window.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: May edition

First, my thanks to all of you who suggested new  names for this series on identifying objects in our collection. The best suggestion came from Jeremy Dibbell, on twitter, who found this perfect moment in Antony and Cleopatra: LEPIDUS: What manner o’ thing is your crocodile? ANTONY: It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth.… Continue Reading

What’s that?!

A  lot of what we post at The Collation is weighty, chock full of information and detail and (I hope!) interesting facts about our collections, library work, and early modern studies. But sometimes all you want is to look at a picture, right? Or maybe chime in with your sense of why something is interesting, yes? So with this post we are inaugurating an occasional series featuring curious things from the Library, whether a collection item or something used to care for the collections.… Continue Reading

modern adventures in printing

In keeping with the spirit of my last couple of posts, this one is also about printing, but this time as an activity that my students and I did in our Books and Early Modern Culture seminar. The Folger is lucky to have a small-scale replica hand press, thanks to the resourcefulness of Steve Galbraith, our former Curator of Books, who tracked down the work of a group of engineering students from Bucknell who had designed and built the press for a senior project, and who then built a second one for us.… Continue Reading

correcting mistakes

In my last post, I wrote about my joy in finding printer’s errors and what we might learn from them about early modern printing. In this one, I want to look at some examples of what printers do to correct their errors. Mistakes happen, as I tell my kids; it’s what you do about your mistakes that matters. So, what do you do when you make a mistake?… Continue Reading

learning from mistakes

One of my favorite categories of early modern books are those that show errors, small mistakes made in the process of printing them. I don’t love them because I like to laugh at them. I love finding them because they remind me that books are made by people and they carry with them traces of their making. Books don’t just magically appear.… Continue Reading

One way of looking at many books

Last week I wrote about two students who worked on (two different copies of) the same book. But looking over the 64 texts that the 66 students I’ve taught over the last five years (in eight different seminars), I’m struck by the wide range of works that students have been drawn to. In general, I require students to work on a book printed before 1700 (though I sometimes make exceptions to that rule depending on their research interests) and written in a language that they can read.… Continue Reading

Two ways of looking at the same book

As I’ve written about before, in my Undergraduate Seminars students devote the bulk of their research time to crafting a biography of the book they’ve chosen as their primary focus. They find out who wrote the book and who printed and published it, they speculate on who the book’s intended audience was and on how the book might have been received, and they trace the afterlife of the book through the owners of their copy and the later editions and translations of their text.… Continue Reading