The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Art

Proof prints, part one

Last time I posted on The Collation (Two disciplines separated by a common language, 30 April 2013), I went off on a bit of a rant about vocabulary barriers between printed pictures and printed words. Guess what? There’s more! That post mentioned edition, copy, state, impression, and plate, but deliberately omitted the word “proof.” Those other terms all fit the tidy pattern of meaning one thing in one discipline, and something else in the other.… Continue Reading

Two disciplines separated by a common language

I should have seen it coming when the Art History professor and the English professor started talking with each other about “print culture” (names omitted to protect reputations). It soon became clear that one had been talking about the circulation of printed pictures, the other had been talking about the circulation of printed words, and neither wanted to let on that they hadn’t been talking about both all along.… Continue Reading

Interleaving history: an illustrated Book of Common Prayer

A guest post by Whitney Anne Trettien In Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones, Partridge and his friends go to see a play. As they watch a man light the upper candles of the playhouse, the predictably inane Partridge cries out, “Look, look, madam, the very picture of the man in the end of the common-prayer book before the gunpowder treason service!” The picture Partridge refers to is most likely this— —a widely circulated and often reproduced image of Guy Fawkes sneaking toward the House of Lords, matches and lantern in hand.… Continue Reading

The mysterious “Sem”

World, meet Sem. Sem, meet the World. Looks thrilled, doesn’t he? Well, you’d be a bit jaded, too, if you’d been hanging around the Folger for over 80 years, waiting for someone to finally notice you. It all began February 15, with a reference question from a colleague in London, “I am currently researching two volumes of drawings by an artist using the monogram SEM,” wrote Marcus Risdell, the curator at the Garrick Club.… 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

Peeking behind the locked door

Another sede vacante has come and gone. With the wall-to-wall coverage of contemporary media, this one made witnesses of us all. Or at least, the coverage let us witness the events outside the conclave and to share our speculation about what was happening behind the locked doors. For the Folger Institute, the recent happenings in St. Peter’s Square in Rome also sparked fond memories of our NEH Institute on Ritual and Ceremony, Late-Medieval Europe to Early America, directed by Claire Sponsler in 2010.  … Continue Reading

A Perfect Ten

American theater manager and playwright Augustin Daly (1838–1899) had a unique way of commemorating his productions. He collected illustrations, letters, and ephemera connected with the his staging, connected with historic productions of the play, and connected with the story of the play. However, instead of making a scrapbook from what he had gathered, he commissioned a professional inlayer to mount the material in paper “windows” and interleave them with similarly-mounted pages from his production’s printed acting edition.… Continue Reading

Myth-busting early modern book illustration, part two

The last round of book illustration myth-busting looked at how copper plates wear out (and how they don’t wear out). This time, I’d like to take a bucket of archival research and dump it on a related myth. How many acceptable impressions can you get from an engraved copper plate before it needs reworking? Conventional wisdom says “not too many,” or “not nearly as many as with woodcuts,” or “somewhere between a few dozen and a few hundred.” How about 6,425?… Continue Reading

Myth-busting early modern book illustration, part one

There’s a common core of misconceptions that many readers of this blog will be accustomed to dispelling thanks to their interest in Shakespeare and Early Modern Europe. “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” doesn’t mean “Where’d you go, Romeo?!” Historic window glass didn’t “flow” to become thicker at the bottom over time. The printing press didn’t destroy manuscript culture. But what about myths we propagate without knowing it?… Continue Reading

A Geek-Peek at Folger “ART File” and “ART Box” Classification

One of the most fascinating books I read while working on my dissertation had nothing to do with the topic as such: It’s the 189-page “user’s guide” to the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings, published in 1987. In it, Antony Griffiths and Reginald Williams matter-of-factly explain the dozens of schemes their department had used over the years in attempts to store, organize, and index prints and drawings.… Continue Reading