The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Art

From Stage to E-page: Theater Archives at the Folger Library

[This post was first delivered as a talk at the 2012 conference of the Shakespeare Association of America as part of a session called “The Once and Future Performance Archive.”] The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC opened in 1932. It is representative of a private institution whose collections were very much shaped by the interest of its founders, Henry and Emily Folger.… Continue Reading

Fore-edge paintings

Following up on Sarah’s What’s that? post from last week, full marks to everyone who said “fore-edge painting” (also acceptable, though less to the point, “1631 x 401 pixel digital image” and “Wilton House“). Here’s the same image, not cropped as tightly, so you can see the end papers and a glimpse of the fingers fanning out the leaves: And here is the fore-edge of the same book, closed:… Continue Reading

The road to Acquisitions Night 2012

This Thursday is Acquisitions Night, the annual benefit to support Folger collections. It’s something of a three-ring circus: buffet dinner in the Great Hall, conservation demonstrations at one end of the Paster Reading Room, and—in the center ring—dozens of newly-acquired vault items spread through the rest of the reading room for visitors to enjoy and, perhaps, adopt. Since “Acq Night” is very much on my mind this week, I thought this might be a good opportunity for a curator’s-eye-view of the event.… Continue Reading

Woodcut, engraving, or what?

When a reader needs  to verify the printmaking technique behind an early modern book illustration, I’m always happy to grab my favorite 10x loupe and head up to the Reading Room to have a closer look. By popular request, here are some of the things I look for, and some books and websites that can help. Background: relief and intaglio Before the invention of lithography in the 1790s, two basic techniques for mechanically reproducing illustrations existed: relief printing and intaglio printing.… Continue Reading

Wagner and Shakespeare meet in Bayreuth

Back in August, I posted about a unique artists’ book  from 1995. Today, I’d like to showcase an example from the other end of the twentieth century, an artists’ book created in 1908 by American painter Pinckney Marcius-Simons (1867–1909). In his altered copy of a French edition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream printed in 1886, watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor) cover every page from edge-to-edge.… Continue Reading

A Trip to the Fair

Every November, the International Fine Print Dealers’ Association (IFPDA) holds a fair at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. Colloquially known as the New York Print Fair, almost 100 dealers from the US, Canada, and Europe bring a selection from their stock for visitors to inspect, admire, and possibly purchase. There’s no obligation to buy anything more than an admission ticket, so it’s a great opportunity for people to see museum-quality art without velvet ropes or protective glass, and to take pictures of anything they want (using a flash is an etiquette violation because it disturbs others, and I didn’t want to lug around a proper camera, so for the “Photo by Erin Blake” credit on these images, please read “No-flash photo by Erin Blake, taken in haste with her phone, and very definitely not a Folger photo by Julie Ainsworth“).… Continue Reading

A ghost for Halloween

I’d like to say that I cleverly scheduled the installation of Benjamin Wilson’s William Powell as Hamlet encountering the Ghost for last Friday so that the Founders’ Room would have a ghost in time for Halloween. Unfortunately, there were witnesses around when I finally noticed the coincidence, and this blog is open to comments, so I’ll just have to let that one go.… Continue Reading

Copperplate illustrations and the question of quality

While looking at early modern book illustration in the undergraduate seminar on Friday, we got to talking about the false assumption that copperplate illustrations always indicate better-quality publications, while woodcuts are inherently lowly. True, the raw material is more expensive: copper plates cost more than wood blocks. True, it’s possible to produce finer lines in copperplate illustrations than in woodcuts, allowing for more detail.… Continue Reading

Sue Doggett’s The Tempest, a unique artists’ book

Conventional wisdom sets up two distinct experiences of Shakespeare’s plays: readers encountering a text, and audiences encountering a performance. The Folger recently acquired a 1995 version of The Tempest by London book artist Sue Doggett that complicates the distinction. Readers of this one-of-a-kind book encounter Shakespeare’s text through Doggett’s artistry, where her choices of paper, lettering, imagery, texture, and color help interpret the selected scenes.… Continue Reading