The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Art

How (not) to mend a tear

Going through a box of early 19th-century playbills recently, I was puzzled to see something paper-clipped to an area of loss on the right-hand edge of a bill, as if someone had attached a little note to it:… Continue Reading

Learning to “read” old paper

Have you ever wished there were a summer camp for bookish grown-ups? A retreat where we can spend a week amongst our own and not worry about being teased for loving libraries or getting hit in the glasses by a dodgeball? There is such a place, and it’s called Rare Book School. Originally based at Columbia University, RBS moved to the University of Virginia in 1992 and has continued to grow ever since.… Continue Reading

Colored print or color print?

Consider the following physical description in Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog (it’s for an edition of Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of women, also published as Shakespeare’s heroines): xl, 340 p., [12] leaves of plates : col. ill. ; 28 cm. The first part translates as “the printed portion of this book consists of 40 pages numbered with sequential roman numerals followed by 340 pages numbered with sequential arabic numerals, plus 12 unnumbered plates at some unspecified location or locations amongst those pages.”… Continue Reading

News of St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572

When the Swann Auction Gallery catalog for the March 15 sale crossed my desk, I flipped through as usual, looking for things that might fit the Folger’s collection development policy. I wasn’t paying too much attention, since it was primarily a sale of Americana, but a German illustrated news sheet of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre caught my eye, so I went to the online auction site for more information: It turned out to be one of Franz Hogenberg’s so-called Geschichtsblätter (“history broadsheets”), a series several hundred prints depicting the Wars of Religion that Franz Hogenberg and his successors published from 1569 to 1637.… Continue Reading

Dye to live, live to dye

The Folger has recently acquired some interesting hybrid books; that is, books which consist of a mixture of thematically-connected printed, manuscript, and graphic material gathered from a variety of sources into a single binding. Sidney scholar and Folger reader Margaret Hannay and I just spent some time with one of these acquisitions, an embellished copy of Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke’s translation of Philippe de Mornay’s treatise, A discourse of life and death (London, 1600), with 17 pages of manuscript texts and 4 pages of hand-colored prints appearing before and after the printed text, all tightly focused on the theme of the transitory nature of life.… Continue Reading

Rehousing our tinsel print collection

Tinsel prints are a unique English art form from the early and mid-19th century. They are typically composed of metal foils, fabric scraps, leather, feathers, and any other suitable material glued onto printed portraits of actors and actresses. Theatrical tinsel portraits have their roots in “patch portraits,” which were introduced to England by French prisoners of war in the late 18th century.… Continue Reading

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