The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Books

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

Cracks in Etched Plates

Originally, I was going to do a crocodile post about the binding of this architecture book by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau: Title page of Folger NA2625 .A63 1615 Cage Photo by Caroline Duroselle-Melish But after I thought about it, it seemed more appropriate to talk about the prints in the book.1 Andrea Cawelti guessed right: the wavy lines on this image correspond to cracks in the plate, which retained ink and printed.… Continue Reading

Book Reviews from the Royal Society

Book reviews are a staple of many academic journals. They are a way to learn about new books in the field and to see what your fellow scholars think of them. And they’ve been around for a really long time. In my recent work, I have been searching through the early issues of one of the first scientific journals, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (many of which are freely digitized and searchable by the Royal Society) and I was bemused to discover that book lists and reviews were part of this early journal almost from the get-go.… Continue Reading

Time writing

Telescopium Uranicum, 1666. Folger 269- 460q item 5 Chronograms—literally, “time writing”—are dates embedded within text. As such, they are a form of hidden writing called steganography: the encoded characters maintain their own value, but are hidden within a larger text. Easily calculable to those who know what they’re looking for, they still excite the thrill of uncovering secret meaning. That thrill was experienced by this cataloger when, for the first time ever, she came across a chronogram that had been previously unremarked.… Continue Reading

Dryden’s Virgil, Ogilby’s Virgil, and Aeneas’s nose job

First, a confession: this month’s Crocodile Mystery was originally going to pose a question along the lines of “What’s weird about this image?” or “What makes this picture especially interesting?” but I gave up. I couldn’t figure out how to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t, in fact, be saying “Try to guess what crucial piece of information is being deliberately witheld!” Detail of plate facing leaf 2B1 verso (page 210) of Folger 267283 (folio), the 1697 edition of Dryden’s translation of Virgil.… Continue Reading

“Whose least part crackt, the whole does fly”: early views on Prince Rupert’s Drops

Honor is like that glassy Bubble That finds Philosophers such trouble, Whose least part crackt, the whole does fly, And Wits are crack’d to find out why. Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part II, Canto II, lines 385-89. In the second part of Samuel Butler’s satirical poem Hudibras, published in 1664, the four lines quoted here reference a phenomenon that has perplexed material scientists for over 350 years, and is only now being fully understood.… Continue Reading

Black Monday: the Great Solar Eclipse of 1652

In all the excitement of yesterday’s solar eclipse, you may have learned that eclipses are common: most calendar years have four eclipses (two solar and two lunar), with a maximum of seven eclipses (though this is rare).1 What makes a solar eclipse special, at least for some people, is when it takes place at a time and in a place where we are able to experience near or complete totality—when the entire face of the sun is covered by the moon.… Continue Reading

Shakespearian novelties- er, novelettes

I was pretty intrigued when I pulled this case marked “Shakespearian novelties” from the shelf in the Vault… Spine of the case housing four “Shakespearian novelettes” … 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

A Photographic Facsimile from 1857

The July Crocodile Mystery showed a “detail from a printed play” and asked what’s up with the strangely uneven tone of the page. What’s up is that although the text is printed, it is not printed in ink. It is a severely and unevenly faded photographic print. Here is the full page: Leaf 18 from James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps’s 1857 photographic facsimile of The famous victories of Henry the fifth.… Continue Reading

Happy Birthday, Elias Ashmole!

Today is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Elias Ashmole. Perhaps best known today for giving his name (and the founding collection of antiquities and “curiosities”) to the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, this 17th-century antiquarian had a wide range of interests, including astrology and alchemy. Ashmole’s first appearance in print was due to his interest astrology.1 In 1647, two of his translations appeared in William Lilly’s The Worlds Catastrophe.… Continue Reading

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