The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Books

Early modern head lice remedies; or, dealing with pediculosis, Renaissance-style

With assistance by Beth DeBold This post is dedicated to all those parents and caregivers who have gotten the dreaded phone call while at work: “your child has lice.” You have to drop everything and retrieve your child from school, promising not to return until all traces of nits and bugs have been eradicated. And then the fun begins: two weeks of nightly combing sessions to make sure they NEVER come back, even though you know they will (my tools of choice are a ribbed comb called the “LiceMeister” and an electric zapper called the “Robicomb”).… Continue Reading

Hinman, Redux

A Guest Post by Andrew R. Walkling Over this past winter and spring I have been dodging periodic snowstorms across the Mid-Atlantic region, journeying back and forth to Washington for a project that draws upon one meaning of the word from which this blog derives its name: collation. My project—comparing printed “states” of the libretto for an extravagant 1692–93 operatic adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream called The Fairy-Queen—started last year, while I was at Harvard University’s Houghton Library on a Katharine F.… Continue Reading

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: But after I thought about it, it seemed more appropriate to talk about the prints in the book. Andrea Cawelti guessed right: the wavy lines on this image correspond to cracks in the plate, which retained ink and printed. Other prints in this book show the same type of defects: As well as some corresponding to cracks at the edge of the plate: Several prints also show plate scratches: and a certain ink smudginess: In addition to these blemishes, several plates have one-sided beveled edges: and one print shows a plate corner missing: Clearly something was wrong with the set of plates used for this book.… 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

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!” The longer I looked at the image, the stranger it appeared, so I figured asking for captions would make an interesting Crocodile Mystery, and you came through!… 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). 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… … 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