The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Cataloging

The Folger G.K. Hall Catalogs, or How to fit an entire card catalog on your bookshelf

I had the good fortune of learning to do scholarly research during the transition from card catalogs to Online Public Access Catalogs or ‘OPAC’s, as they are known in libraries. I have a particular fondness for card catalogs because they allow for precision and recall when searching. Keyword searches can retrieve an interesting scattershot set of results, but when someone stands in front of a card catalog and looks for a particular name, title, or subject, they can see exactly how many cards are in the catalog with the search term.… Continue Reading

A briefing on brevigraphs, those strange shapes in early printed texts

Most people reading this will know that “&” and “and” mean the same thing. Some will also know that the ampersand’s “&” shape originated from the handwritten word “et” (Latin for “and”). The  “e” and the “t” are combined into a single character, making “&” the best-known example of a brevigraph. Instead of writing out “et cetera” you can simply write “&c.”… Continue Reading

Documenting mistakes in our documentation

If someone points out a typo in an online Finding Aid or a Hamnet catalog record, we gratefully say thank-you, fix it, and (usually) move on. Sometimes, though, a big enough mistake has been around for a long enough time that we can’t just move on. We have to take extra steps to find the source of the mistake, and make sure its ghost doesn’t come back to haunt scholarship.… Continue Reading

24,000 “preliminary” catalog records are better than nothing!

At least, we hope the approximately 24,000 “preliminary records” added to the Folger’s online catalog yesterday are better than nothing, which is what Hamnet had for most of these books since going live in 1997. Today’s Collation post explains where this big batch of records came from, and how to navigate their perils and pitfalls if you come across them in your research.… Continue Reading

Words with pictures, or, What’s in a name?

One of the points I like to make when I teach the History of Printed Book Illustration at Rare Book School is that images and words affect each other. The course deliberately focuses on illustrations—that is, on pictures and text that comment on each other, and affect each other’s meaning. It’s not just the aesthetic design and choice of subject that create meaning in book illustration, it’s the relationship between the visual and the verbal elements.… Continue Reading

Untangling Lady Day dating and the Julian calendar

Folger X.c.92 (3) is my new favorite manuscript: it’s a letter written in Paris that single-handedly demonstrates the fact that “new style” dates refer to two different calendar modernizations. One modernization has to do with the Christian calendar’s reckoning of “the year of our Lord.” The other relates to the Julian calendar having gradually become ten days behind the seasonal year thanks to its miscalculation that a leap year is needed every four years, no exceptions.… Continue Reading

The key to removing a card catalog rod (literally)

Thanks for all the great guesses at the identity of the December Crocodile! In fact, the mystery object is a tool for removing the rod from a particular type of card catalog drawer (see Folgerpedia‘s Card catalogs article for information about our card catalogs and how to use them). Ironically, Richard M. Waugaman’s tongue-in-cheek proposal that it’s a worn-out corkscrew comes closest to the actual function: this type of card catalog rod is removed by jamming the tool onto the end of the rod and pulling, just like you’d pull a cork from a bottle.… Continue Reading

The mystery of the Shakespearian cartoons

I first encountered this book three years ago, in 2015. Intrigued by its sparse catalog record, which at that point consisted of a cataloger-supplied title (“[Cartoons based on quotes from Shakespeare]”), an estimated page count, and little more, I went down to the vault to retrieve it. It turned out to be a little volume of, well, cartoons based on quotations from Shakespeare, interpreted in settings humorously far-removed from their original contexts; almost square, with a plain leather binding and some small gilt embellishments bordering the front cover.… Continue Reading

Imagining an 18th century Jane Doe

A fake woman with fake initials and a fake seal? What is going on with these early 18th century affidavits? Curator of Manuscripts Heather Wolfe explores burials, bureaucracy, and "ritualized compliance" in this post about two recent acquisitions.

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