The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Collections

A promptbook in disguise

It’s time to pull back the curtain on last week’s crocodile mystery: that weird woven material is a close-up photograph of the cover of a promptbook! Both commenters who took a guess last week came pretty close. This particular promptbook was used during an 1838 production of Woman’s wit, or, love’s disguises at the Tremont Theatre in Boston, probably by an actor named Thomas Barry, who performed in New York and Boston during the mid-19th century.… Continue Reading

Folger copy 54: From family library to research library

Folger First Folio number 54 traveled over 10,000 miles from Washington D.C., to San Diego California and Honolulu, Hawaii, during our First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare tour, and is on view in our Great Hall through January 22, 2017. But its journey was already in progress long before this traveling exhibit. It had been moved from the Hutchinson family library, at the estate in Owthorpe, in Nottinghamshire, England, where it was since at least the late seventeenth century, to a “very large, apparently foreign made, Chest” by the time Captain Charles Hutchinson inherited it in the nineteenth century, after the estate had been sold out of the family.… Continue Reading

Announcing a New Folger Fellowship in Honor of Margaret Hannay

We’re proud to announce the creation of a new fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library. In partnership with the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women, the Folger Institute will offer a fellowship to scholars working on studies of women, genders, and/or sexualities in the early modern world, who can demonstrate a clear need to utilize the Folger’s collections. This $2500 award will allow a scholar to spend one month in residence at the Folger.… Continue Reading

Looking through the hole in a torn-open letter

Well, I thought the January 2017 Crocodile Mystery was going to be a tricky one, but Misha Teramura not only identified the phenomenon correctly (an endorsement written across the hole created when an early modern letter was torn open at the wax seal), he pinpointed the letter in question: Folger MS L.a.874, a letter from Edward Stafford, 12th Baron Stafford, Stafford Castle, to Walter Bagot and Walter Chetwynd, 6 May 1599. … Continue Reading

“A triple badge in Coventry ribbon”

When I retrieved Sh.Misc. 1639 from the shelf, I wasn’t sure what to expect from an item described on the catalog card as “Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebration. Mementoes, tickets, programs…” Many of the components turned out to be fairly common–though no less interesting!—pieces of ephemera such as programs, fundraising letters, performance tickets, and even a train schedule. But one item was a little more exciting.… Continue Reading

Honing transcriptions with algorithms and acumen

A question I often hear from paleographers who contribute transcriptions to Early Modern Manuscripts Online (or EMMO) is: What are you going to do with all these transcriptions? It’s a good question—central to the whole project, actually—but it’s also a complicated one. The short answer I usually give goes something like this: We aim to gather multiple independent transcriptions for each digitized page and compare them to create an aggregate transcription which an expert paleographer then checks over for accuracy.… Continue Reading

Signature statements in book cataloging

Today’s post returns to the cliffhanger at the end of Tuesday’s Physical description in book cataloging overview: if [4], CXXII leaves : ill. ; 31 cm (fol.) forms a complete physical description in a library catalog, then what’s up with a4 A-O8 P10 and where does it fit in? a4 A-O8 P10 is an example of a signature statement, sometimes also called a collation (one of the many meanings of “collation” for which this blog is named).… Continue Reading

Physical description in book cataloging

Does a4 A-O8 P10 make perfect sense to you? If so, please read on anyway. This isn’t a post on how to decode a collational formula. It’s a post about what to expect (and what not to expect) in the “physical description” portion of a library catalog record for a book. In other words, the part that looks like this in a Hamnet record, taking the record for the 1513 Venetian edition of Macrobius’s Commentaries on the Dream of Scipio as an example: International Standard Bibliographic Description (yes, there is an international standard) calls this part of the record the Material Description Area.… Continue Reading


In Defense of the Card Catalog

Whenever I am giving a tour of our Reading Rooms, or introducing a new Reader to our collection, I always make it a point to mention that we still have a card catalog room (two, in fact—one primarily for our printed collections, and one primarily for our manuscripts and art collections), which together hold forty separate series of cards. The responses I get to this fact are varied, ranging from “Oh thank goodness, I’m so much more comfortable using a card catalog!”… Continue Reading