The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: January 2018

Happy Boxing Day! We’ve brought you another crocodile mystery to open with your holiday goodies. This month’s mystery comes in two forms and appears in two places. Tell us, if you would, what these mysterious numbers suggest to you?     As usual, leave your thoughts and guesses in the comments below and we’ll be back in the new year with an answer.… 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

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