The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: July 2022

Whose fingerprint is it? Is it a reader’s, printer’s, or binder’s fingerprint? I’ve been asking myself this question since I saw this trace in a Reformation pamphlet . It is placed in the gutter of the page and it is of a dark brown color ink (rather than black). Any thoughts on this are welcomed.… Continue Reading

Warwick Castle Shakespeare Library

Whoof, it looks like the numbers and letters in this month’s Crocodile Mystery were a bit too cryptic! In this case, the alphanumeric collections are shelf marks. In particular, they are shelf marks from the Warwick Castle Shakespeare Library, ca. 1890. And what are they doing in the Folger’s collection? Well, pull up a chair and a cup of tea, because that’s a bit of a tale.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: June 2022

Welcome to our June Crocodile Mystery! (Confused as to why it’s a “crocodile” mystery? Learn how it got that name.) Special collections libraries are full of strange and mysterious acronyms, abbreviations, and codes. For this month’s mystery, tell us, if you will, what this alpha-numeric assortment is, and what it’s doing in our collection. As always, leave your thoughts and guesses in the comments and we’ll be back next week with more info.… Continue Reading

Not for the faint of heart

Thanks to everyone who registered a guess for this month’s Crocodile Mystery and congratulations to those of you who answered correctly! As many of you pointed out, the oddity in the final disposition of characters is Macbeth’s full-bodied presence on the stage—usually we just see his head, held aloft by Macduff! Read on for the gory details… A while ago, I wrote about the stinky ingredients used to create the effect of the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: May 2022

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Crocodile Mystery for May. This month, take a moment to examine this image from a 19th century printed text of Macbeth published as a promptbook for performance. What is odd about the disposition of characters in the book’s suggestion for the play’s final staging? Lock in your guesses in the comments below. See you next week for the big reveal!… Continue Reading

Printed Pamphlets for the Witch of Wapping

During September of last year, while browsing digital resources in the London Metropolitan Archives, a familiar name caught my eye. It was a 1652 indictment from the Middlesex quarter sessions, which tried criminal cases, where a woman named Joan Peterson (or Micholson) was accused of murdering a wealthy older woman through witchcraft. The Folger has an interesting (and heartwrenching) document that I’ve shown before to visitors who are interested in witch trials: the lone such document in a group of letters related to the Lenthall and Warcup families, it appears to be a transfer, or warrant, describing the same woman.… Continue Reading


“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: March 2022

As you’re waiting for the interminable month of February to finally expire, distract yourself with the following thought: Prints like this one were useful as well as decorative. What use did they serve? Leave your thoughts and guesses in the comments below, and we’ll be back next week with more information.… Continue Reading


Trappings of the stage

Thanks to those who registered your guesses on our most recent Crocodile Mystery. All of the guesses gazed upward, when the answer actually lay underfoot. While these strange designs resemble theatrical lighting effects, they are, in fact, designs for stage trap doors. R.B. [Bayley] was not satisfied with the status quo. Here, we see a dissatisfied theater-worker write to theater impresario and actor Robert William Elliston to argue his perspective.… Continue Reading