The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery

Play it again, Ham

As a Folger staff member, I am used to seeing Shakespeare’s face everywhere, but the image from this month’s Crocodile Mystery made even me do a double take. This month’s mystery was a stumper! The Hamlet behind Shakespeare/Yorick was Edwin “Eddie” Foy, a famous comic performer of the vaudeville era. Of all the roles available to a performer in Foy’s irreverent domain, it is curious that Hamlet is the one that haunts this jokester’s career.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: April 2021

Never smile at a crocodile…mystery, that is. Especially when Shakespeare looks this shocked. Which 20th century performer is holding Shakespeare’s terrified, Yorick-ified head? If you’re not too scared, leave your guesses in the comments below and come back next week for the answer!… Continue Reading

Marks on Bindings

Thank you for your witty guesses to this month’s Crocodile, they are great! I also need to make a disclaimer: I am far from having collected enough evidence to answer this mystery, so like you, I only have guesses to offer and they may not be as funny as yours… Like many of you, I’m leaning towards the hypothesis that this book was used as a board mat to cut something (most likely paper).… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: March 2021

We’ve come full circle—it’s (almost) March again. Or maybe it’s always been March? Instead of breaking your brain wondering how that can possibly be, here’s a new crocodile mystery to ponder: can you guess what happened to this binding and why there are cuts on it? Leave your guesses below and as always, we’ll be back next week with the answer.… Continue Reading

Fortune’s Fools: early tarot cards

As several of you guessed last week, this month’s crocodile mystery showed an early tarot card. When treating a copy of a 1673 edition of Vincent Reboul’s “Le Pelerinage de S. Maximin,” Folger conservators discovered two tarot cards used to reinforce its binding.  I came across these cards, which were given their own call numbers and catalog entry when they were removed, some years ago and snapped this photo.… Continue Reading


Liverpool delft transfer-printed tiles; or, theatrical tiles explain’d

Thank you for all of your guesses on last week’s Crocodile Mystery! As several folks correctly surmised, this image is pigment on ceramic! Specifically, it is on a Liverpool delft transfer-printed tile, seen here in full:  Jane Lessingham as Ophelia, ART 241098 And if you’re completely confused by the phrase “Liverpool delft transfer-printed tile”, well, I don’t blame you. So let’s break it down: “tile” is pretty self-evident.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: December 2020

Ack! Nearly December already? Wasn’t it just March? (Isn’t it still March?) Guess that means it’s time for another Crocodile Mystery. Take a look at the image below. It’s not pencil on paper. It’s not oil on canvas. What is it? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments and we’ll be back next week with more information.… Continue Reading


“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: October 2020

Welcome to another Crocodile Mystery! This month we ask you to look at the image below and tell us what you think might be going on? What sort of questions does this image generate? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments below, and we’ll be back next week with more information.… Continue Reading