The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: April 2014

We’re a few days before the beginning of April still, but who doesn’t want to push this season ahead and get on with spring already? So here is our new crocodile mystery. Some of you will recognize immediately what category of object this is, and if that’s true for you, feel free to push on to try to work out the specifics.… Continue Reading

A print pricked for transfer

So, what’s up with the crocodile mystery for March? As I said in the comments, Tom Reedy was verrrrry close with “It looks like some sort of device using punctures along a line to allow powder or ink to pass through and transfer the outline of a drawing to another surface.” It isn’t itself such a device. Rather, it is evidence of such a device having been made.… Continue Reading


An example of early modern English writing paper

The crocodile posted on Friday was correctly identified by Philip Allfrey as a watermark of Queen Elizabeth’s arms encircled by the Garter. In his comments, Mr Allfrey provided a useful account of how he identified the watermark and the letter on which it appears. He also went the extra mile and used various Folger databases and the Gravell Watermark Archive to identify the papermaker, John Spilman!… Continue Reading


Back-to-back reading

As commenters bruxer and Lydia Fletcher worked out,  January’s crocodile mystery showed a detail of the head of a dos-à-dos binding, with a covered board running down the middle separating two gauffred text blocks. The full picture makes it a bit clearer: A dos-à-dos binding is one in which two books are bound together back-to-back (giving rise to the name), so that each has its own front cover, but a shared back board.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: January 2014

A new month, a new year, a new mystery for you to enjoy! This month’s crocodile might be immediately recognizable to some of you, but perhaps not to others, and sometimes it’s fun to take a fresh look even at things you think you know. Chime in with your guesses—whimsical and practical—in the comments below, and come back later this week to learn more about this image.… Continue Reading

‘Tis the season for almanacs

As our two commenters on the last post sussed out, this month’s crocodile mystery is a detail from an almanac, the black “Swallow” overprinting the red “Dove” the names of authors of two different almanacs. Below is the full title page of the work in question, Swallow 1633. An Almanack for the yeare since the nativity of our Saviour MDCXXXIII Being the first after Bissextile or Leap-yeare, and from our Saviour’s passion 1600.Continue Reading

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: December 2013

Now that we’re back to our regular twice-weekly schedule of posts, it’s time to bring back our crocodile mystery series! As a refresher, the series posts a mystery item at the (approximate) beginning of each month, inviting speculations in the comments about what it is and what its significance might be. The following week one of our regular authors shares the reveal and explanation.… Continue Reading

Can you spot the differences?

Have a look at the coat of arms worn by Edwin Booth (1833–1893) in the title role of Shakespeare’s King Richard III. Notice something wrong? Hint: The conventions Victorian aesthetics aren’t the same as the conventions of medieval heraldry. Give up? Aesthetic rules call for heavier design elements below lighter ones (hence a pyramid of fleurs-de-lis) and bilateral symmetry (hence sets of lions facing each other).… Continue Reading