The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery

“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


The book thief

Today’s post is about a woman, Margaret Cotton, who allegedly stole a book in 1602. The book might have been a Bible, or it might have been Girolamo Ruscelli’s Secrets of Alexis, or it might have been a cheap sixpence pamphlet. A quick introduction to the characters and narrative of this small drama: Margaret Cotton lived on Market Hill in Cambridge, with her husband, Henry, a pewterer.… Continue Reading

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

For our final Crocodile Mystery of the year, here’s a paleographical challenge. What’s going on here, and why might the Crocodile find it interesting? (Disclaimer: This is not a Folger manuscript). Leave your thoughts, guesses, and attempts at transcriptions in the comments below and we’ll be back next week with more info!… Continue Reading

Small Latin and Less Greek

with many thanks to Sara Schliep, Bob Tallaksen, Emily Wahl, Nicole Winard, and Heather Wolfe for their generous and careful assistance with this post. They are just a few of the folks who have been working on this project. Thank you for your thoughts on the Crocodile Mystery post last week—as several of you noted, there is both Greek and Latin text on the page.… Continue Reading



Paper Trades

Thank you for your insightful comments on our Crocodile Mystery, which I enjoyed reading as usual. My heartfelt thanks also to Andrew Hare, Supervisory East Asian Painting Conservator, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, for identifying the various papers and prints in the book; and to my Folger colleague Wenqi Han for locating a copy of the book Wan shou sheng dian chu ji: yi bai er shi juan.Continue Reading