The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery

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

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

For folks on an academic calendar, we’d like to extend our best wishes and support for a safe, happy, and/or productive new year. For those who aren’t quite ready to come to grips with the fact that tomorrow is September already, we have here a nice distraction. Rather than ponder the turning of the seasons, turn your thoughts to this mystery image and tell us, if you can, what on earth is going on with this 17th century engraved folded plate??… Continue Reading

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

This month’s Crocodile post brings to mind the classic board game Guess Who? (19th century edition!). Does your person have a giant mustache? Yes. Are they wearing a crown? Yes… Do they look annoyed? YES! For those of who you might struggle with this one, here’s a clue: “he is an Englishman.” Lock in your guesses in the comments below and be sure to check back next week for the big reveal!… Continue Reading