The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Crocodile-mystery


“Whose least part crackt, the whole does fly”: early views on Prince Rupert’s Drops

Honor is like that glassy Bubble That finds Philosophers such trouble, Whose least part crackt, the whole does fly, And Wits are crack’d to find out why. Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part II, Canto II, lines 385-89. In the second part of Samuel Butler’s satirical poem Hudibras, published in 1664, the four lines quoted here reference a phenomenon that has perplexed material scientists for over 350 years, and is only now being fully understood.… Continue Reading


“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: August 2017

We’re in the heat of summer (at least here in Washington D.C.) as we approach the end of July. So to help everyone cool off (or at least provide a distraction), we’ve pulled another Crocodile Mystery from our vaults. Tell us, if you would, what exactly is going on in this picture below: As always, leave your thoughts and guesses in the comments below, and we’ll be back next week with the answer.… Continue Reading

A Photographic Facsimile from 1857

The July Crocodile Mystery showed a “detail from a printed play” and asked what’s up with the strangely uneven tone of the page. What’s up is that although the text is printed, it is not printed in ink. It is a severely and unevenly faded photographic print. Here is the full page: Every leaf in this facsimile of a 1617 edition of The famous victories of Henry the fifth is an actual photograph, printed on light-sensitive paper.… Continue Reading


Imagining a lost set of commonplace books

As observed by one of our respondents, last week’s Crocodile was a detail from a blank leaf bisected by a vertical line in graphite, with a column of handwritten letters consisting of the Roman alphabet followed by the Greek alphabet. The leaf is from a commonplace book. The letters of the two alphabets might have been a way to prepare the page to receive entries in an organized manner.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: June 2017

Welcome to the end of another month and another Crocodile Mystery. This month’s Crocodile is brought to you by Folger manuscripts! Here’s a detail from a bifolium that is part of a collection of papers described at the item-level in our finding aids. The collection is partly artificial, but the bifolium seems to be connected to other bifolia within the collection, even though their call numbers are not consecutive.… Continue Reading

Okay, but what does it mean, or how do you regularize an early modern transcription?

As one reader guessed, the phrase shown in last week’s Crocodile mystery image is in secretary hand, i.e., a type of handwritten script widely used in the British Isles (and elsewhere in Europe) during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As transcribed in Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) from the upper right corner of a manuscript certificate, the phrase is “Est horse lee.” Ah, of course!… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: May 2017

For the Crocodile Mystery this month, peer into the handwriting of this manuscript and let us know what word or words you see and/or what they mean. Leave your thoughts and guesses as a reply in the Comments section. Check back next week for the answer.… Continue Reading