The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Manuscripts

Decoding Early Modern Gossip

A guest post by Alicia Petersen What comes to mind when you think of a coded letter? Political intrigue? Espionage? As the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2014-5 exhibition Decoding the Renaissance: 500 Years of Codes and Ciphers highlighted, these guesses are pretty accurate. Particularly in the tense political climate surrounding the English Civil Wars (1642-1651), coded letters abounded in connection to plots and conspiracies.… Continue Reading

Malicious teaseling: or how a simple reference question got complicated

We had seven excellent answers to the Crocodile, which included an image titled “Malice,” but not the text below it. The general consensus was that the cowering man was winding thread or wool off of a drop spindle. One of the great things about being a curator is that you get to meet all kinds of people doing all kinds of interesting research in areas that you know little about.… Continue Reading

A recipe for brioche (knitting)

…a Collation KAL (knit-along). Cast on We built our friendship with knits and purls over coffee in the Folger Tea Room. Sharing patterns, exchanging techniques, and giving fiber recommendations are still staple conversation topics for us seven years after we first met. It seemed a natural fit, then, for us to co-author a post about a knitting surprise we found in the Folger collection (and not this kind).… Continue Reading

Documenting mistakes in our documentation

If someone points out a typo in an online Finding Aid or a Hamnet catalog record, we gratefully say thank-you, fix it, and (usually) move on. Sometimes, though, a big enough mistake has been around for a long enough time that we can’t just move on. We have to take extra steps to find the source of the mistake, and make sure its ghost doesn’t come back to haunt scholarship.… Continue Reading

This Post Stinks, or, ‘I hope that the stuff will not smell too vilely’

John Masefield has a burning question he needs answered. Literally. Writing from his home Hill Crest in Boar’s Hill, Oxford, the Poet Laureate asks theater production veteran Allan Wade a crucial question about staging his home theatrical production of Macbeth.1 He registers a particular anxiety about the potential for stinking up the place—and not with bad acting. Autograph letter signed from John Masefield, Oxford, to Wade [manuscript], 19th or 20th century, [after 1917].… Continue Reading

Who was a refugee in early modern England? The “Poor Palatines” of 1709

A guest post by Jeremy Fradkin Today’s Collation post is a little bit different. It showcases materials held in archival collections at the British Library and the National Archives, both in the United Kingdom. It is the product of an exciting new kind of opportunity—a non-residential fellowship—offered by the Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library to its 2020-2021 Fellows. In May 1709, Queen Anne received an unusual petition from 512 men and women who were not her own subjects – at least, not yet.… Continue Reading

Re-discovering three-cornered notes

A couple of years ago, when I had Saturday Duty in the Reading Room, a group of early-19th-century letters came across the desk. I noticed right away that one of them had unusual diagonal fold lines: Folger Y.d.23 (82x), a note from A. Bunn to R.W. Elliston, opened out to show the entire quarter-sheet of writing paper. It was a slow Saturday, so I spent some time figuring out how the creases lined up with each other, then folding sheets of scrap paper to match.… Continue Reading

Heraldic Colors

Yes, indeed. The letters in this month’s mystery image are B, O, and G, and they represent what is missing from the image: color!  The mystery image is a detail of a coat of arms in Folger MS V.b.256, which is a compilation of coats of arms granted by Robert Cooke (Clarenceux King of Arms) and Richard Lee (a later Clarenceux King of Arms), and others, between about 1570 and 1600, when the manuscript was written.… Continue Reading

Pandemic Paleography

“I may be losing what are left of my marbles, but in L.b.21 look at the middle wiggly bits of the brackets on the right hand side of 5r (second & third brackets), 5v (1st bracket) 6v (1st & 2nd brackets). Do you see faces in profile with a dot for the eye?”   @Nouemon, a volunteer transcriber living in Australia, posed this question a couple of weeks ago on the Talk feature of Shakespeare’s World, a crowdsourced Zooniverse project from 2015 to 2019.… Continue Reading

A Wyncoll’s Tale

Let’s face it, every special collections library has at least a few mystery items in the vault that are quietly passed down over the decades from curator to curator (or cataloger to cataloger, or acquisitions librarian to acquisitions librarian). These items exist in a liminal space of low-level awareness and quietly dissipating institutional knowledge, awaiting the elusive day when they can be remembered and identified.… Continue Reading