The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Manuscripts

Was early modern writing paper expensive?

Many of us have repeated the assertion that writing paper in early modern England was expensive and scarce, but it has always bothered me. After hearing this fairly regularly in response to two common questions —“Why did people write on the endleaves of printed books?” and “Why are there no ‘Shakespeare manuscripts’?”—I started keeping track of paper prices in account books and bills and receipts to see if this was actually true.… Continue Reading

Bound to Serve: Apprenticeship Indentures at the Folger

A guest post by Dr. Urvashi Chakravarty In 1616, the apprentice Robert Dering received the following letter from his master Thomas Style. Letter from Thomas Style to Robert Dering Dering was bound overseas with one Mr. Culpepper, and in his letter, Style offers his apprentice several pieces of salient advice and stern admonition.1 Dering must be “delygent” to “learne the lanngwedge” (of his post abroad), to “spend not [his] time eydlye,” and to “mend and better [his] wryttinge” so that he “maye com to be Iimployed in [Style’s] affarres.”… Continue Reading

The Case Files

The problem with using IDs in mysteries is we also attempt to make them easy to discover. Elisabeth Chaghafi got it in one: this number belongs to X.d.131 and marks this item as one of Henry and Emily Folger’s original contributions to the Folger’s holdings. This number is known here at the Folger Shakespeare Library as a case number. They were usually written unobtrusively in pencil somewhere on the items bought by the Folgers, during the period when their personal collection was being transformed into our library.… Continue Reading

Collecting the world in seventeenth-century London

Guest post by Surekha Davies  From at least the sixteenth century, overseas artifacts found their way into European princely and scholarly collections. There they were catalogued, analyzed, and displayed alongside natural and artificial curiosities from classical cameos to blowfish. I am currently at the Folger Shakespeare Library working on a new book project, Collecting Artifacts in the Age of Empire, and thinking through the ways in which collections and collecting practices shaped early modern European attempts to understand human variety around the world.… Continue Reading

Theatrical disturbances and actors behaving badly: what the Drury Lane Prompter’s Journal tells us about nineteenth-century theatrical life

Guest post by Dr. Sarah Burdett What was life like inside the nineteenth-century London theatre? How smoothly did performances run? And how professionally did actors behave? The Drury Lane Prompter’s Journal, 1812-1818, held at the Folger, provides an excellent resource for answering each of these questions. From performances being pulled last minute, to drunkenness during rehearsals, and actresses being shot at on stage, the document is full of juicy and shocking anecdotes which provide fascinating insight into the day-to-day caprices of Georgian theatrical life.… Continue Reading

Lost at Sea

Shakespeare liked shipwrecks, including one in at least five of his plays. Sea storms and shipwrecks were a convenient way to separate characters or bring them into conflict, as well as stranding them in a strange place. In the “Age of Exploration,” sea voyages became enticingly more possible over time, in spite of the dangers. But although Shakespeare himself never sailed to new lands, his printed words have circled the globe.… Continue Reading

I learned to read Secretary Hand!!!! (And so can you)

Ever seen little kids at the swimming pool excitedly shouting “Look what I can do!!!!” after daring to jump off the big-kid diving board? That’s me right now, having just returned from Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I took Heather Wolfe’s week-long paleography class, “The Handwriting & Culture of Early Modern English Manuscripts.” Look what I can do!!!! I can read Secretary Hand!!!!… Continue Reading

The EMMO Conference on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age

On May 18th & 19th, 2017, EMMO held the Early Modern Manuscripts Online: New Directions in Teaching and Research conference at the Folger, in collaboration with the Folger Institute. This conference was a culmination of the project’s initial three-year phase, funded by a generous grant from IMLS. The conference began with welcoming remarks followed by a roundtable progress report on the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project to date.… 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. Folger MS L.f.317, part of the E. Williams watermark collection. Photograph by Heather Wolfe. Slightly better image available upon request. The leaf is from a commonplace book.… 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

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