The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Manuscripts

Experiments with early modern manuscripts and computer-aided transcription

Guest post by Minyue Dai, Carrie Yang, Reeve Ingle, and Meaghan J. Brown. Hundreds of years ago, scholars might spend hours in a library searching through thousands of pages to find a useful paragraph.Things get much easier when we can work with digitized text. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems can automatically recognize text on images—such as printed books, handwritten letters, and photos—and convert it to a readable and editable digital format.… Continue Reading

A “lost” drawing by Ellen Terry

Is it possible to lose something you never had? The other day I managed to “lose” a 1905 sketch of a theater interior by actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928). I had caught a glimpse of it when sorting through a small group of recently acquired letters, and was looking forward to having a closer look later. As far as I could tell in a glance, it was either a rough sketch looking out from the stage, like this 1768 engraving of the Amsterdam Schouwburg by Simon Fokke (1712-1784): …or it was a rough sketch looking towards the stage, like Simon Fokke’s companion engraving of the same theater: I didn’t want to interrupt my sorting, though, so anticipation about the mystery theater kept building.… Continue Reading

The Drury Lane printshop

Jeffrey Meade’s guess is correct: this type inventory includes a great variety of large sized type. It belongs to a longer document made in June 1819 recording the furniture of the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane when the theater was put for sale by its Company of Proprietors (Folger MS W.b.383). Drury Lane was acquired later that year by the actor and manager Robert William Elliston.… Continue Reading

Early modern head lice remedies; or, dealing with pediculosis, Renaissance-style

With assistance by Beth DeBold This post is dedicated to all those parents and caregivers who have gotten the dreaded phone call while at work: “your child has lice.” You have to drop everything and retrieve your child from school, promising not to return until all traces of nits and bugs have been eradicated. And then the fun begins: two weeks of nightly combing sessions to make sure they NEVER come back, even though you know they will (my tools of choice are a ribbed comb called the “LiceMeister” and an electric zapper called the “Robicomb”).… Continue Reading

The itemized life: John Kay’s notebook

Folger X.d.446, the notebook of John Kay, combines accounts and verses. Short-term fellow Laura Kolb argues that Kay’s book is noteworthy not because it combines these things, but because it does so with both care and a kind of inventiveness, even playfulness. Learn more in this post.

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. Dering was bound overseas with one Mr. Culpepper, and in his letter, Style offers his apprentice several pieces of salient advice and stern admonition. 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

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