The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Manuscripts

Camaraderie, congeniality, and collaboration: paleography at the Folger

a guest post by Morgan McMinn Research libraries and archives are often thought of in terms of their physical existence but those misconceptions were challenged by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The Folger Shakespeare Library is more than the physical space it inhabits and the researchers working within it. The library is also a digital space available to scholars and enthusiasts of early modern texts, which is an environment open for collaboration.… Continue Reading

An Experiment in Following a Worm Through a Folded Letter

A guest post by William Davis Folger staff have long been interested in folding early modern letters for mailing. It comes up periodically when someone finds a letter with unusual folds. Both Heather Wolfe and Erin Blake have written Collation posts about discovering how certain types of folds were done and why. However, a digital surrogate is not usually a source that leaps to mind as a tool when confronted with folding questions.… Continue Reading

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