The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

John Bell, bibliographic nightmare

Some books are more challenging than others; some bibliographic questions are more complicated than others. This is the first of two posts that looks at a particularly challenging cataloging question. Today’s post will set up the challenge; the next one will take you into the nitty gritty of the “bibliographic nightmare” that is John Bell. John Bell (1745-1831) was a bookseller and a printer who was a major player in the London book trade and who has been alternately referred to as enterprising, pugnacious, and “that mischievous spirit, the very Puck of booksellers.”… Continue Reading


Thomas Shelton’s shorthand version of the Lord’s Prayer

Commenters to last week’s post, Heirloom apples and pears, anyone?, correctly identified the shorthand text found in Henry Oxinden’s miscellany (Folger MS V.b.110) as the Lord’s Prayer written out according to Thomas Shelton’s method of shorthand, called tachygraphy. Below is the prayer and Creed from the last leaf of the Folger copy of the 1674 edition of Thomas Shelton’s Tachygraphy: The most exact and compendious method of short and swift writing, that hath ever yet been published by any followed by the manuscript version from Oxinden’s miscellany:… Continue Reading

Colored print or color print?

Consider the following physical description in Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog (it’s for an edition of Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of women, also published as Shakespeare’s heroines): xl, 340 p., [12] leaves of plates : col. ill. ; 28 cm. The first part translates as “the printed portion of this book consists of 40 pages numbered with sequential roman numerals followed by 340 pages numbered with sequential arabic numerals, plus 12 unnumbered plates at some unspecified location or locations amongst those pages.”… Continue Reading

Heirloom apples and pears, anyone?

We’ll begin with another crocodile-style challenge in this post, from a manuscript miscellany compiled by Henry Oxinden (or Oxenden) (1609-1670) of Barham, Kent, Folger MS V.b.110. Here’s a detail from p. [4] of the miscellany: Can anyone identify what this text is? Leave messages in the comments below and I’ll provide additional clues if needed. (As a reminder, you can click on all of the images in this post to enlarge them in a new window.)… Continue Reading

A book’s fingerprints

Last week’s crocodile mystery may have been a bit too mysterious, but I hope that today’s post will inspire you to look for similar mysteries on your own. Here’s a close-up detail of what I was asking about: As with nearly all photographs shared on this blog, if you click the image, a larger version will open in a new window.… Continue Reading