The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Words with pictures, or, What’s in a name?

One of the points I like to make when I teach the History of Printed Book Illustration at Rare Book School is that images and words affect each other. The course deliberately focuses on illustrations—that is, on pictures and text that comment on each other, and affect each other’s meaning. It’s not just the aesthetic design and choice of subject that create meaning in book illustration, it’s the relationship between the visual and the verbal elements.… 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

Early women buying books: the evidence

In 1684, Bridget Trench bought herself a copy of the Rev. Samuel Clarke’s General Martyrologie, a collection of biographies of those who had been persecuted for their beliefs in the history of the church in England. The book contains a lot of good stories whose interest is heightened by the promise on the title page of “cruel, horrid, and inhumane sufferings.”… Continue Reading


“To Madame Sarah”

Sarah Bernhardt is, for many, synonymous with the melodramatic. One of the most well-known and celebrated actresses of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, she was described by contemporaries as “indefatigable;” “an actress without a rival;” and “a queen of art.” Actor Sir Herbert Tree called her, simply, “the greatest woman I have ever known.”  She was so iconic, some referred to her as “the Bernhardt” or “the divine Sarah.”… Continue Reading

Inside the Folger Archives: Uncle Henry’s Pipers

As we all adjust to social distancing and teleworking, I have been reflecting on similar disruptions at the Folger during World War II. And in that vein, I would like to share with Collation readers the story of Uncle Henry’s Pipers—a short-lived recorder quartet—as revealed by ephemera and correspondence in the Folger’s Institutional Archives. The recorder was a popular instrument with minstrels and the upper class in the early modern world.… Continue Reading