The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

A Glimpse into the Cultural History of Fragaria

a guest post by Jennie Youssef When the term of my Folger fellowship began, I had made some headway in my research for a dissertation chapter on the foodway of strawberries. The strawberry’s symbolic significance in medieval art and early modern literary and dramatic texts has been extensively analyzed. To cite well-known dramatic examples from Shakespeare’s England—in Othello (first staged in 1604), Desdemona’s handkerchief, embroidered with strawberries, serves as a nod to the popularity of a domestic pastime and has also been read as symbolic of her virginity.… Continue Reading

The mystery of Humphrey Walcot’s grocery bill and early-modern popular numeracy

a guest post by Ray Schrire It is time for an unofficial Crocodile Mystery. Humphrey Walcot’s grocery bill. Folger, L.f.196 These are a few of my favorite items from the merchant Humphrey Walcot’s shopping list of May 8, 1601 (a bill I picked up semi-randomly from the Folger’s digital image collection): One pound and a quarter cherries 3 shillings 4 pence 2 pounds three quarters damsons 7 shillings 4 pence One pound and a half gooseberries 4 shillings One pound barberies 2 shillings 8 pence 2 pounds and a quarter pear plums 6 shillings 4 pounds paste of plums 16 shillings 4 pounds candied spices 24 shillings 5 pounds and a half marmalade [yummy!]… Continue Reading

What’s in a playbill?

The Folger collection includes approximately 250,000 playbills, the single-sheet precursors of today’s multi-page theater programs. By the 1750s, London playbills had developed the standard layout you see in this blog post. They presented an evening’s entertainment as a sort of theatrical equivalent to a modern restaurant posting their daily bill of fare, where a repertoire of various dishes for each course appears in a different combination every night.… Continue Reading

Postcards in the (home) archive: 1938

a guest post by Stephen Grant Printed on picture side: FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY, WASHINGTON, D. C. 60063 Printed on address side: THE WASHINGTON NEWS COMPANY FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY. East Capitol and 2nd Streets. This important addition to the cultural wealth of the nation was the gift of the late Henry C. Folger. The collection includes more than 70,000 volumes, as well as pictures and other relics of the great poet’s life and work.… Continue Reading

Small Latin and Less Greek

with many thanks to Sara Schliep, Bob Tallaksen, Emily Wahl, Nicole Winard, and Heather Wolfe for their generous and careful assistance with this post. They are just a few of the folks who have been working on this project. Thank you for your thoughts on the Crocodile Mystery post last week—as several of you noted, there is both Greek and Latin text on the page.… Continue Reading


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

Picturing Children’s Food in Early Modern Europe

a guest post by Carla Cevasco While I started my Folger fellowship intending to research children’s foodways in the manuscript recipe book collection, I was surprised by how many hungry, eating, or even eaten children could be found in the Folger’s collections of visual culture. (A big shoutout to Rachel Dankert for pointing out the prevalence of children throughout these collections!)… Continue Reading

Three chords and the truth

There are moments when a song is the best way to convey an emotional message. Even though songs are mostly public things, they still can feel intensely personal. Popular songs in early modern England were sung in ballad form. At the intersection of oral, print, visual, and dance cultures, ballads had a wide appeal across class and rural/urban divides. Their broad appeal and presence in everyday life, combined with emotionally profound subjects made ballads the perfect accent to scenes in Shakespeare’s plays onstage.… Continue Reading

Extra-Illustrating Othello

a guest post by Patricia Akhimie On my last visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Fall 2019 (a time that seems all too distant now) to conduct research for a new edition of Othello, I set myself the goal of viewing every image and object related to the play in the Folger’s collection. This was an experience that often rocketed between emotional highs and lows because the Folger’s vast collection includes both art objects that delight and those that disturb.… Continue Reading