The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Physical description in book cataloging

Does a4 A-O8 P10 make perfect sense to you? If so, please read on anyway. This isn’t a post on how to decode a collational formula. It’s a post about what to expect (and what not to expect) in the “physical description” portion of a library catalog record for a book. In other words, the part that looks like this in a Hamnet record, taking the record for the 1513 Venetian edition of Macrobius’s Commentaries on the Dream of Scipio as an example: International Standard Bibliographic Description (yes, there is an international standard) calls this part of the record the Material Description Area.… Continue Reading


Building a Replica of the John Wilkes Booth Diary

Guest Post by Folger conservator Austin Plann Curley “You can’t always get what you want.” So said the Rolling Stones in 1969. Such was the case for the Folger Shakespeare Library in our recent request to borrow the Diary of John Wilkes Booth for our current exhibition America’s Shakespeare, which runs through July 24, 2016. Ford’s Theater keeps the diary on permanent display alongside other artifacts from the assassination.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: May 2016

Here’s a mystery of the Crocodile manner for May. The text shown in this image is one piece of a larger whole, but the question is what is it and how does it relate to the whole? As always, post your comments and thoughts below. We’ll be back with clarifying information next week.… Continue Reading

In Defense of the Card Catalog

Whenever I am giving a tour of our Reading Rooms, or introducing a new Reader to our collection, I always make it a point to mention that we still have a card catalog room (two, in fact—one primarily for our printed collections, and one primarily for our manuscripts and art collections), which together hold forty separate series of cards. The responses I get to this fact are varied, ranging from “Oh thank goodness, I’m so much more comfortable using a card catalog!” to “A what?” (along with nearly every possible response in between).… Continue Reading

How to plan a Shakespeare tercentenary

The Folger has a wide assortment of commemorative material relating to Shakespearean celebrations—from David Garrick’s 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee, to tercentaries and quatercentenaries of Shakespeare’s birth (although no materials from the quatercentenary of his death quite yet)—but we hold very few published items that shed light on how those celebrations were organized. Some correspondence of public Shakespeareans touches on celebrations, but is often limited to R.S.V.P.s, after-the-fact congratulations, or incidental mentions (for instance, a letter from Frederick Partington to William Winter referring to “petty revelries“).… Continue Reading

Letter Scraps

Yes, indeed. As several readers astutely figured out, this scrap of paper most likely bears the tail-end of the phrase “Sotheby sale.” As for why it’s in our collection? Well, part of that answer comes with one more piece of information: the handwriting is that of Henry Folger. Several weeks ago, Meaghan wrote about her search for Percy Fitzgerald’s copy of Love’s Sacrifice, and how that led her to a sale catalog from our collection.… Continue Reading


Musae Faciles; or, an Oxford Study Guide

A guest post by Nicholas Tyacke Back in 2008, on the eve of directing a Faculty Weekend Seminar at the Folger, on “The University Cultures of Early-Modern Oxford and Cambridge,” I took the opportunity to consult the card catalog of manuscripts. As a result, and by a nice piece of serendipity, my eye lighted on Folger MS. V.a. 236, Musae Faciles or an Easy Ascent to Parnassus, written by John Crowther and dedicated to Ralph Verney.… Continue Reading

New STC call numbers for old

The Great Reclassification has begun! As some of you may know, all newly-acquired vault material at the Folger is shelved in the order it was accessioned except for publications that fall within the scope of  A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 compiled by A.W. Pollard & G.R. Redgrave, better known at the Folger as “STC” (also well-known as “Pollard and Redgrave”).… Continue Reading