The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Pre-pandemic phone photo fails

As we hit the one year mark of special collections reading rooms closing around the world because of the pandemic, “primary source research” for many of us now consists of scrolling through our phones in search of photos of collection items from early 2020, the last time many of us set foot inside a reading room. While my daughters no longer complain, “Ugh, Mom, why do you have so many pictures of dumb manuscripts on your phone?,”… Continue Reading

Making rum in unexpected places

Note from the editors: we are testing a new image viewer in this post, and there are some bugs still to work out. If any of the images aren’t loading for you and you see a blank box instead, try clearing your browser’s history/cache and refreshing the page. A guest post by Jordan Smith For many US-based academics, late February/early March marks the one-year anniversary of our last taste of normalcy.… Continue Reading

Marks on Bindings

Thank you for your witty guesses to this month’s Crocodile, they are great! I also need to make a disclaimer: I am far from having collected enough evidence to answer this mystery, so like you, I only have guesses to offer and they may not be as funny as yours… Like many of you, I’m leaning towards the hypothesis that this book was used as a board mat to cut something (most likely paper).… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: March 2021

We’ve come full circle—it’s (almost) March again. Or maybe it’s always been March? Instead of breaking your brain wondering how that can possibly be, here’s a new crocodile mystery to ponder: can you guess what happened to this binding and why there are cuts on it? Leave your guesses below and as always, we’ll be back next week with the answer.… Continue Reading

Postcards in the (home) archive: Meriden Gravure Co. postally unused postcards with messages

A guest post by Stephen Grant Gentle readers, we are now somewhat familiar with Meriden Gravure Co. postcards. Perhaps we had never paid attention to them before. In this post we will look at five Meriden postcards which contain interesting information handwritten on them, but which do not bear a stamp, postmark, or destination. Left: “The Globe Theatre. From Visscher’s View of London, 1616”, Sepia.… Continue Reading

24,000 “preliminary” catalog records are better than nothing!

At least, we hope the approximately 24,000 “preliminary records” added to the Folger’s online catalog yesterday are better than nothing, which is what Hamnet had for most of these books since going live in 1997. Today’s Collation post explains where this big batch of records came from, and how to navigate their perils and pitfalls if you come across them in your research.… Continue Reading

Balancing information and expertise: vernacular guidance on bloodletting in early modern calendars and almanacs

A guest post by Mary Yearl The first calendar printed as a book in Europe was also the first to contain a printed image of a bloodletting man.1 This point alone is indicative of the importance bloodletting played in medieval and early modern regimens of health. There were other medical approaches that would have occupied a more central place in every day care (e.g.,… Continue Reading

Fortune’s Fools: early tarot cards

As several of you guessed last week, this month’s crocodile mystery showed an early tarot card. When treating a copy of a 1673 edition of Vincent Reboul’s “Le Pelerinage de S. Maximin,” Folger conservators discovered two tarot cards used to reinforce its binding.  I came across these cards, which were given their own call numbers and catalog entry when they were removed, some years ago and snapped this photo.… 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