The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

The mystery of gridded paper

A guest post by Austin Plann Curley For a blank sheet of paper, we thought this one was pretty interesting. But before we get to what exactly it is, let’s refresh our understanding of how paper is made. Prior to the 19th century all paper was made by hand using a mold and a deckle. In the West the papermaker’s mold was a wooden frame with a woven mesh of copper wire.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: June 2015

A new month and a new mystery! What can you tell us about this? What is it and why is it interesting? You know the drill: leave us your thoughts in the comments below, and come back next week for the reveal! Update 5/30: A commenter asked about watermarks, so here is an image of the full leaf. (Or at least more of the leaf—I didn’t take the photo so I’m not entirely sure of all the context.… Continue Reading

A Renaissance best-seller of love and action

The Folger Shakespeare Library’s 26 copies of various editions of Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso attest to its success during the 16th and early 17th centuries (a success that continued for much longer, but that is another story).  An epic poem replete with love and action, Orlando Furioso was an international bestseller worth having in one’s library even if one did not read it.… Continue Reading

Meet the Hamnet HBCN (“Handy Butt-Cover Note”)

When libraries replaced card catalogs with computer catalogs, researchers lost a crucial piece of information: an at-glance indication of relative trustworthiness. Consider this thin slip of paper from the Folger’s card catalog, for example: Looks fairly preliminary, right? That’s because it is. This is an “accession slip” (referred to in some libraries as a “flimsy”). It was typed up in the Acquisitions Department, then filed in the card catalog as a place-holder until the item could be cataloged.… Continue Reading

“A superfluous luxury”: the St. Dunstan illuminated editions

If you’re a regular user of the internet, you probably saw a multitude of images posted for the Bard’s birthday a few weeks ago. I can almost guarantee, though, that few were as opulent as the contribution from the University of Missouri Libraries Special Collections Tumblr: a beautiful leather-bound set of Shakespeare’s Sonnets with some striking illuminations. On a whim, I did a quick search to see if the Folger also had a copy of this set—and we do!… Continue Reading

Guten Tag! Como vai? Parlez-vous français?

Spring is Conference Season for many academics, allowing us to travel far and wide for our academic and professional enrichment. Sometimes, we find ourselves traveling in places where the local language is not one of the ones we are most comfortable with. (Until someone invents a time machine, my relative fluency in classical Latin isn’t going to help me order dinner, is it?) So what’s a traveling scholar to do?… Continue Reading

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

There is a place in the north Atlantic Ocean where emerald waters and sandy shores await your toes—at least, according to a 2015 holiday brochure on Barbados. The royalist Richard Ligon scarpered there in 1647 after backing the losing side during the English Civil wars (1642–1649) and finding himself a “stranger in my owne Country.” Three years later he returned to England and wrote about his escapades in A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, first published in 1657.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: May 2015

This month’s crocodile is more of a challenge than a mystery. We are looking for paleographer beginners and lifers to have a stab at these lines and tell us the truth about sugar. If you think you know whose handwriting this is, even better … Please leave your answers in the comments below. You don’t need to worry about transcription conventions, but if you’d like, you can consult the transcription guidelines we follow on The Collation.… Continue Reading

How an 18th-century clergyman read his Folio

The Folger Shakespeare Library has never acquired another copy of a Shakespeare Folio since the Folgers’ time—until now. We recently added number 38 to our collection of Fourth Folios (S2915 Fo.4 no.38). Published in 1685, this was the last of the four great printings of Shakespeare’s collected plays during the 17th century. It was followed in 1709 by the first “modern” edition, by Nicholas Rowe, who followed the Fourth Folio text but added scene divisions, stage directions, and a character list (dramatis personae) for each play.… Continue Reading

Golden quills and paleography skills

In my last post about EMMO‘s progress, I briefly mentioned Practical Paleography or “PracPaleo,” our intentionally relaxed, no-registration-required introduction to transcribing secretary hand for readers and staff at the Folger Shakespeare Library. This time around, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the notable and versatile results of this new initiative. Since paleography has usually been taught at the Folger in an intensive, controlled class format—a group of regular participants meeting on a set schedule—this series of ten one-hour sessions, each one optional, meeting every other week with an always changing set of participants was a bit of an experiment to see how—or if—paleography could work in such a decidedly different configuration.… Continue Reading