The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Lost at Sea

Shakespeare liked shipwrecks, including one in at least five of his plays. Sea storms and shipwrecks were a convenient way to separate characters or bring them into conflict, as well as stranding them in a strange place. In the “Age of Exploration,” sea voyages became enticingly more possible over time, in spite of the dangers. But although Shakespeare himself never sailed to new lands, his printed words have circled the globe.… Continue Reading

Report from the field: network analysis

A guest post by Dr. Ruth Ahnert In July 2017 the Folger Institute welcomed participants and faculty to the third of its Early Modern Digital Agendas (EMDA) gatherings—an NEH-funded Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities. The EMDA institutes train early modern scholars in digital methods, digital tools, and theoretical frameworks, exposing them to the latest methods and thinking in the field, with faculty drawn from academia and beyond.… Continue Reading

Dryden’s Virgil, Ogilby’s Virgil, and Aeneas’s nose job

First, a confession: this month’s Crocodile Mystery was originally going to pose a question along the lines of “What’s weird about this image?” or “What makes this picture especially interesting?” but I gave up. I couldn’t figure out how to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t, in fact, be saying “Try to guess what crucial piece of information is being deliberately witheld!”… Continue Reading


In memoriam: Betsy Walsh

We are devastated to announce that Betsy Walsh, our beloved head of reader services here at the Folger, passed away on Friday, September 22, 2017. Betsy was an inseparable part of the Folger—indeed, for many of us, she was the embodiment of the Folger Reading Room. She worked here for 43 years—about half of the Folger’s existence since it opened in 1932.… Continue Reading

A nineteenth-century family circus

A few months ago, I wrote about the process of creating brief catalog records for the Folger’s playbill collection. Since then, I’ve completed records for playbills from London and all of Scotland, and have begun working my way through playbills from the rest of England. Recently, I came across a playbill for a performance by Cooke’s Royal Circus in Birmingham. I thought the name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it until I checked our catalog and remembered that I had cataloged another playbill for Cooke’s Royal Circus over the summer.… Continue Reading

Consuming the New World

A guest post by Misha Ewen William Petre (1575-1637) was a typical gentleman of his time. He was 22 years old and newly married when he began keeping an account book of his household expenses. Between 1597 and 1610 Petre recorded the money he spent on maintaining his estate, including servants’ wages, as well as charity to the poor, lodging, and sustenance during his journeys to London.… Continue Reading

“Whose least part crackt, the whole does fly”: early views on Prince Rupert’s Drops

Honor is like that glassy Bubble That finds Philosophers such trouble, Whose least part crackt, the whole does fly, And Wits are crack’d to find out why. Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part II, Canto II, lines 385-89. In the second part of Samuel Butler’s satirical poem Hudibras, published in 1664, the four lines quoted here reference a phenomenon that has perplexed material scientists for over 350 years, and is only now being fully understood.… Continue Reading


Black Monday: the Great Solar Eclipse of 1652

In all the excitement of yesterday’s solar eclipse, you may have learned that eclipses are common: most calendar years have four eclipses (two solar and two lunar), with a maximum of seven eclipses (though this is rare). What makes a solar eclipse special, at least for some people, is when it takes place at a time and in a place where we are able to experience near or complete totality—when the entire face of the sun is covered by the moon.… Continue Reading