The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

The Strange and Practical Beauty of Small-Format Herbals

A guest post by Katarzyna Lecky The Folger Shakespeare Library has a wealth of pre-Linnaean English herbals (printed guides to the medicinal qualities of plants) ranging from gorgeous folios to pocket-sized reference manuals. Although the large-format botanical works boast an undeniable aesthetic appeal with their elaborate frontispieces and pages filled with engraved plates of flora, little herbals are often more compelling for those of us interested in who used them, how, and why.… Continue Reading

Of Counts and Causes: The Emergence of the London Bills of Mortality

A guest post by Dr. Kristin Heitman The Folger’s rare holdings let us glimpse aspects of Renaissance and early modern practices otherwise lost to us. For example, while many European cities and towns had well-documented methods for monitoring the health of their residents, particularly during plague epidemics, significant details of the programs’ inner workings are disclosed only in a series of Folger documents—particularly for the City of London.… Continue Reading

Cracks in Etched Plates

Originally, I was going to do a crocodile post about the binding of this architecture book by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau: But after I thought about it, it seemed more appropriate to talk about the prints in the book. Andrea Cawelti guessed right: the wavy lines on this image correspond to cracks in the plate, which retained ink and printed. Other prints in this book show the same type of defects: As well as some corresponding to cracks at the edge of the plate: Several prints also show plate scratches: and a certain ink smudginess: In addition to these blemishes, several plates have one-sided beveled edges: and one print shows a plate corner missing: Clearly something was wrong with the set of plates used for this book.… Continue Reading


A New Acquisition: from the workshop of the Naval Binder?

But upon the table—oh joy! the tailor gave a shout—there, where he had left plain cuttings of silk—there lay the most beautifullest coat and embroidered satin waistcoat that ever were worn by a Mayor of Gloucester. There were roses and pansies upon the facings of the coat; and the waistcoat was worked with poppies and corn-flowers. Beatrix Potter, The Tailor of Gloucester, 1903 On opening one of our new acquisitions, a bible in a fine Restoration binding, bound with a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and the Whole Book of Psalms, all I could think of was this scene from Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester.… Continue Reading

Polyglot Poetics: Transnational Early Modern Literature

A guest post by Dr. Nigel Smith I am writing a transnational history of early modern European literature. Our inherited history of the different early modern vernacular languages and their literatures was fashioned through the lens of the 19th-century and earlier 20th-century nationalism, and this story is one of how each literature descended from the Greek and Roman classics via the Italian Renaissance.… Continue Reading

Was early modern writing paper expensive?

Many of us have repeated the assertion that writing paper in early modern England was expensive and scarce, but it has always bothered me. After hearing this fairly regularly in response to two common questions —“Why did people write on the endleaves of printed books?” and “Why are there no ‘Shakespeare manuscripts’?”—I started keeping track of paper prices in account books and bills and receipts to see if this was actually true.… Continue Reading

Announcing a New Folger-NACBS Short-Term Fellowship

The Folger Institute and the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS) are delighted to announce a new fellowship for scholars of the British world who are working on topics from the early modern period through to the present day. While the Folger has long been a destination for early modernists, our hope is that its extraordinary eighteenth-, nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century collections will now become more visible to scholars of modern Britain and the British Empire.… Continue Reading

The Shakespeare stamps

As several philatelically-astute readers quickly identified, the portrait of Shakespeare shown in last week’s Crocodile mystery is from a stamp!     These one shilling stamps were issued annually for a number of years at the turn of the 20th century. Each stamp used the same image of Shakespeare, a depiction loosely adapted from his memorial in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, printed in a different color each year.… Continue Reading