The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Printers and authors in 1659

John Ward’s sixteen notebooks, once they are fully transcribed for EMMO, are going to be an incredibly rich source for nearly everyone who thinks about or studies early modern England. Most people have heard about them because of John Ward’s references to Shakespeare in three volumes: Folger MSS V.a.292, V.a.294, and V.a.295. We’ll be showing one of the Shakespeare references in an upcoming exhibition at the Folger, Shakespeare, Life of an Icon.… Continue Reading

Arithmetic is the Art of Computation

Yes, the answer to last week’s Crocodile mystery is as obvious as it seemed. We were looking for a number which unites the table, the fractions, and the superfluous but artful penmanship. Answer: 60, of course! What we are actually looking at here is nothing more than a simple division sum from the 17th century where A = 1/2 = 30, B = 1/4 = 15, C = 1/5 = 12, D = 1/3 = 20, E = 1/6 = 10.… Continue Reading


Folger Tooltips: Making a spreadsheet from raw Hamnet data

Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog, is more than just a searchable inventory of printed books, manuscripts, engravings, paintings, and other resources in the collection. It is also a giant data set, freely available for machine analysis. But there’s a catch: library catalog data is encoded in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging), the coelecanth of the digital world. Developed in the 1960s, this data standard is now a living fossil.… Continue Reading

Libraries ǂx Special collections ǂv Blogs

How do catalogers make library materials findable? The cataloging process has already been covered here at The Collation—identifying the item and describing its contents so that users and other catalogers alike can compare the book in the catalog record to the book in their hands or the book they want to retrieve from the stacks. At the Folger, we pay particular attention to the artifactual evidence of our items in addition to their contents, and this level of cataloging is enabled by the use of genre and form terms.… Continue Reading

‘I Grapple him to my Soul with hooks of Steel’

I’m sure all of our readers know that moment when you’re looking for one thing but find something else entirely (some call it serendipity—I just call it research). Such as doing a Name Browse in Hamnet for “Adams” (I believe at the time I was looking for something edited by our former director, Joseph Quincy Adams), and discovering the heading “Adams, Abigail, 1744-1818, correspondent.”… Continue Reading

A Pin’s Worth: Pins in Books

The object you see tucked in the gathering of the book in this month’s Crocodile Mystery is a pin. Recently, I have become aware of the presence of pins in a number of books at the Folger Shakespeare Library. At one time, curators and conservators removed them from the books and placed them in curatorial files. Now, we leave pins where we find them if they do not risk harming the book or the reader.… Continue Reading

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

It’s nearly August (where has the summer gone?), and you know what that means! Time for another mystery. At first glance, the “what” of this picture may be obvious. But take a second look. What is this foreign object, and what is it doing here? As always, comment with you thoughts, and we’ll be back next week with a full explanation.… Continue Reading

Photostats, or, The more things change, the more they stay the same

Five weeks, and seventeen back-and-forth notes and letters. That’s what it took for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s first director, William Slade, to overcome the architects’ doubts that the library really did need a costly No. 4 Photostat machine and that it really was worth the “troublesome and expensive job” of making it fit into a two-room suite designed for a smaller, cheaper, No.… Continue Reading

State Papers Online: tips and tricks, part 2

In my first post on the State Papers Online, I discussed how to search the database for a document that you already had some sort of reference to, whether that was the document/entry number, or a page number. In this post, I will look at ways to search State Papers Online more broadly. In general, searching State Papers Online is much like searching any other database, but there are a few things to keep particularly in mind.… Continue Reading