The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Learning to “read” old paper

Have you ever wished there were a summer camp for bookish grown-ups? A retreat where we can spend a week amongst our own and not worry about being teased for loving libraries or getting hit in the glasses by a dodgeball? There is such a place, and it’s called Rare Book School. Originally based at Columbia University, RBS moved to the University of Virginia in 1992 and has continued to grow ever since.… Continue Reading

Bell’s nightmare continued

This post is a continuation of “John Bell, bibliographic nightmare.” I began to write these posts while entrenched in the difficult task of cataloging the library’s myriad copies of Bell’s 18th-century Shakespeare publications as a means of sharing a look into the unique, maddening world of Mr. Bell. In the last post, Sarah and I shared some background information about John Bell and why I considered him a bibliographic nightmare.… Continue Reading

Pew-hopping in St. Margaret’s Church

Manuscripts of unusual shapes and sizes are always fun to investigate, and we recently had the opportunity to reevaluate a particularly large and interesting one, a ca. 1600 “pew plan” written on a piece of parchment (Folger MS X.d.395), in preparation for the current exhibition, Open City: London, 1500-1700. Plan of pews and pewholders for St. Margaret’s, Westminster, ca. 1600 (click image for zoomable high-res version)… Continue Reading

Binding clasps

Some close observation and deductive reasoning led commenters in the right direction in solving the June crocodile mystery. Here’s image that I posted last week, with a bit more context: the clasp that was June's crocodile With that bit of the surrounding context, it’s much clearer that it’s a picture of the catch to a clasp on a fifteenth-century calf binding.… Continue Reading

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

This month’s crocodile mystery will hopefully be less mysterious than last month’s, which was a bit unclear as to what you were meant to be focusing on. Take a gander at the picture below, keeping in mind, as always, that the object might not be depicted at life-size and that you can click on the image to enlarge it in a new window.… Continue Reading

John Bell, bibliographic nightmare

Some books are more challenging than others; some bibliographic questions are more complicated than others. This is the first of two posts that looks at a particularly challenging cataloging question. Today’s post will set up the challenge; the next one will take you into the nitty gritty of the “bibliographic nightmare” that is John Bell. 1 John Bell (1745-1831) was a bookseller and a printer who was a major player in the London book trade and who has been alternately referred to as enterprising, pugnacious, and “that mischievous spirit, the very Puck of booksellers.” 2 One of his claims to fame is being the printer with the curious distinction of having discontinued the use of the long ‘s’.… Continue Reading


Thomas Shelton’s shorthand version of the Lord’s Prayer

Commenters to last week’s post, Heirloom apples and pears, anyone?, correctly identified the shorthand text found in Henry Oxinden’s miscellany (Folger MS V.b.110) as the Lord’s Prayer written out according to Thomas Shelton’s method of shorthand, called tachygraphy. Below is the prayer and Creed from the last leaf of the Folger copy of the 1674 edition of Thomas Shelton’s Tachygraphy: The most exact and compendious method of short and swift writing, that hath ever yet been published by any followed by the manuscript version from Oxinden’s miscellany: The Lord's Prayer and Creed in T.… Continue Reading

Colored print or color print?

Consider the following physical description in Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog (it’s for an edition of Anna Jameson’s Characteristics of women, also published as Shakespeare’s heroines): xl, 340 p., [12] leaves of plates : col. ill. ; 28 cm. The first part translates as “the printed portion of this book consists of 40 pages numbered with sequential roman numerals followed by 340 pages numbered with sequential arabic numerals, plus 12 unnumbered plates at some unspecified location or locations amongst those pages.” The second part, after the colon, translates into the vernacular much more succinctly:  “col.… Continue Reading

Heirloom apples and pears, anyone?

We’ll begin with another crocodile-style challenge in this post, from a manuscript miscellany compiled by Henry Oxinden (or Oxenden) (1609-1670) of Barham, Kent, Folger MS V.b.110. Here’s a detail from p. [4] of the miscellany: can you guess what this text is? (click to enlarge in a new window) Can anyone identify what this text is? Leave messages in the comments below and I’ll provide additional clues if needed. … Continue Reading

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