The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Sonnets by Shakespeare…’s spirit?

As the common saying goes, only death and taxes are certain. However, consider the uncertainties that can accompany any tax season: missing W-2s, e-file services incompatible with your browser, shifting standards, mathematical errors…… Continue Reading

Discovering Early Modern Digital Resources

This post was written with the invaluable contribution of Sophie Byvik. Ever been puzzled by a date in one of our manuscripts? Want to know how much a manipulus is in your early modern recipe? How much did that early modern bar tab scrawled in the back of a book set the reader back? Where is Pissing Alley in London? (Not a trick question, I swear.) This link roundup offers a sampling of easy-to-use, open-access digital tools that help folks understand the early modern period: everything linked to here is free.… Continue Reading

Drawing for photographic reproduction

This month’s crocodile mystery asked what’s going on with the odd-looking painting technique in an original work of art, shown in a detail. Here’s a view of the whole thing:… Continue Reading


Imagining an 18th century Jane Doe

A fake woman with fake initials and a fake seal? What is going on with these early 18th century affidavits? Curator of Manuscripts Heather Wolfe explores burials, bureaucracy, and "ritualized compliance" in this post about two recent acquisitions.

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