The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

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.… 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: 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. 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.”… 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:… 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.”… 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 anyone identify what this text is? Leave messages in the comments below and I’ll provide additional clues if needed. (As a reminder, you can click on all of the images in this post to enlarge them in a new window.)… Continue Reading

A book’s fingerprints

Last week’s crocodile mystery may have been a bit too mysterious, but I hope that today’s post will inspire you to look for similar mysteries on your own. Here’s a close-up detail of what I was asking about: As with nearly all photographs shared on this blog, if you click the image, a larger version will open in a new window.… Continue Reading

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

First, my thanks to all of you who suggested new  names for this series on identifying objects in our collection. The best suggestion came from Jeremy Dibbell, on twitter, who found this perfect moment in Antony and Cleopatra: LEPIDUS: What manner o’ thing is your crocodile? ANTONY: It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as it hath breadth.… Continue Reading