The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Getting Dressed with the Hermaphrodites

A guest post by Kathleen Long (Editor’s Note: You can read Kathleen’s previous post, Dining with the Hermaphrodites, for a discussion of another aspect the novel.) The inhabitants of the island depicted in the 1605 French novel, The Island of Hermaphrodites, live in a decidedly material world. They do not believe in anything truly spiritual, including the immortal soul, heaven or hell, or divinity in any celestial rather than earthly form.… Continue Reading

Heraldic Colors

Yes, indeed. The letters in this month’s mystery image are B, O, and G, and they represent what is missing from the image: color!  The mystery image is a detail of a coat of arms in Folger MS V.b.256, which is a compilation of coats of arms granted by Robert Cooke (Clarenceux King of Arms) and Richard Lee (a later Clarenceux King of Arms), and others, between about 1570 and 1600, when the manuscript was written.… Continue Reading

“What manner o’thing is your crocodile?”: July 2020

Welcome back for another Crocodile Mystery! As you enjoy this first week of July (really? really? Who said the calendar could do that?), spare some thoughts for this mystery image. What’s going on in this image? What are those letters and what might be missing from this image?  As always, if you’re so inclined, leave your guesses here in the comments and we’ll be back next week with more information!… Continue Reading

Announcing the Earle Hyman Collection

Earle Hyman as the Prince of Morocco in a 1953 production of Merchant of Venice Earlier this year, the Folger Shakespeare Library was privileged to receive the Earle Hyman Collection, including many of the actor’s personal papers, photographs, and theatrical ephemera, as a gift from his family and friends. Although we’re closed for renovations, we wanted to highlight this fabulous collection, as well as to recognize Mr.… Continue Reading

Postcards in the Folger Archives: British Sea Captain John Robinson and Henry Folger

A guest post by Stephen Grant Rosy-cheeked and white-bearded poet, painter, and shipmaster John Robinson of Watford, Hertfordshire was a commanding presence on the bridge of the steamship Minnehaha from 1900 until he retired from the American-owned Atlantic Transport Line due to poor eyesight in 1907. Fig 1. British Sea Captain John Robinson in Magazine Article, 1905 Folger Archives Box 42, photo by Stephen Grant His seafaring career spanned a half-century, starting as cabin boy at a shilling a month.… Continue Reading

Words with pictures, or, What’s in a name?

One of the points I like to make when I teach the History of Printed Book Illustration at Rare Book School is that images and words affect each other. The course deliberately focuses on illustrations—that is, on pictures and text that comment on each other, and affect each other’s meaning. It’s not just the aesthetic design and choice of subject that create meaning in book illustration, it’s the relationship between the visual and the verbal elements.… Continue Reading

Pandemic Paleography

“I may be losing what are left of my marbles, but in L.b.21 look at the middle wiggly bits of the brackets on the right hand side of 5r (second & third brackets), 5v (1st bracket) 6v (1st & 2nd brackets). Do you see faces in profile with a dot for the eye?”   @Nouemon, a volunteer transcriber living in Australia, posed this question a couple of weeks ago on the Talk feature of Shakespeare’s World, a crowdsourced Zooniverse project from 2015 to 2019.… Continue Reading

Early women buying books: the evidence

In 1684, Bridget Trench bought herself a copy of the Rev. Samuel Clarke’s General Martyrologie, a collection of biographies of those who had been persecuted for their beliefs in the history of the church in England. The book contains a lot of good stories whose interest is heightened by the promise on the title page of “cruel, horrid, and inhumane sufferings.”… Continue Reading


“To Madame Sarah”

Sarah Bernhardt is, for many, synonymous with the melodramatic. One of the most well-known and celebrated actresses of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, she was described by contemporaries as “indefatigable;” “an actress without a rival;” and “a queen of art.” Actor Sir Herbert Tree called her, simply, “the greatest woman I have ever known.”  She was so iconic, some referred to her as “the Bernhardt” or “the divine Sarah.”… Continue Reading