the small joys of looking at books

Take a gander at this book I was looking at today:

Boyer’s The compleat French-master, 1699, Folger Shakespeare Library, Call Number: 263- 520q

Can you see what’s going on here? It looks at first glance like the top page has been folded back, revealing the text of the previous leaf. But that’s not it. You’re looking at the verso side of sig. H4 and nothing else.

Can you see now that it’s only one leaf?

Here’s an image of what this leaf looks like in other copies of this book:


And now do you see what’s happened? During printing, this leaf got folded over in the press, and the inside of the fold missed the type (that’s the blank streak) and the outer part of the fold was, once unfolded, misaligned. Print the image off and fold it to see for yourself!

Here’s the recto side of the leaf:

Boyer’s The compleat French-master, Folger Shakespeare Library, Call Number: 263- 520q

You can see the crease from the fold, but since this side was already printed, there’s no misalignment of the text.

I love this detail in this book. It’s not really significant, it’s just a tiny reminder that the book is a made objects, and that in making objects, things happen and sometimes leave their traces. It’s one of the tiny joys I find in looking at books–not reading them, but looking at them.

That’s it for my post. My new theory is to stick with the short and sweet. Now that the Folger allows readers (and staff) to snap their own photos, I’m determined to share more of the tidbits that I come across. I’ll still do the longer posts, but at least this way I won’t have such long periods of silence in between!

(A shout-out here to the cataloger who created the entry for this book. As with many items in the Folger’s collections, this has a wonderfully detailed record, including the information that this fold was to be found. You can see the record for yourself–you’ll notice that the book is full of other nice details. And the next time you encounter a cataloger, make sure you buy them a drink. Or chocolate. Or both.)

4 thoughts on “the small joys of looking at books

  1. >Thanks, PJ, for your nice comment! And Ian: my understanding is that readers can also snap pictures and post on a blog–as long as it's not a commercial blog and as long as you credit the Folger. (Although I'm staff, this is my personal blog, so I'm essentially functioning as a reader here, albeit a reader who doesn't need to deal with that whole exit pass thing.) Super great, right?

  2. >Yes, readers can post their own images to blogs, as Sarah describes (I am not a lawyer, but I am a Folger curator, and can assure you that's something we felt very strongly about. Readers blogging about Folger materials supports the library's mission!). Also, for Folger materials, you can tell which cataloger deserves the drink and/or chocolate by clicking "MARC view" and scrolling down to the paragraph headed "852". The initials and the date after |x say who made the record when.

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