Last weekend, the Folger Institute and the Folger Undergraduate Program held a 3-day workshop on Teaching Book History. 50 librarians and faculty gathered from a wide range of institutions—small liberal arts colleges to regional schools to highly selective research universities—bringing a wide range of perspectives with them on how we might engage undergraduates in book history. Much of the work that we did collectively in the workshop is ongoing, so it’s perhaps premature to issue a report on what we learned and what will come of this experience. But it’s not too early to reflect on the process of creating a space for exploring how we teach.
As three of you immediately identified in your comments, last week’s crocodile mystery was the fastening in the center of a volvelle, holding the various layers in place and allowing them to turn: Volvelles are paper wheels that are fastened to a leaf so that the discs spin independently. Some of the earliest volvelles were used for prognostication; Ramon Llull is credited with bringing the volvelle to the West in the late thirteenth century for use in his Ars Magna. Suzanne Karr describes the system of two discs of letters on top of a third layer as one that did not simply aid memory but produced new knowledge:
If it’s a new month, it must be time for a new crocodile mystery, and so: As always, we invite your your thoughts below on what this might be and what we might learn from it!