When is an inscription not an inscription?

Two folks identified the key elements of this month’s crocodile mystery in their comments: Misha Teramura correctly noted that the inscription in the middle of the page—“pp. 184-190 refer to the progress of religion westward toward America”—refers to George Herbert’s final poem from The Temple, “The Church Militant.” And David Shaw noted that the other inscriptions—“8652” on the top left and “A176” on the bottom right—look to be an accession number and a shelf mark. But let’s back up for one moment to understand why I find these marks interesting. The book in question is a first edition of George Herbert’s The Temple (STC 13183). It’s an interesting work, and a popular one in the 17th century. And as you can see from the notations on the front pastedown and the recto of the first free flyleaf, it’s a work that was prized by later collectors.

Surprised by Stanhope

My favorite encounter with a book is one where I think I know what I’m going to find, but then something else entirely happens. My most recent serendipitous encounter came thanks to a tweet: Sjoerd Levelt was tweeting some images for #FlyleafFriday and shared an image of one of the Folger’s books, a copy of Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning that has as its flyleaf the last leaf of John Selden’s Titles of Honor (STC 1166 copy 6): That’s pretty fun in and of itself (and you can see more images of the flyleaves and binding in our digital image collection), but Sjoerd noticed something else. Among the various ownership marks on the opening is a lightly penciled annotation, “Shakespeare mentioned on page 225.” 

From tweet to resource

This is the story of how a tweet can grow into an amazing scholarly resource. (And it ends with a plea for you to help!) Just over a year ago, in January 2013, I was looking through the Folger’s collection of Greek texts so that I could find works for a course assignment on describing books. (My intent was to drum into them the necessity of looking at books as an activity that is separate from reading them—and what better way to do that than to ensure that they’re in a language they cannot read?) As part of that browsing, I pulled up a 1517 Aldine edition of Homer’s works, and was blown away by the abundance of annotations in the first part of the book. And so I did what I often do when I see something exciting in the reading room, thanks to the Folger’s policy permitting reader…

Annotating and collaborating

This month’s crocodile mystery was, as Andrew Keener quickly identified, an image from Gabriel Harvey’s copy of Lodovico Domenichi’s Facetie and (Folger H.a.2): There is a lot that could be said about Gabriel Harvey and his habits of reading. ((Two places to start are Virginia Stern, Gabriel Harvey: his life, marginalia, and library (Oxford UP, 1979) and Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, “‘Studied for action’: How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy” Past and Present 129 (1990): 30-78.)) He was a scholar, a writer, and a prolific reader who heavily annotated his books, about 200 of which survive (the Folger holds seven of his annotated books). ((In addition to Domenichi’s Facetie, which is bound with Lodovico Guicciardini’s Detti et Fatti Piacevoli, the Folger has his annotated copies of Lodovico Dolce’s Medea Tragedia (PQ4621.D3 M4 1566a Cage), George North’s Description of Swedland (STC 18662), Giovanni Francesco Straparola’s Le notti, Pindar’s Olympia, John Harvey’s A discoursive Probleme concerning Prophesies (STC 12908 Copy 2),…

multivalent print, or, learning to love ambiguity in three easy lessons

Below are the slides for and the approximate text of a talk I gave at the 2013 MLA convention as part of a panel on “Convergent Histories of the Book: From Manuscript to Digital” organized by Alex Mueller and Mike Johnston. I spoke ex tempore, so my text here won’t precisely line up with what I said at the MLA, but the gist should be the same. I’ve indicated where the slide changes are and after each change have inserted a footnote linking to source and, where available, a link to the image. I’ve also indicated my indebtedness to other scholars, particularly Jeffrey Todd Knight and Adam Smyth, in the notes. [slideshare id=16206922&doc=multivalentprintslides-130127165552-phpapp01] I want to talk today about how early print complicates any trajectory from manuscript to digital, focusing on some common mistaken assumptions that are made about early print. The first assumption we make is that print replaced manuscript,…