Friday, our last day at the Folger.
Things were beginning to wind down and as sad as we all were to know that our time at the Folger was coming to an end, there was a great sense of pride and accomplishment in what we had achieved in the short space of a week. I had personally completed traced records for all of the files I had been given meaning that the project was now caught up to the staff catalogers. While Stacy had more than doubled the the Luna Bookreader views for book bindings.
One of the highlights of Friday for me was getting to go to a talk given by Dr. Lena Orlin entitled "The Private Life of William Shakespeare." The talk reminded me of the Thursday Lectures at the Shakespeare Institute, where visiting scholars would come and give a paper about their work. At first when I heard the title of her talk a part of me thought "oh no, not another person making conjectures about Shakespeare's life, with close readings of his works." However all of my concerns were quickly put aside by Orlin's engaging and extremely well researched talk. She used archival evidence from the period to put forth a possible new understanding of Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway. Suggesting the possibility that Anne was not the 8 years older that history has assumed her to be, but possibly 2 years younger than Shakespeare. Orlin's talk was based on the research she is doing for a book on Shakespeare's life which I am now very much looking forward to. Her scholarly investigation of the materials and care not to present her findings as facts, but rather plausible alternatives to current theories was extremely compelling.
Directly after Orlin's talk I was whisked off to lunch with Deborah Leslie and two of the other Folger catalogers. It was a great opportunity to pick their brains for insight into the profession. I also got a lot of great information about the steps that I could take in the coming year to gain the experience I will need should I decide to go into cataloging and/or working with rare books and manuscripts. Lunch wasn't all business though, and I really enjoyed just being able to relax and talk to people about a subject which we are all passionate about.
Upon returning from lunch we had one final tour to take, of the conservation lab. I find conservation fascinating, not only do conservators need to be skilled crafts women and men, but they need to have a strong knowledge of chemistry in order to carry out their work. When we got our tour we got to see someone working on a manuscript that had been written in iron gull ink. Iron gull ink over many years eats through paper making it brittle and creating holes. The conservators work to save the document by neutralizing the Iron gull and repairing damage with rice paper, which will not obscure the original writing. The process is painstaking and requires detailed attention, they told us they had been working on this particular document for ten years.
After our tour it was back to finish up the last of our projects, and of course get tea one last time with Jim.
In many ways my experience at the Folger gave me the kick in the butt I needed to make it through the rest of this semester, which thus far has been rather uninspiring. Getting to spend a week at the Folger helped me to remember why I decided to come to SI in the first place, and refreshed my drive to one day work at a place where I can utilize both my English degree and the one I will receive from SI. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude towards Jim, Deborah and all of the other staff at the Folger who gave their time to us. I believe that my experience at the Folger will be a significant turning point in my education and my path towards my future career.
Our last two days at the Folger were packed with activity and I will try to do justice to all of the amazing things we saw and people we met.
Lets dive right in…
On Thursday we took a break from our projects around 11am to take a tour of the Folger’s photography and digital imaging lab. The photography and digital imaging lab preforms a variety of responsibilities for the Folger. They create prints for in house exhibitions and publications, create digital images of requested items for researchers and create digital images of requested items for commercial and publication purposes. Additionally they create digital images of their collections for access purposes, the Folger has a large collection of digitized materials available for viewing online from individual playbills and pieces of art to entire books that you can page through digitally.
The lab has staff photographers as well as a contract photographer who works about 20 hours a week depending on the project he is given. On the day that we were touring the lab Tom Wachs one of the lab photographers was working on digitizing an 1832 book of Shakespeare’s plays (shown below) the edition itself is not particularly valuable. However, George Eliot owned this particular copy and it has hand written annotations in it by Eliot and her partner George Henry Lewes, which makes it very valuable. The device it is being imaged on is called a Conservation Copy Stand.
William Davis another staff member was working on digitizing an account book containing personal, household and estate related accounts. The account book contains records for a large estate from 1520-1600. In the images below you can see the account book on the Kaiser Copy Stand, with Betterlight 4 x 5 scan backs, as well as the image as it is rendered on William’s computer screen once it has been scanned.
Now begins our tour of the vault. Photography is strictly
prohibited in the vault and were it not for the work of the photography and
digital imaging lab, the below image of the vault door would be the only visual
I could provide to illustrate the experience.
However, due to the Folgers efforts to digitize their collection I am
able to share with you links to images of all of the specific items that we
were able to see and touch in the vault.
We started out tour in The Folio Room, which is the room where they keep all of their folio sized texts. We call the first book printed with nearly all of Shakespeare’s plays in it The First Folio, but folio is simply a term used to describe a book printed on sheets of paper folded in half along the center to create four pages of text two on each side. Shakespeare’s first folio, printed in 1623, is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is that without it we would not have copies of about 20 of his 38 his plays because there are no surviving individual quarto copies. It is thought that around 750 copies of the first folio were printed, of those we know of approximately 238 still in existence today. The Folger holds 83 copies of the first folio, the largest single collection in the world.
This is the Hamnet link to information about the copy that we got to see AND touch: http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=79194
And this is a link to images: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/view/search?sort=Call_Number%2CMPSORTORDER1%2CCD_Title%2CImprint&search=Search&q=Call_Number%3D+%22STC+22273+Fo.1+no.68%22&QuickSearchA=QuickSearchA&pgs=250&res=2
Before the tour Jim had asked if there were any items in particular we would like to see. I had requested to see a copy of Ben Johnson’s Folio, printed in 1616, thus setting the president which likely lead to Shakespeare’s works being printed in folio. Up this this point folio texts were for bibles and important historical texts, not mere plays.
I also asked if we could see a copy of the John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi because it is one of the plays that I wrote about in my M.A. thesis.
We got to look at a third quarto edition of Hamlet from 1611. A quarto is smaller than a folio, quarto describes a book made from sheets of paper folded twice to create 8 pages of text 4 to each side of the original sheet. Hamlet is interesting because there are three fairly different version of the play, and although the Folio version tends to carry the most authority there is a quarto version, perhaps an earlier edition, and a “bad quarto” version which some believe may have been a reconstruction done by memory by an actor who performed in it.
Want to compare it with other pre-folio editions of Hamlet? Check out the Shakespeare Quartos Archive online at http://quartos.org where you can view full cover-to-cover digital reproductions and transcriptions of thirty-two copies of the five earliest editions of the play Hamlet. You can view quartos separately, or alongside any number of copies. You can search, annotate, make public or private sets of annotations, create exhibits or character cue line lists, and download and print text and images.
For the sake of space I’ll be a bit
briefer and just provide the list that Jim sent us after the tour of the rest
of the items we saw. Links are included if you want to further investigate. Also don't hesitate if you have any questions for me about individual items we saw or the experience in general.
Bible in English, 1573.
· We looked at STC 2108 (http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=170742).
· Images of this book binding, with gauffered edges and a vellum cover inlay containing the arms of Queen Elizabeth: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/74k878 (note that you'll be prompted to log in; un/pw = bindings guest/bindings).
Visscher's View of London, ca. 1625, hanging in the STC vault. Not yet cataloged in Hamnet, but digitized.
· Here's a link to the digital images: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/1re3qd;
· Here's a link to a brief description of the engraving on our website: http://www.folger.edu/imgcolldtl.cfm?imageid=121.
· For something completely different, here's a 3D modeling of this view, based on a 1616 version of the engraving: http://www.digitalurban.org/2010/04/3d-art-extracting-geometry-from.html.
An incunable in a chained binding. We saw INC T320: http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=89163. And here's an image of the ca. 1495 front cover and chain: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/55w26v.
A hidden fore-edge painting. We saw the painting on the text block of PR2752 1797a Sh.Col. vol.2 copy 1. Not yet cataloged in Hamnet, but digitized.
· Here's a link to an image of the fore-edge (login required): http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/3bf58n
· And here's an image of the front cover of vol.4 of that set: http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/v7868l
· For more on fore-edge painting, check out this web history: http://library.marist.edu/archives/gill/index.html; or take a look at a recent book on the topic: http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=245820
An early atlas depicting the Americas: G159.B8 pt.5 1595 Cage folio. Not yet cataloged in Hamnet or digitized.
· LC has a copy and they've cataloged theirs: http://lccn.loc.gov/50047168.
· On the topic of atlases, we recently fully digitized a copy of our 1608 English translation of important atlas by Ortelius: http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=169409. Follow the hyperlink in that Hamnet record to see the digital surrogate.
A bound volume of playbills, Bill Vol. G2 C85 1753-66. Not yet cataloged in Hamnet or digitized. Here's an example of an EAD finding aid showing how we have dealt with providing access to playbills in the past: http://findingaids.folger.edu/dfogarrickbill2002.xml.
The Blackfriar's deed, L.b.357. Not yet cataloged in Hamnet, but digitized.
· About it: http://www.folger.edu/imgcolldtl.cfm?imageid=541
· And read about the City of London's corresponding copy of the deed here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Leisure_and_culture/Records_and_archives/Events/Shakespeare_property.htm.
An order dated 30 Jan 1617, releasing Sir Walter Raleigh from the Tower, L.b.358. Not yet cataloged in Hamnet, but digitized.
Letters patent from Elizabeth to Dudley, Z.e.5: http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=221184. Not yet digitized.
· Here's one we didn't see, but Jim included because he thought we'd be interested: a mss proclamation against seditious books! http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=193539, and follow the hyperlink to see it in all its censorious glory, signed by Elizabeth.
Tomorrow will be my last day at the Folger for ASB, and it has been a fantastic whirlwind. However, I haven’t yet provided a full update for Wednesday and Thursday so I will try to do Wednesday here and follow up shortly with Thursday.
As I’ve mentioned before I am continuously impressed by and
grateful for how generous the staff of the Folger has been with their
time. On Wednesday we met with Georgiana
Ziegler Head of Reference, Deborah J. Leslie Head of Cataloging and with
Jim to discuss how the Folger handles digital preservation.
Meeting with Georgiana: For those reading this who may not be familiar with librarianship reference is, to risk over simplifying it, the person who tends to be behind the desk in a library. They do a lot of behind the scenes work too, but they are essentially the first resource and main contact for individuals using a library. Georgiana talked to us about her job, what had brought her to her work both generally and specifically at the Folger. I’m not ultimately sure if reference work is something that would interest me in the long run, but I do really love the concept of being so involved in assisting other people with their research. I’ve always loved helping people find answers and in that way reference really appeals to me.
Meeting with Deborah: Deborah is in charge of cataloging at the Folger which is the department I have been working in this week. Although I hadn’t fully realized when I applied for my project that it was so cataloging heavy, I have been pleasantly surprised by the experience. In fact I am seriously considering looking into rare book and manuscript cataloging as a possible area to focus my career. I honestly didn’t know very much about cataloging before this week, but in some ways I think it would allow me to work more closely with materials than processing archives would. In archival work you end up doing a lot of collection or box level descriptions, which means that you aren’t actually looking at the individual items in a collection, but rather at a broad overview of the collection. As a cataloger you do item in hand cataloging and finding aid creation, and as a rare book and manuscript cataloger you get to work closely with the items in your collection. This is very appealing to me and I am going to try to seek out more experience in this area during my time at SI. Deborah and several of the other catalogers are taking me out to lunch tomorrow so I am looking forward to picking their brains about their jobs and also asking how I might situate myself to get cataloging jobs, should I choose to do so.
Preservation: Digital preservation is difficult, it is still a developing concept and the technology is having trouble keeping up with all of the digitally produced information in the world. Here's an easy way to think about it, if you take a book and put it
in a clean cool environment that has low humidity and low light and leave it
there, it will easily last several hundred years without you having to do anything.
Technology does not work this way, hard drives fail, file formats become
obsolete and CDs and DVDs quickly deteriorate etc. etc. etc. Innovations are being made all the time, but
there is still no one set way, no surefire process. The other issue is that a
lot of the institutions that offer digital preservation do not make it easy to
understand, and if something isn’t easy to understand people will not fully
The Folger is actively working to get digital copies of its collection housed on site and well as off site, but it seems that right now their primary focus is digitization for access. This makes sense in a lot of ways because most of their materials that the Folger is concerned with are not born digital (files created on computers) they are rare books and manuscripts. By digitizing these works they accomplish two tasks, one they can reduce handling of items because people can view them digitally and do not necessary need to see the physical copy. The less items are handled the less wear and tear they experience. The other main function that digitizing can facilitate is access. By putting texts into digital format more people can access them around the world, people who might not be able to visit them in person. I should note that although digitization can mean that an item will get handled less, sometimes digitizing it can actually lead to more requests to view an item because it gains more visibility. In such cases the Folger asks that an individual view the digital item first and only view the physical item of their research requires it.
If you’re interested in taking a look at some digitized books, you can check out the Folger’s online database at http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet or Early English Books Online (EEBO, for short) http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home. Both websites can be a lot of fun just to browse around.
The main offices in the Folger are situated around this central area. Most of the books you see behind me are reference books. The offices and work space are all really beautiful.
"Folger Shakespeare Library Cataloging Office staff are providing detailed descriptive cataloging records for the post-1700 Shakespeare Collection, a collection of editions of the Works of William Shakespeare and of separate editions of the plays and poems (ca. 18,000 vol. total). Interns will review LC/NACO name records and provide appropriate artist, bookseller, illustrator, printer, printmaker, and publisher added entries to MARC bibliographic records for these works using the Voyager Cataloging system."
The above is the written description of my project as it is listed on the UM-SI ASB website, but it doesn't really give a clear idea of what exactly I am doing.
Within the Folger this project is refereed to as Shcol, short for Shakespeare Collection, and it is a project within the cataloging department. The simple explanation of why this project is important is that by properly cataloging this collection and creating search fields for the names of publishers, printmakers, illustrators and booksellers of the individual books in question the Folger can provide better access to their users. So the work I am doing will directly impact usability of the collection, as well as providing a full and complete record for each individual book.
Before my work begins, professional catalogers did book in hand cataloging adding just the basic information, but not doing the individual listings that allow for name searches. So what I am doing in going back through and doing to research to find the names and add them in, adding a trace, so that they can be searched.
So now I am going to walk you through the steps I take in completing one of these records. I should point out that I had zero experience with cataloging before this, and had never used Voyager before. I am somewhat familiar with Marc from working in Special Collections at UM, but this was all very new to me and I had to be taught the system when I arrived.
We use a cataloging system called Voyager, but the results of my work can be searched on Hamnet by users anywhere in the world. I will be using pictures to illustrate the steps, click on the pictures to enlarge them.
I begin by pulling up a record in Voyager using its bibliographic ID, or Bib ID, for a single book. You can see the Bib ID along the blue bar at the top of the image below. The numbers along the left hand side indicate very specific information fields about the individual book. For example 245 is Title, 500 is notes, 260 is publication date and other publication information such as location and publisher.
I am specifically looking at the 500 field, or notes field, for the names of people, places, and institutions. When a search is done for John Bell (a publisher) nothing will be returned if his name is just in the notes section. For each individual printmaker, illustrator etc. there must be a separate 700 or "personal name added entry." A 710 entry is for publishing houses, and the 785 entry is for location and there is a specific format that needs to be followed for each entry.
Now I cannot just go down to the 700 section and type in their names, a format needs to be followed and I need to make sure there is an that there is an authority record already in the system for the name I am looking for. Authority records are in the 100 field, which means that I have to do a search for the name that I am looking for. Essentially what this means is I am looking for a verified source in which a given name appears, I also need to make sure that the name matched the correct dates for the time the book I am working on was published and that the individual is listed as a printmaker if I am looking for a printmaker, because if I know from the notes section that an individual is a printmaker, but all I can find is a artist record, then it is not necessarily the same individual and not an appropriate authority record. If I am fairly certain based on the name and dates that it is the correct person I can make the needed changes in the document I am working on, but you have to be really careful. So below is what a search looks like.
You will notice that there are no "authorized" records, but there are a lot of records with the correct last name and first initial that fall within the correct dates for him to have worked on the book in question, and he is listed as a "printmaker" all of this information agrees with what I know about him from the notes, so it is safe to assume this is the right person. So I click on the field that says it has 54 records, and I pick a record, preferably a Shakespeare record that he is listed as a printmaker for.
I click continue, it saves and I start all over again with the next Bib ID on my list.
I know it probably sounds tedious, but it really is an interesting process doing the research to track down the names. It is also very important because as stated above this information is necessary in order for people to be able to search for this material.
Want to test it out? Go to Hamnet http://shakespeare.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&PAGE=First and do an author/creator search for Thornthwaite and see the results in action!
*I should note that I was given permission to take screen shots of my project.
Today was my second day at the Folger and I’m really enjoying my time there. I had the opportunity to actually start my project today and work on it on my own. With permission I took screen shots of the different steps in the program I’m working with and I’m working on pulling together a little step by step pictorial walk through of my project, so keep an eye out for that.
In addition to continuing to work on our projects today our group got to do an information interview with Erin Blake, Curator of Art and Special Collections at the Folger. The main point of these meetings is to give us an opportunity to speak to working professionals, ask questions, find out what they do in their day to day work and how they came to be working in their profession / at the Folger. Even though she was busy working on an upcoming exhibit Erin gave us a full hour of her time and answered a great many questions from us. She was very friendly and open and I continue to be impressed with how much of their time the Folger staff is sacrificing to talk to us. I know that ideally institutions that take on interns should be prepared to devote time to providing them with a well rounded and educational experience, but I believe that the Folger staff is really going above and beyond to make us feel welcome and help us get the most out of our experience.
Another point of interest in our day was a visiting researcher we met at tea time. Yes, the Folger has a tea time every day at 3pm, when all of the staff and individuals doing research in the reading room are welcome to take a break and have tea and biscuits. It reminds me of Stratford and also is great for giving me that little boost I need to make it till the end of the work day, everyone should do 3pm tea time. But I digress, we met a woman named Clarinda Calma, a scholar from Poland, who is doing her post doc research on Early Modern books which were not published in England, due to censorship, but were published in Poland. It was really interesting getting to talk to her about her research and she asked us a lot of questions about our program as well.
Here I’ve linked a few videos that I think people might find interesting from the Folger’s youtube account: BookHistory at the Folger, Why is the First Folio so Important? And Handling Rare Materials.
It is now 9:30pm and I am relaxing in my hotel room, exhausted and sore of foot, but very pleased with my first full day in D.C. and “on the job.” Mother nature has seen fit to bless us with unseasonably warm weather so this morning at 8:15 the 6 of us spending our ASB at the Folger gathered in the hotel lobby and ventured forth on foot. It was a beautiful with the sun rising behind The Capital building and the brisk morning air prickling our cheeks as we made our way to the Folger, which is located behind the Capital next to the Library of Congress.
Jim Kuhn, our site mentor has been really fantastic, spending almost the entire day getting us oriented and really making all of us feel comfortable and welcome. We also had the opportunity to tour the Library of Congress, and the Folger will reciprocate by giving a tour at the end of the week to the SI students working at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is truly breathtaking, all marble and grandeur even the reading room looks more like a cathedral than a library reading room. However, in spite of all the splendor I think my favorite part of our visit may have been seeing their Gutenberg Bible. The Library of Congress’s Gutenberg is one of the three extant complete copies printed on vellum. The Library of Congress purchased it in 1930, from the Benedictine monastery of Saint Blasius, for 1.5 million dollars. I also found it really interesting that they had a monitor in the case it was kept in tracking, the temperature and relative humidity in the case. Light, temperature and humidity all contribute to the deterioration of books and manuscripts and generally colder is better. The temperature in the Gutenberg Bible’s case was 51.7° F. Generally the ideal temperature for most special collections libraries (“ideal” meaning good for the books, but also tolerable for the humans that work with them) is 68° F.
The Library of Congress also has a copy of The Giant Bible of Mainz. Produced somewhere around 1452-3, it is one of the last manuscript (done by hand) bibles produced before the advent of the printing press.
After our tour of the Library of Congress, and a lunch break, it was back to the Folger Shakespeare Library for a tour of their facilities. The Folger’s reading room reminds me a lot of The Shakespeare Institute and with the replica of the Shakespeare bust and stained glass windows in Holy Trinity it had me feeling more than a little nostalgic for my days back in Stratford. They also have what looks like a really interesting exhibit going on now through the end of May that I’m hoping I will get a chance to investigate more closely. The exhibit is called Shakespeare’sSisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700.
you think it was all tours and cakes we were eventually sent to our stations,
and began to get oriented to our various projects for the week. I am working in Cataloging with Deborah J.
Leslie. I cannot express how grateful I am already for not only her patience,
but also her willingness to take time out of her day to teach me how to work
their system. I will be primarily be
comparing records that they have on the post 1700 Shakespeare book collection to
current records on booksellers, printers, illustrators and engravers to create
trace records for the booksellers, publishers, illustrators and engravers
responsible for individual books. I am
not at all an experienced cataloger so I am looking forward to learning a new
skill and gaining experience in an area I might not otherwise have the opportunity
to get hands on experience with.
As a final note if anyone is interested what else the Folger has to offer The Collation, is a really interesting blog that I would highly recommend checking out.
The Folger Crew
I will try to get more picture of the Folger, but there are a lot of areas where cameras are not permitted.
I will be up bright and early tomorrow morning to catch the Magical Mystery ASB Bus to DC, but tonight I'm packing. I have of course heinously over-packed as I'm unsure what the weather will be like and what I will want once I'm there for work/evening outings.
I'm excited and nervous too. I'm looking forward to spending a week in DC working at the Folger and also getting to know my peers at SI better.
My ASB project will be at the Folger Shakespeare Library and here's what the Folger has to say about itself:
"The Folger Shakespeare Library, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Home to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials and to major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art, the Folger serves a wide audience of researchers, visitors, teachers, students, families, and theater- and concert-goers.
The Folger is a world-renowned research center on Shakespeare and on the early modern age in the West. Its conservation lab is a leading innovator in the preservation of rare materials. Its well-known public programs include plays, concerts, literary readings, family activities, and exhibitions, as well as numerous K-12 and college programs for students and teachers. Advanced scholars participate in a variety of Folger Institute seminars and colloquia."
Want to know more? Check out the Folger Website!
It is something of a dream of mine to work at the Folger one day, or a similarly focused research library. I want to be able to utilize my degree from the Shakespeare Institute alongside my degree from UM-SI.