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First Day at The Folger

posted Feb 27, 2012, 8:13 PM by Sarah Wingo   [ updated Feb 28, 2012, 5:05 AM ]

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.


Lest 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

 Touring the Library of Congress
Mosaic of Minerva at Library of Congress. As the Goddess of wisdom and defensive war she is depicted all over the library defending wisdom.
Just another view of the Library of Congress.

I will try to get more picture of the Folger, but there are a lot of areas where cameras are not permitted.