Skip to main content
The Collation

An evolution of cataloging at the Folger, from 1932 to today

Although the Folger Shakespeare Library officially opened on Shakespeare’s birthday in 1932 and readers began arriving at the Library in early 1933, it wasn’t until later that the idea of a proper card catalog for readers’ use was introduced. For the first few years of the library’s existence, staff relied on Mrs. Folger’s handwritten and typed cards created for each item she and Mr. Folger purchased, detailing the author, short title, place and date of publication, and where it was bought. In addition to Mrs. Folger’s cards, the Library’s annotated copy of Pollard and Redgrave’s Short Title Catalogue of English Books, 1475-1640, various incomplete lists, and staff members’ memories were used to determine whether a book was in the Library, and if it was, where to locate it on the shelves.

One of Mrs Folger's original cards cataloging the collection

One of Mrs Folger’s original cards (cf the modern catalog records for this volume)


In case anyone’s wondering what Mr. Folger’s handwriting is doing on one of “Mrs. Folger’s cards” here: the card file is known in-house as “Mrs. Folger’s cards” because she maintained it; she didn’t do all the entries, though. Her writing is more stretched-out and loopy (see for example).

Erin Blake — January 27, 2014


Thanks so much for the clarification Erin!

Melanie Dyer — January 27, 2014


A cataloger myself (and an aspiring rare books librarian), I find this history fascinating. I often wonder at what our previous generation catalogers had to do without the wonders of technology giving us the kinds of shortcuts we now have. And when you add all that bibliographic detail for rare books, it seems even more time-consuming to copy cards even with a mimeograph.

Carrie — January 29, 2014



very nice write up, with lots of interesting info that even I did not know. just a funny note My Dad who was a librarian, for some strange reason had all of us (my siblings) remember “E.E. Willoughby, Chief Bibliographer, Folger Shakespeare Library” My dad was a big fan of Willoughby, and I think mentions him in his masters and (incomplete PHD thesis). this was when I was just a kid. he was thrilled when I got the job at the Folger.

Hope all is well, say hi to all my friends there.


Frank Mowery — January 30, 2014


[…] An evolution of cataloguing at the Folger [Shakespeare Library] (A former intern of mine works there!) […]

Library School: Week 1 | Marlee Walters — January 31, 2014


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *