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The Collation

"What manner o' thing is your crocodile?": August edition

Like last month’s crocodile mystery, this one has two levels of answers. The first, of course, is to identify what genre of thing this is. The second is to offer explanations for why this genre and this instance might be worth discussing. I will clarify that what I’m focused on here is the last line of type on the page; I’ve cropped the image down so that we’re seeing only the bottom few inches of the entire page. As always, click on the image to enlarge it in a new window, and leave your thoughts below!

click to embiggen


I won’t comment on the crocodile, since I have insider knowledge, but I did notice a couple of other things. First, there’s a capital letter *after* the large decorative initial. Isn’t that a bit weird? Or do I just not pay enough attention to the words in early modern books because I’m so busy with the pictures? Second, we need to revive “herby” as a shade of green. “What a lovely herby sofa!” “Are you seasick? You’re looking a bit herby.” “I really like the style and fit, but do you have anything herbier?”

Erin Blake — August 4, 2012

I feel like the capital letter after the initial letter is not unusual, but I’d have to double-check by looking at a bunch of books (such hardship!). And I’m all in favor of reviving herby, if only because it will lead us to describe things as herbacious!

Sarah Werner — August 7, 2012

I’m just guessing, but is it a medical book? That part about the tongue (possibly as use for danger and diagnosis), and then it talks about it as if you want to identify it. Was Luriel ever used as a medical remedy I wonder? Or was it something you wanted to stay away from? No later than 1800 I would say, and obviously meant for people that could deal with having nice letters. Probably not a cheap book to manufacture.

James — August 4, 2012

I’m pretty sure this is Dodoens, A Nievve herball (translation of his Crüÿdeboeck).

But I’m wondering — since I know collation has been on your mind recently — if there is something exciting about the signature or the catchword that hasn’t jumped out at me just yet. I’ll have to think on this!

Sarah Burke Cahalan — August 6, 2012

Ha, you’re right: this came straight out of our experiences endlessly creating collation formulas at Rare Book School! Apparently I couldn’t get it out of my system and had to come straight back home to read up on Sayce and local compositorial habits…

Sarah Werner — August 7, 2012

Maybe I haven’t looked at enough old books for a while, but having the signature and the catchword in line with the text seems unusual to me. Guessing the printers didn’t want to orphan the last two words, so crammed them in with the signature and catchword.

Also, about the catchword: using Sarah’s tip that this is Dodoens’ Herball, I took a look at the 1578 edition in EEBO and also noticed that the type ornament in the catchword doesn’t match the type ornament on the next page. Paging through a bit shows that the use of type ornaments can be a bit irregular (probably because they ran out of the main ornament and used whatever was handy).

John Russell — August 6, 2012

Great points, both (and I quote you on the cramming in my follow-up post). Catchwords are funny things, and they don’t always match exactly. But I think you’re right about what’s going on here: perhaps they didn’t have the ornament they used in the main text and so swapped in something equivalent. The one used in the second example from the book that I show at the end of my next post also uses a star-like thing in the catchword.

Sarah Werner — August 7, 2012

All is revealed at my next post, where I share details large and small about the joys of signature marks!

Sarah Werner — August 7, 2012