In the 3 ½ years that we’ve been closed for renovations, Caroline Duroselle-Melish, our Associate Librarian for Collection Care and Development and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints, and I have continued to grow the Folger’s collections of printed, graphic, and manuscript material. We typically tout our new acquisitions after they have been processed. Processing is an intermediate stage between accessioning and cataloging. Why do we wait for processing? After processing, we can be sure that items are described accurately and that catalogers have given them a sprinkling of magic metadata dust to make them more discoverable.
I’m going to break with tradition and provide a snapshot of early modern manuscripts acquired since January 2020, even though they’re still technically “In process.” You can see previous lists of items acquired between 2015 and 2020 in Folgerpedia. A few caveats: I have not physically examined most of them because the collection and staff are situated far apart from each other in undisclosed remote locations, and the pictures in this post were taken with phone cameras. They are identifiable in our catalog because they have records with “FAST ACC” call numbers. When you click on a FAST ACC record, you’ll see the note: “This is a PRELIMINARY RECORD. It may contain incorrect information.”
“FAST ACCs” are newly acquired items that have not yet passed through the cataloging department. Instead, these records contain basic information as conveyed by the seller/donor, massaged a bit by our small but mighty Acquisitions team. They also include dealer descriptions, which are a great way for researchers to learn more about an item. If you see something you like with a FAST ACC call number, save the link, or revisit this post so that you can update your notes when it gets fully cataloged.
Since we closed for renovations in January 2020, the Folger has acquired the following early modern manuscripts. In this list I’ve provided links to Folgerpedia pages, catalog searches, and catalog baskets, so that you can browse and explore. Ask me about the unlinked ones if you are curious!
- 22 recipe books (compiled in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, plus 14 more in 2018 and 2019)
- 18 other bound volumes (miscellanies of various kinds)
- Over 100 letters addressed to the merchant Bartholomew Corsini (still folded as letter packets)
- 88 other letters (39% of them are addressed to or from women, see below; others are addressed to Thomas Pengelly and to Sir John Moore, and many concern non-London trade and commerce)
- 16 printed blank forms (9 burial in wool affadavits, and forms for street cleaning, loan requests, funerals, traveling free from infection, bills, and lotteries)
- 57 unbound manuscripts (indentures, inventories, loose poems, treatises, and other single leaf or single quire documents, a few described below)
- 5 items relating to the performer, artist, and calligrapher Matthew Buchinger (lots 107, 110, 121, 124, 125, and 129 from the Ricky Jay sale at Sotheby’s)
- 157 receipts and papers relating to the goldsmith John Warner
- ca. 20-25 printed books with significant manuscript marginalia and/or ownership marks
- 7 hybrid books (bound volumes including manuscript and print, such as writing tables bound with almanacs or sammelbands containing ms and print treatises)
Collection development priorities
One of the first things Caroline, Beth DeBold, and I did when we closed for renovation in January 2020 is revise our Collection Development policy. We did this in close consultation with Collections staff at the Folger and with colleagues at other institutions. This policy is not yet on Folgerpedia but hopefully it will be soon. Our actual collecting practices won’t be changing very much. Instead, this new policy will reflect what Caroline and I have been doing for many years with our early modern collecting: building on strengths, and seeking out manuscripts, prints, and printed books that enrich and build holdings in areas of emerging strengths related to historically marginalized or under-documented people, including those illuminating non-elite voices and circumstances related to race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, ability, and non-Western European identities.
From 2020 to 2023, we acquired items in several of these emerging strengths areas. We acquired a significant amount of material relating to early modern women representing a wide range of social statuses, summarized below.
We also acquired two items relating to forced labor camps in Virginia and Antigua. The inventory of Mr. John Cant of Middlesex County, VA, June 1, 1694, names six enslaved men—Sam, Sambo, Jak, Tom, Robin, and George—and three enslaved women—Ann and two others that I can’t quite read from the image in the bookseller catalog, but possibly Heagar and Ingrall—and one indentured servant, Robert Brown (FAST ACC 272491). Unfortunately, the image from the dealer’s catalog is too blurry to include here, but we’ll try to update this post with an image when we can.
In a 1716 indenture, Elizabeth Bridges of Soho Square in Middlesex, authorizes Captain John Gamble to recover rents and profits from two forced labor camps in Antigua belonging to her deceased brother, an example of an Englishwoman profiting from the trade in enslaved people (FAST ACC 272171).
The Matthew Buchinger manuscripts, prints, and broadsides provide context for his life as a performer, magician, calligrapher, and artist. People flocked to see him because his skills were extraordinary by any standard, and even more so because he was 29 inches tall and “born without hands, feet, or thighs” (he describes himself this way in this self-portrait, which we did not acquire). A modern doctor would diagnose him with phocomelia (OED definition: “A congenital malformation in which the long bones of one or more limbs are absent or rudimentary, resulting in the hand or foot being attached close to the trunk.”).
Since January 2020 we have acquired the following manuscripts illuminating the voices and experiences of early modern women:
- the above-mentioned 22 recipe books, mostly written by women, with individual recipes within each volume attributed to dozens of additional women representing a range of social statuses.
- A Quaker marriage certificate for Susanna Bowyer and John Dimsdale in Herefordshire on June 25, 1700, witnessed by 56 Quakers (not yet received by the Folger, but like one we acquired in 2018)
- 9 burial in wool affidavits for Buckinghamshire from 1683-1702 (printed blank forms and manuscripts) certifying the burials of women and children and signed by female overseers. Names include Mary Cox, Sara Mayo, Ann Lodington, Mary King, Margarett Ioney, Frances Russel, and Joyce Oxley (FAST ACC 272517). We’ve written about this types of affidavits in a previous Collation post.
- A minute and account book for a school founded by Margaret Barkham (FAST ACC 272514)
- A revelation by Sarah Johnson docketed: “A copy of Sarah Johnsons message to ye present queen 1692” (not yet received by the Folger, ask me for details!)
- An unrecorded printed broadside (FAST ACC 272149) and manuscript copy (FAST ACC 272148) granting an annuity for Catherine of Kirbymoorside, Yorkshire in 1684
- An inventory of Elizabeth Bayley, widow of Oakhanger, Hampshire, 1658 (FAST ACC 272518) and a will and inventory of Joan Blake, widow of Minehead, 1696 (FAST ACC 272250)
- 12 letters written by women
- Mary Seymour to Robert Petre, 1579 (FAST ACC 272405)
- Elizabeth, Lady Ralegh to Moyle Finch, 1592 (FAST ACC 272494)
- Elizabeth Apsley to John Greene in Sussex, 1625 (FAST ACC 272281)
- Henrietta Maria to her brother Gaston, Duc d’Orleans, circa 1649-50 (FAST ACC 272493)
- Rachel Stacy to Thomas Small, 1693 (FAST ACC 272323)
- Frances Jenkinson to Sir John Moore, 1673 and 1678 (FAST ACCS 272309 and 272308)
- Anne Hamilton to Gowain Hamilton, 1694 (FAST ACC 272303)
- Frances Preston to Thomas Hackett, 1682 (FAST ACC 272297)
- Elinor Palmer to her cousin “Trayle,” 1696 (FAST ACC 272289)
- Elizabeth Grenwell, Eggleston, to her husband, 1689 (FAST ACC 272436)
- Anna Pyper, Montrose, Scotland to her husband, 1698 (FAST ACC 272348)
- 10 letters written to women
- to Lady Bell at Paston Hall, 1626 (FAST ACC 272372)
- Sir Gilbert Gerard to his mother-in-law Lady Joan Barrington, 1635 (FAST ACC 272406)
- two letters from Joshua Bowes to Bridget Hyde in 1675 (FAST ACC 272062)
- Richard Cromwell to his daughters Elizabeth and Anne in 1689 (not yet accessioned)
- Frank Edward to his sister Anne Asheton in Hamburg (FAST ACCS 272460, 272451, 272443, 272437, available with this search)
- John Bingham to Mrs Saunders in 1695 (FAST ACC 272302)
I’ll end this section with images of the unparalleled letters from Joshua Bowes to Bridget Hyde:
Why we love manuscripts
A brief rundown of some other curious items not mentioned above:
Letter packets: Much of the new correspondence, Corsini and otherwise, relates to mercantile issues and international trade in cloth, wool, spices, and other everyday and luxury goods. Since these letters all arrived in packet form, we’ve kept them that way for all future scholars of letterlocking!
A circa 1619 account of a dispute brought before the judges of the Council of the North (FAST ACC 272486) concerning libelous accusations of drunkenness and papistry. It begins innocently enough, with a chance encounter on the bowling green:
H.A. having occasion to goe
vnto some groundes he had vpon the Ninteinth of August last
within the Lordshipp of Preston in Holdernes, and his way lyinge
thorow a pasture ground wherein their is a bowlinge greene and
understandinge that C.H. was their he went a little foorth of his
way to salute him, who tolde him he would goe homeward with him
after he had bould a rubber or two, which would take him some
two howers time…
An apprenticeship indenture from 1674, apprenticing William Hollins, “a poore child,” to Richard Hunt, a Pointer, for eight years (a pointer was a person who made tagged points or laces for fastening clothes) (FAST ACC 272096).
A note written in pin pricks by a quill-less French Huguenot prisoner in 1686, with contextual notes by his wife and child in ink (FAST ACC 272249). According to the bookseller Seth Kaller’s description, the note reads “‘NE TROUVERES VOUS POIN LE MOIEN DENVOIER DE QUOI POUVOIR ESCRIRE,’ which translated means: ‘You will not find the means to send that which you can write.’” His cryptic message suggests that given his confinement it would be difficult to send and receive messages. His wife endorses the message: “ce papier a ete fait par mon mari dans le cachot de la grite ou il a ette garde 6 semaine par ni homme et de la conduit a la prison ou il a ette 8 mois 1/2 en 1686 du temps de la persecusion de notre religion” (bookseller translation: “This paper was done by my husband in the dungeon of the grite[?], where he was kept 6 weeks in solitary confinement, and then brought to the prison, where he was held for 8-1/2 months in 1686, at the time of the persecution of our religion.” The prisoner’s child adds in English, “These papers were pricked with a pinn when my Dear father was in a dark Dungeon for want of penn and Ink in his confinement for Religion in the persecution in france.”
We were delighted by this alphabetical collection of proverbs, each beginning with an ornate historiated ‘cadel’ letter, created 1560 to 1570 (FAST ACC 272272). Cadel letters are made from a pattern of interwoven and knotted parallel pen strokes (for more on cadel lettering at the Folger, see this Collation post from 2012).
A sixteenth century manuscript copy of Erra Pater’s printed prognostications (FAST ACC 272237) was discovered, according to the auction house description, “in the walls of an old house.” Our London agent took pictures of the writing table leaves (paper or parchment treated with a gesso-glue coating so that the surface can be written on with a stylus) at the beginning and end of the volume. We love writing tables, so that was an extra bonus!
A lovely calligraphic find (FAST ACC 272209), described by the bookseller Bruce McKittrick as “Livre a Chanson” (Belgian, 1637): “highly romantic verses in French and Spanish – expressing grief, regret, jealousy, admonition, passion and resignation – surround or inhabit exuberant abstract ornament, carnival players, street musicians, animals, putti, lover’s knot pattern poems.”
One of our most recent acquisitions was an extraordinary set of nine heraldic manuscripts written and illustrated on vellum and bound in red velvet with gold tassels, given as annual New Year’s gifts to Queen Elizabeth by her Garter King of Arms, Sir Gilbert Dethick. They aren’t visible in the catalog yet, but they are described on the Sotheby’s website. We’ve been able to identify these book-gifts on some of our New Year’s gift rolls! For example, Folger MS Z.d.15, our gift roll for January 1, 1578/79, includes a gift “By Sir Giulbarte Dethicke alias Garter principall kinge at Armes a booke at Armes.”
We acquire from a wide range of auction houses, booksellers, and donors. Some of our favorite bookseller catalogues are written by Dean Cooke –they are beautiful and full of interesting and quirky items that are often hard to categorize: https://deancooke.org/book-fairs. We are grateful to all the amazing booksellers we work with and value their expertise and ability to find and offer us unexpected surprises.
A huge thank you to Erin Blake, senior cataloger, and Julie McNeely, acquisitions librarian, for helping me track down images, spreadsheets, and purchase orders.
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