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The Collation

Notes for future reference

A small three ring binder open to a page with handwritten text of numbers

Do you have a folder of notes on weird things you’ve come across in your research, lists of information that might be useful down the road, anecdotes needing verification, and the like? Maybe you also have a few tattered notebooks, a bunch of sticky notes on the wall next to your desk, and a shoebox with slips of scrap paper bearing messages. One of the joys of working in a Special Collections library is that we not only have our own collections of random jottings, we inherit the collections of the librarians who came before us.

Giles E. Dawson (1903–1994), the Folger’s Curator of Books and Manuscripts from 1946 to 1967, kept his notes on hole-punched sheets of 5 1/2- by 8 1/2-inch paper in a three-ring binder.

A small three ring binder open to a page with handwritten text of numbers
Giles E. Dawson's notebook open to "Ms lists of books"

He arranged the sheets alphabetically by subject, with plenty of blanks for additional notes. Some of the entries are clearly meant for quick reference when answering questions that come up again and again, such as the “Folger Sh. holdings” with a count of First, Second, Third, and Fourth Folios of Shakespeare in the collection.

One page of a small three ring binder with roman and arabic numerals
Total number of Shakespeare Folios at the Folger in Giles E. Dawson's notebook

The first number in Dawson’s list is noteworthy. For decades, the official answer to “How many First Folios does the Folger have?” was either “seventy-nine” (the number of bound volumes) or “seventy-nine, but eighty-two if you count fragments” (the three distinct sets of unbound leaves, each separately arranged for potential binding). In 2011, the Folger added those three unbound sets to the online catalog and to the official count. Steve Galbraith, then Curator of Books, described the momentous event as “Much Ado about Eighty-Two” in a Collation post. Dawson’s list, though, gives the total number of First Folios as “80 + 3” — what’s up with that? 

One of my favorite sections is “Printing Peculiarities” (filed under “P”). Just about any of the entries could be the topic of a Collation post, including tid-bits like this: 

A typewritten note
Excerpt from "Printing Peculiariteies" in Giles E. Dawson's notebook

Transcribed, it reads:

STC 25992. William Worship. The Christians Mourning Garment…. 1612.

At end is this errata notice: “In some coppies amend these faults, thus.” Then follow 7 errata, [with an erratum therein, changing “noose” to “woose” which cannot be in the present context]. DFo1 copy is uncorrected, except, strangely enough, for the aforementioned “woose”, which doesn’t make sense. The “some” copies suggest a printing change en route.

Sure enough, here’s the errata as seen in the scanned copy in EEBO:

A list of seven errors in the printed book and what they should be corrected to, including the correction of
Detail of errata leaf from STC 25992 (Image from EEBO)

The online catalog record for Folger STC 25992 mentions the presence of the errata leaf, but doesn’t indicate which errors, if any, have been corrected in the Folger copy. It’s tempting to update catalog records based on Giles Dawson’s notes while the library is closed for renovation, but the temptation must be avoided until his observations can be confirmed with book-in-hand. In this case, I was hoping to take advantage of the fact that the Folger copy was used for the EEBO scan to do just that. Unfortunately, the EEBO scan clearly reads “noose” not “wooseon page 20, line 11. 

A microfilm image of the page of a printed book with the word noose underlined in red
Detail of Folger copy of STC 25992 (image from EEBO)

This copy that was microfilmed (and later scanned for EEBO) was already in the Folger collection by the time Giles Dawson arrived, so maybe there used to be a second copy? Maybe he was feeling woozy on the day he made the note, and only thought he saw “woose” on the page? I’m looking forward to being able to check additional records once the library re-opens. 

If some entries are Collation-post-worthy, others are the sorts of things that would be fit well in Folgerpedia, like the sheet of typed and hand-written citations headed “STC Books formerly owned by Edward Gwynn” in the “G” section of the binder (despite the heading, the list contains more than just STC imprints).  

One page of a small three-ring binder with printed and handwritten numbers and titles of books
List of titles formerly owned by Edward Gwynn in Giles E. Dawson's notebook

In fact, the list would fit so well in Folgerpedia that there already is one: List of books owned by Edward Gwynn. It includes all the non-question-marked titles in Giles Dawson’s notebook except for “Les heures…de L. Guiciardini. 1594″ which re-appears on his list in pencil at the bottom as “Belleforest Les oeuvres [sic] 1594.” Maddeningly, its description in the card catalog has no binding description or former owner information.    

A catalog card for a title by Guicciardinni, Lodovico titled Les heures de recreation et apres-disnees de Louys Guicciardin
Catalog card for Folger PQ4627 .G2 H7 F52 Cage

Someone will have to take a look at it after the renovation, when the collection is once again accessible. Accordingly, I’ve made a note for future reference.

A handwritten note that reads
Note scribbled by Erin Blake on the back of an old catalog card (filed under "V" for "Vault check" in the box of cards on her desk)

And so the cycle continues.

  1. “DFo” is the symbol assigned to the Folger by the Library of Congress Union Catalog Division in 1936. “D” stands for District of Columbia and “Fo” stands for Folger.