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The Collation

Remembering Laetitia Yeandle, Curator of Manuscripts (1930-2024)

Laetitia Yeandle holding a manuscript
Laetitia Yeandle in the vault, holding a partially unrolled Elizabethan New Year's Gift Roll, December 22, 1983. The photograph was taken by Julie Ainsworth for a memory book in honor of O.B. Hardison on his 1983 retirement as Director.

I think it’s fair to say that Laetitia Yeandle, who worked at the Folger Shakespeare Library for 44 years, retiring in 2001, had a cult following.

From fall 1972 until fall 2004, she taught a Folger Institute workshop called “An Introduction to Renaissance Paleography.” Her soft voice, her patience and humility, her belief in every participant’s ability to read secretary hand, made it a life-changing experience for hundreds of budding paleographers, many of whom stayed in touch with her through the years and long into her retirement, sending her postcards from far-flung repositories and offprints of articles that could not have been written without her help

advertisement for Laetitia's first paleography course
Snippet from the 1972/1973 Folger bulletin advertising Laetitia's first paleography course.

Other people came to know and appreciate her through her co-authorship of two paleography manuals, first published in 1966 and 1992, that continue to be invaluable resources today.

Image of two books about paleography
Laetitia (Kennedy-Skipton) Yeandle's two co-authored paleography manuals, with Giles Dawson and Jean Preston.

Still others encountered her through her brilliantly thorough paleographical and codicological answers to their hand- and type-written queries, a chance meeting in the Tea Room, a satisfying reference phone call, an ongoing e-mail correspondence. (If you ever sent her a query by mail, we likely have it, and a copy of her reply, in the manuscript curatorial and correspondence files.)

Others knew her through her concise “Notes” in Shakespeare Quarterly, and her painstaking editorial work on The Folger Library edition of the works of Richard Hooker (1977)  The Journal of John Winthrop  (1996), and Sir Edward Dering’s “Book of Expences.”

Her Folger co-workers are forever grateful for her instinct to save and recycle. Laetitia rescued countless paper and parchment fragments and bindings from the pre-Conservation-era “bindery,” which are now housed in the manuscript collection and the subject of study in their own right. Our institutional archives are beholden to her as well — not just for the things she intentionally saved, but also for the institutional history that was incidentally saved because she took notes on the backs of old Folger memos, policies, and catalog cards.

Besides all that, she was an excellent colleague and friend. Her keen observational skills were not just limited to otiose strokes and superfluous tittles in manuscripts — she saw them in the natural world as well, and was as comfortable on her land in West Virginia and her garden in Maryland as she was in the vault, lost in a manuscript.

Laetitia died on Sunday morning, January 21, 2024. In keeping with her wishes for not making a fuss about anything relating to her, the Folger will not make a fuss. But for the sake of all her many admirers around the world, we want to recognize her huge impact on early modern English manuscript studies, in a place where people can share memories or appreciations in the Comments section.

photograph of Laetitia Yeandle in 1962
Cropped photograph of Laetitia Yeandle taken from a reprint of the summer 1962 Amherst Alumni News. In the original, she is standing next to Giles Dawson.


I would not have survived my first research trip to the British Library without English Handwriting 1450-1650! It still sits on my shelf and I refer to it even today almost 25 years later.

Tara Wood — February 22, 2024


It was a note Laetitia had added to the card catalogue that pointed me to the manuscript of Lucy Hutchinson’s Order and Disorder. What a difference her sharing of her knowledge made!

David Norbrook — February 22, 2024


Laetitia was a wonderful scholar, librarian, and person–she will be

missed by many, many people, especially (but not only) Folger

readers and staff!

Elizabeth Hageman — February 22, 2024


Sending warmest thoughts and deepest sympathies to our friends at The Folger.

Vanessa Wilkie
The Huntington

Vanessa Wilkie — February 23, 2024


Will never forget her using u/v to show me MS markings in the unique Q1 *Titus* when I was editing it for Arden.

Jonathan Bate — February 24, 2024


My PhD would be infinitely more difficult without Laetitia’s transcription of Edward Dering’s accounts around which much of my study of the village of Pluckley is based. Her endeavours have helped countless researcher to understand the past and her work will live on forever.

Kaye Helen Sowden — February 27, 2024


I know that Werner Habicht was very impressed by Laetitia. I remember a very nice Christmas at her house years again. She was ever so friendly, helpful and modest.

Christa Jansohn — February 27, 2024


I am genuinely grateful for Heather Wolfe’s tribute to Laetitia. I’ve been hired by a friend and fellow researcher to produce a celebration of life memorial for Laetitia in Garrett Park, MD, on Sunday, March 24th, in their Town Hall. For weeks now, I’ve been searching for a single photo of her that we can use as a Tribute Poster, but this was the first image by Julie Ainsworth. Priceless. It’s almost unimaginable in 2024 that someone can go through life avoiding the camera. There are no family albums or artifacts of her life in images. “Don’t make a fuss.” But then, you start to understand that she dedicated her life to the artifacts of other people’s lives. What a treasure to find this article (and artifact), which will help us tell Laeticia’s story so others can learn about her legacy and contributions.

Eric Cathcart — March 4, 2024


Laetitia, Jean Miller and I worked together when I was the assistant art cataloguer to Jean. Laetitia was an inspiration to me as a young 21 year old. We had a great time going over Thomas Hooker’s writing, and so many others, authenticating their writings and signatures.

Christine Bergaust Harris — March 6, 2024


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