Folger Receives $1.5 Million Grant from Mellon Foundation for Collaborative Research Project

Press Contact:

Garland Scott, (202) 675-0342,

Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures

The Folger Shakespeare Library has been awarded a four-year, $1.5 million grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a collaborative research project, Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures.

The new Mellon initiative will be based in the Folger Institute, led by its Executive Director, Kathleen Lynch, and its projects will be carried out by collaborative, cross-disciplinary teams that the Folger convenes.

Before 'Farm to Table' will use the pervasiveness of food in everyday life as a window into early modern culture,” notes Lynch. “In the course of this project, participants will investigate big questions about the way food participates in and actively shapes human knowledge, ethics, and imagination. They will explore such issues as the unevenness of food supply, the development and spread of tastes, and the socially cohesive rituals of eating together. With fresh understandings of a pre-industrial world, this project also gives the scholarly community purchase on some post-industrial assumptions, aspirations, and challenges.”

The initiative is informed by a model pioneered in the sciences and increasingly used in the humanities. But it also re-invigorates deeply rooted forms of humanistic inquiry, especially as it grows out of collaborative discussions around a library’s collections, and creates new partnerships among scholars, librarians, conservators, digital humanists, and other practitioners outside the humanities and outside the academy.

Grant funding will support the hire of three post-doctoral research fellows to work with the group leaders and an array of visiting distinguished scholars, residential fellows, graduate seminar participants, and leading farmers and restaunteurs. A dedicated project coordinator is also funded by the grant.

A working group of three scholarly team leaders will coordinate the project’s agendas and activities:

  • David Goldstein, Associate Professor of English at York University in Canada, author of  Eating and Ethics in Shakespeare’s England and the forthcoming monograph, “With Whom We Eat: Literature and Commensality”
  • Amanda Herbert, assistant director for fellowships in the Folger Institute
  • Heather Wolfe, curator of manuscripts at the Folger

Before 'Farm to Table' will mine rich and underexplored collections at the Folger; it will highlight new voices and genres from the past; it will create a hub in a network of scholarly projects; it will advance the maturation of scholarly discussion and debates in the field; and it will contribute to social and cultural histories as well as forge new grounds for meaningful conversations with experts from outside the humanities. The project will also produce a range of public events with institutional partners, as well as exhibitions and other experiences.

Specific decisions about what each team will work on will emerge later from team discussions. Project participants might, for example, create a study of the kitchen as a space in the household, a map of London’s markets, an online edition of a Folger receipt book, or the scaffolding for a fully searchable database of food imagery in engravings.


Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. Additional information is available at


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Press Contact:

Garland Scott, (202) 675-0342,