READ: On curating filing holes

Those working on the material text may be aware of the glorious new enterprise that is Inscription: the Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History. Created and edited by Gill Partington, Adam Smyth and Simon Morris, the journal exists both as a lavish large format physical production and an online marvel. Two issues have appeared so far, Issue 1 on ‘Beginnings‘ and Issue 2 on ‘Holes‘. Each is a work of art in itself with more than a casual nod to the artist book. But they also offer lively scholarly engagements with the aforementioned themes, as well as presenting the work of a series of artists.

One compelling offering from Issue 2 is an essay by Heather Wolfe, curator of manuscripts and associate librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, entitled ‘On curating filing holes’. Wolfe researches and writes on overlooked and unusual material features of early modern manuscripts, including styles of clips and fastenings now unfamiliar to us. In this essay she explores the holes and marks left on paper when such things are removed. Such holes carry meaning and Wolfe is particularly concerned that they not pass unnoticed or unrecorded:

As curators, conservators, archivists, catalogers, researchers, digitizers, we can
collectively start recording the presence of holes in catalogue descriptions, finding
aids, conservation documentation, and digitization metadata. Rule 7B10.1 of
Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (MSS), published in 2016, states: ‘Make
a note on physical details that are not already included in the physical description
area, including whether the material is damaged, fragile, or heavily restored if considered
important.’ The first example is ‘Filing hole at top of leaf ’.15 The modern
analogs to filing holes need similar standards of description, before the technologies
behind them are forgotten.
(p. 42)

Detail of hole in a note concerning boxed and bagged fifiles received by
William Banyard from John Owles, servant to Lady Jane Townshend.
5 November 1590. Folger MS L.d.795.

Wolfe’s full essay can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF from the same place.

The journal Inscription available open access so can be viewed in full online and individual hard copy issues can also be purchased.