By Gail Kern Paster

One of the surest signs of the fall season at the Folger is the arrival of five long-term fellows who take up residency (often in Folger housing) in September and stay for six to nine months. Funding for two senior scholars comes from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endowments, and the National Endowment for the Humanities provides funding for the other three fellows.

During the course of the year, these scholars are joined by a group of around 30 short-term fellows who come for periods ranging from one to three months. They are supported by various endowed funds for projects in early modern English history, French or Italian studies, the Reformation, the history of science and medicine and art history—and in English literature and Shakespeare. Having been a long-term fellow several times myself, I know how great a privilege it is to have the gifts of time and support for concentrated research in the Folger collections.

The fellows are an integral part of the Folger’s intellectual enterprise, constituting a constantly changing community of scholars who make a huge contribution to the life of the library. We draw on their expertise constantly, just as they draw on the expertise of Folger librarians. We schedule midday brown-bag colloquia where fellows present their work in progress. At our traditional Folger teatime, fellows informally share with Folger staffers the results of their day’s research.

I’m delighted that Amherst faculty members have been Folger fellows in the recent past. Associate Professor of English Anston Bosman was a long-term fellow in 2004. Margaret Hunt, professor of history and women’s and gender studies, came to the Folger in the fall of 2006.

This year, our two Mellon fellows are Katherine Eggert of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who will complete a book titled Unnatural Magic: Alchemy and Disknowledge in Renaissance England, and historian Linda Levy Peck of George Washington University. Peck’s book, The Grocer’s Apprentice: Money, Mobility and Marriage in England, 1600-1730, considers the experiences of several families from different status groups and regions in England from 1603 to 1730. The other long-term fellows are Julia Rudolph, Wolfram Schmidgen and Hannibal Hamlin. Rudolph, a historian from the University of Pennsylvania, is writing a book, Common Law and Enlightenment in England, 1689-1750. Schmidgen, who teaches English at Washington University in St. Louis, is working on a book titled Illegitimate Bodies: Mixture and Multitude in British Culture, 1660-1740. Hamlin, from Ohio State University, is our lone Shakespearean. He is writing a book titled Shakespeare and Biblical Culture.

What is evident in this listing of scholars and their topics is the variety of research that the Folger collections support. I am proud that our fellowship program allows for such wide-ranging scholarship because I believe that research is the foundation of the best college and university teaching. Our fellows come to the Folger to do work that will enrich their scholarship and enliven their teaching.

Paster is director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The Folger opened in 1932 with a gift from Henry Clay Folger, Class of 1879, and his wife, Emily, and is administered under the auspices of Amherst College.