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A new Elizabethan discovery

A very rare early 17th century manuscript volume has come to light in Special Collections. It is highly likely that it is a previously unknown third copy of a fascinating compilation by Thomas Trevelyon (born circa 1548), consisting of richly coloured illustrations and texts which depict common pre-occupations of the period, probably created around 1603. Only two other copies are known to be in existence, one in the United States and one in the UK.

Manuscript pages
From left to right: Folio 52, Ships, Folio 129, Pride, Folio 31, April, Folios 179-180, Alphabet Example

Manuscript content

The content ranges from portraits of the kings and queens of England, and depictions of Biblical scenes to familiar domestic activities, household proverbs and animal husbandry. Descriptions of local fairs sit alongside representations of Ptolemaic astronomy and popular astrology, interleaved with visual interpretations of the creation myth, and alphabet letters in various floral and Celtic-influenced designs and intricate embroidery patterns. It is a fascinating glimpse into the Elizabethan world, a highly unusual work, created for the entertainment, education and amusement of close family and friends. Trevelyon gathered together material from some of the most popular genres of Shakespeare’s time: the Geneva Bible, almanacs, historical chronicles, husbandry manuals, commonplace books, pattern books, sets of prints imported from Antwerp, and hastily printed English broadside ballads and woodcuts. Almost all of the text and images (aside from the embroidery designs and other patterns) are copied from contemporary existing works, indeed, it’s possible that parts or all of this work itself are not by Trevelyon but another copyist- this is something that further investigative work on the UCL copy hopes to unveil.

The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608

The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 held in the Folger Shakespeare Library is a manuscript known to many scholars of the period, as is the so-called Trevilian Great Book of 1616, held in the Wormsley Library in Buckinghamshire, a private collection built up by Sir Paul Getty. When the two manuscripts were edited for publication in 2001 and 2007 respectively, neither editor was aware of the existence of the UCL manuscript. The third copy was recently discovered by Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Library, and once belonged to Charles K. Ogden, whose substantial collection of rare books and manuscripts came to UCL in the early 1950s. Ogden was an extraordinary book-collector, and the collection contains some of the finest early printed books and manuscript collections UCL owns, including first editions of works by Francis Bacon and John Milton, manuscripts of Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, W.H.Ireland and Emile Zola and books belonging to John Dee, Ben Jonson, and Oscar Wilde, among others.

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Last modified 7 February 2013

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