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The Trevelyon Miscellany

These pages are among 290 double-sided folios in a bulky manuscript created in 1608 by Thomas Trevelyon, a London craftsman of whom little is known. The diverse images in Trevelyon's unusual book serve today as a remarkable visual record. His manuscript is not meant to be read from beginning to end. Instead, its pages are a unique mixture of many familiar genres, combining vibrant patterns, moralizing rhymes, historical and scriptural texts, colorful pictures, and more. Together, they  reveal much about the mental world of ordinary Protestant Londoners in the early seventeenth century.


Trevelyon's work can best be described as a prototype coffee table book, created for the entertainment, education, and edification of his friends and family. To assemble it, he appropriated texts and images from numerous books, woodcuts, and engravings of his day, ranging from tiny almanacs to large chronicles, and from individual woodcuts, broadsides, and emblem books to the Bible.


Among the enormous variety of subjects covered in Trevelyon's work are the kings and queens of Scotland and England; custom and folk wisdom; and designs that include calendars, alphabets and numbers, leaf and flower motifs, and more abstract ornamentation, including embroidery patterns. Other pages depict the relative sizes of the sun, the planets, and the earth; theologians, reformers, and the Lord Mayors of London; pagan, Jewish, and Christian heroes; the nine muses; and the seven deadly sins, among many other topics.


Astonishingly, this sprawling work is one of two by Trevelyon. Eight years after creating it at about the age of 60, he produced a second manuscript containing many of the same images; that work is now in the collection of the Wormsley Library in England.

Thomas Trevelyon. Miscellany. Manuscript, 1608

Thomas Trevelyon. Miscellany. Manuscript, 1608

Thomas Trevelyon. Miscellany. Manuscript, 1608.

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Infinite Variety
To find similar stories about other items from the Folger collection, look for Infinite Variety: Exploring the Folger Shakespeare Library.

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