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The Collation

Where do family trees come from?

Why is a tree coming out of this dozing man’s belly, you may ask. When I began working on the Folger’s next exhibition, Symbols of honor: Family history and genealogy in Shakespeare’s England (July 1 to October 26, 2014), I wondered the same thing.

Trevelyon Miscellany, Folger MS V.b.232, fol. 57r.

Trevelyon Miscellany (1608), Folger MS V.b.232, fol. 57r: Jesse or Ysai, son of Obeth. Click on image to see full page.

This is Jesse. The text below this image includes a passage from Isaiah (11.1), which Christians interpret as prophetic: “the Virgin shall spring of the roote of Jesse But there shall come a rod forth of the stocke of Ishai, and a graffe shall growe out of his roote.” Jesse, father of King David, was the root from which the ancestors of Christ sprung. The next page in the Trevelyon Miscellany, part of a section on the kings of Israel and of Judah, shows Jesse’s son David, also with a branch springing forth from his body and a roundel with his son Nathan’s name in it. 

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