A third manuscript by Thomas Trevelyon/Trevilian

The author’s name in the Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 (Folger MS V.b.232, fol. 264v); click image to enlarge in Luna.

Many Collation readers are already familiar with the Folger’s Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 (Folger MS V.b.232), and the fabulous Trevilian Great Book of 1616 at the Wormsley Library. Both manuscripts, created by Thomas Trevelyon/Trevilian1 (b. ca. 1548), have been published in facsimile, and the Folger version is also fully digitized

When Nicolas Barker edited the Great Book (The Great Book of Thomas Trevilian [The Roxburghe Club, 2000]) and I edited the Miscellany (The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 [Folger Shakespeare Library, 2007]), we were both only aware of two versions of the work. These works are large and lengthy folios (The Great Book is 1,049 pages and the Miscellany was originally 654 pages, of which 596 survive) which unite familiar religious and allegorical visual and textual imagery, as well as ancient and contemporary proverbial wisdom, into single volumes. Trevelyon, of whom we know little beyond his age when he wrote the Great Book in 1616 (68 years old), gathered his 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. In fact, almost all of the texts and images (aside from the embroidery designs and other patterns) are copied, adapted, or excerpted from printed sources (some of which no longer survive), but transformed in the process by Trevelyon’s thoughtful pairings, enlargements, and coloring into something entirely original. Trevelyon’s creations are series of series, including chronologies, lists, genealogies, allegorical series, patterns, and alphabets, all framed by similar borders and decorative space fillers. Both versions include familiar scenes of domesticity and husbandry intertwined with epic Protestant and political epitomes, ranging from accounts of the rulers of England from Brut to James I, the Gunpowder Plot, and Old Testament history and parables, to descriptions of local fairs, the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, household proverbs, and lists of distances between cities. The familiar iconography and texts were meant to trigger the memory of devotional or moralistic thoughts and narratives, and Trevelyon writes in the Great Book that his gathering of “fragments and broken sentences” was for both the entertainment and edification of his friends.

The 1608 Miscellany is, in some ways, the less detailed and complete of the two versions, but it can hardly be considered a draft. Nicolas Barker has speculated that the 1616 Great Book might have been created on commission. Many of their sections are identical, but in some cases the arrangements, selections, and print sources are different. The Miscellany includes  text and images not found in the Great Book, such as seven pages of the verse of Thomas Tusser and pages devoted to “Chastity,” “Mercy,” Love,” “Presumption,” “Judges,” “Prelates,” “Freewill,” “Pride,” and “Civil Friendship,” among others. And the Great Book is much larger, with nearly three hundred additional pages of botanical and animal drawings and texts largely taken from Leonard Fuchs’s De historia stirpium commentarii (1542), William Turner’s A new herball (1551-68), and Edward Topsell’s The historie of four-footed beastes and The historie of serpents (1607-8). The Great Book also has the Five Senses, the Four Continents, the prophecies of the Twelve Sybils, and a few other unique pages.

Imagine my surprise when Martin Sanford (co-editor, with John Blatchly, of a facsimile edition of Thomas Fella’s Book of Divers Devices and Sorts of Pictures [Folger MS V.a.311]) alerted me earlier this year to a manuscript at University College, London (MS Ogden 24), that was clearly by Thomas Trevilian/Trevelyon, although not identified as such in the catalogue record or in the manuscript itself. A third Trevelyon manuscript?

I had the opportunity to view the full manuscript in July 2012. The images are unmistakeably his, and can be dated perhaps to ca. 1603 because although Elizabeth I’s death and James I’s accession are recorded, there are blank spaces where the place of her burial and years of her reign should be written. Also, in the text that goes with the image of James I’s wife, Queen Anne, only three of their children are listed, Henry, Elizabeth, and Margaret, but not the fourth, Charles (the future Charles I), who was born in November 1600. Did Trevelyon complete this leaf a few years before the Elizabeth one?

The reigns of Mary, Elizabeth, and James, with blank spaces for the location of Elizabeth’s burial and the number of years of her reign. Note the upside-down stencilled “m” in James I’s name!

Queen Anne, at the end of a series of Scottish monarchs, partly adapted from John Johnston’s A trewe description, of the nobill race of the Stewards (Amsterdam, 1602?) [STC 14787.2]. Here she is listed as having only three children, suggesting that Trevelyon was using a no longer extant edition that predated James VI’s accession to the crown of England.

Incidently, the stock figure who appears on the facing page to Queen Anne also appears in the Folger Miscellany, and Trevelyon uses nearly identical coloring for both in MS Ogden 24 and the Folger Miscellany:

Does this guy look familiar? He appears in both Ogden MS 24 and the Trevelyon Miscellany at the Folger. Click image to enlarge in Luna.

Queen Anne in the Trevelyon Miscellany, with four children listed. Click image to enlarge in Luna.

Was MS Ogden 24 Trevelyon’s first attempt at the creation of a monumental miscellany, or was it a collection of templates for future projects, including the Folger Miscellany and the Wormsley Great Book? The main differences between it and the other two are size (it is much smaller, measuring 198 x 292mm, compared to the Miscellany and the Great Book, which measure, on average, 265 x 420mm), length (200 leaves), and layout (the manuscript contains much less text on each leaf). Most of the images appear in the 1608 and 1616 versions as well (although not in the same order or form) but there are a few that don’t appear, such as the figure in the upper left of this image:

A “humanoid scorpion,” a flower, a bird, and a duck.

Malcolm Jones has since identified it as coming from Stephen Hawes, The history of graund Amoure and la bel Pucel, called the Pastime of pleasure, first published in 1509. The image below is from the 1555 edition.

humanoid scorpion woodcut

Source for MS Ogden 24, fol. 3v: image of a humanoid scorpion in Stephen Hawes, The history of graund Amoure and la bel Pucel, called the Pastime of pleasure (London, 1555)

In other cases, a leaf or two appear in UCL’s version that are missing from the 1608 Trevelyon miscellany because they were apparently removed at some point. For example, a gap in foliation between the end of the Twelve tribes of Israel (Folger MS V.b.232 63r-68v) and the start of the early rulers of Britain (fols. 71r-105v) probably included a version of the images in MS Ogden 24 depicting the Albion myth (the daughters of Diocletian were banished after plotting to murder their husbands and then shipwrecked in England, which they named Albion after the eldest daughter, and then coupled with the native demons, resulting in a race of giants, who were then defeated by Brutus, who then renamed the island after himself).

Depiction of the Albion myth in MS Ogden 24, missing from Folger MS V.b.232. The ship that transported Diocletian’s daughters does double-duty as Noah’s ark in both UCL MS Ogden 24 and Folger MS V.b.232.

I’d love if someone could identify one section in particular, an illustrated alphabet of the letters A through G only that does not appear in the Folger Miscellany. Do let us know if they look familiar!

Does anyone know the source for this alphabet? It begins with the letter A (shown here) and ends with the letter G (shown next).

The letter G in MS Ogden 24.

And finally, perhaps the most tantalizing clue is written horizontally on fol. 125r, on a leaf depicting a clown (or countryman), one of the Five Alls:

Like as the heare doe ronne before a pipe & a taber
so from my worke ile ^ronne^ if I shall not be paide for my labour

The Clown, one of the Five Alls, in MS Ogden 24, rotated to show Trevelyon’s[?] verse complaint.

Is this the secretary hand of Trevelyon, and is this partially rubbed-out verse a complaint about lack of remuneration for his hard work? The complainant is playing on the proverb, to catch a hare with a tabor (a drum), an exercise in futility since the hare is so fast and watchful.

His decision to place his complaint on this particular leaf is perhaps not mere coincidence. The image of the clown is taken from a printed sheet of the Dance of death (London, 1580?) that is known to survive in only a single copy at the British Library (BL Huth 50 (63)). The engraving depicts the Five Alls (the bishop, the king, the harlot, the lawyer, the clown, and the most powerful of all the Alls, Death) and includes verses at the bottom in which each All describes his or her power over all the others. The Clown’s (really, a country farmer) verse includes the couplet:

For want of food they should all perish then,
What say you now to me the countrey man?

While these verses are not included in MS Ogden 24, they do appear in the Folger Miscellany under the clown, and would have been known to Trevelyon at the time he compiled MS Ogden 24. Is he referring to his country origins, and asserting, with a sense of humor, his power as both the hare and the clown, over all others?

The Clown, I must feede you all, in the Trevelyon Miscellany (Folger MS V.b.232, fol. 134v). Click image to enlarge in Luna.

Now that we know that Trevelyon was already hard at work on his massive project in 1603 or probably earlier, we can revise and enhance our understanding of his methodology and goals, and perhaps finally discover some biographical details about him. Thousands of comparisons and contrasts remain to be observed between the three versions, but what has already emerged is the clear progression and growth, in style and content, from MS Ogden 24 (ca. 1603), to the Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608 at the Folger, to the Trevilian Great Book of 1616 at the Wormsley Library. At the Folger, we look forward to learning more about our own Trevelyon based on new research on MS Ogden 24.


  1. Thomas spells his surname as Trevelyon in the Folger’s Miscellany and Trevilian in the Wormsley’s Great Book, but I’ll just refer to him as Trevelyon in the rest of this post []

Author: Heather Wolfe

HEATHER WOLFE is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and teaches early modern English paleography for the Folger Institute and Rare Book School.


  1. I love how he uses the design to illustrate “so from my worke ile ronne” by leaving part of the border above “feede you all” very obviously incomplete. I don’t recall the borders and the content interacting like this in the 1608 Miscellany.

    On the other hand, I only just now noticed the unusual border around Queen Anne in the Folger version: it overlaps itself in the lower right corner. The same border design appears around the Folger’s “contry clowne” without that oddity.

    Also, there is a little tick mark above the “r” in “first” that points at the upside-down “m” in “James.” Is that perhaps a “this side up” acknowledgment? It would be very unusual to get a stencilled “m” upside down (unlike an “s” for example). Does the size and design of the letters match a known typeface? I wonder if he was instead painting over smoke proofs from a punch or a piece of type, where you can’t see which way up the letter is when making the mark. Also, the “a” and the “e” look quite regular, but if they’d been stencilled, the bowls would have had to have been finished by hand (in order to hide the join that keeps the bowl part attached to the rest of the stencil).

  2. Fascinating; I’m so glad it was worth following up.

  3. On looking closely at the illustration of Queen Anne…is this inferring a male model? I note the shape of the head, neck shading etc. giving hints to this. Also, the fangs are quite noticeable at the corners of the mouth. Would appear no love lost.
    I am following over after reviewing blog of Baroque Embellishments, and have not done reading. My apologies for ignorance in advance.
    Cheers, Brenda J.Moore

  4. Hi Heather,

    I only recently found your blog. This is an awesome article and it’s so cool to see photographs of the pages – it brings TTs designs to life for me!

    I would like to thank FS for making all the designs available online. I also thought you might be interested to know that there are embroiderers today still using his designs to create & inspire us. Here’s a link to an embroidery I created using a spin off one of Trevelyon’s holly patterns : http://baroqueembellishments.blogspot.com/2012/01/christmas-ornament-inspired-by_02.html

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