The Great Book of Thomas Trevilian. A Facsimile from the manuscript in the Wormsley Library. With a study by Nicolas Barker. For presentation to the members of the Roxburghe Club, 2000. 2 Volumes.



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A Facsimile from the manuscript in the Wormsley Library. With a study by Nicolas Barker. For presentation to the members of the Roxburghe Club, 2000.Royal Folio, 19 x 11.75" (480 x 300mm). 2 volumes, 252 320 pp. Full red buckram with red leather lables and boxed, by Shepherds. Printed by the Merrion Press and the Westerham Press.London: Maggs Bros Ltd,

On 12 September 1616, Thomas Trevilian reached page 456, less than half way through his Great Book of pictures and texts. Here he drew breath by inserting his name and an extravagant knotwork initial 'T', noting beneath that he was '68 yeares of age' (this is the only fact we know of his life) in the 14th year of the reign of King James I, 'whom heavenly angels guard from treacharie'. 1616 is the year that Shakespeare died and it is into the glorious imagery and colour of this world that Trevilian allows us to enter through the pages of his Great Book as if through a window.The Great Book reflects Trevilian's life and beliefs: loyalty to the crown and the Protestant faith were firmly linked as the foundation of his existence and of his life's work. the 'matter', in his own words , 'is three folde, historicall, propheticall, and evangelicall, the first teaching examples, the second manners, and the laste a spirituall and heavenly institution', but 'it is a miscelane and now otherwise to be respected, not learned, and therefore the easyer to be pardoned'.There are 12 main sections:1 - Almanacs: calendar, astronomical ad topographical material (1-90);2 - Old Testament history from the Creation and Flood to Josiah (91-144)3 - Kings and Queens of England from Albion to James 1 and Scotland from Robert ii (145-246)4 - The Godly reformers: lives and portraits (247-264)5 - 'Princeps Proditorum': verses and portraits of Papist traitors including the Gunpowder Plotters (265-272)6 - Sheriffs and Lord Mayors of London (273-312)7 - Pieties, Parables, New Testament scenes, genre sets: Sibyls, Muses, Virtues and Vices, Four Contients, etc. (313-524);8 - Sets of calligraphic initials and texts (525-572);9 - 'The Green Dragon for Joyners and gardners': ornaments and knotwork patters (573-654);10 - 'Pottes' and pictures of flowers and trees: the illustrations from Fuchs and the text from Turner (655-879);11 - Beasts: from Topsell (880-938);12 - 'Drawen Workes': pen-and-ink designs for black-work embroidery (939-1028).The last of these is, perhaps, the key to the whole. Thomas Trevilian must have been a draughtsman for professional embroiderers, and the pictures that he drew have all the charm, verve, and simplicity of what is, arguably, the most original and vigorous of the applied arts in Elizabethan and Stuart England. The brilliant unshaded colours and strong outlines of his figures and the simple landscapes filled with flowers that they populate are conceived entirely in terms of needlework. But embroidery is not the only answer, as other designs must be derived from, or intended to serve as patterns for, wall-paintings or painted cloths or designs for joiners and gardeners.Trevilian's work, however, was not what we would call original. His pictures are copied and adapted from engraved prints after Dutch artists such as Goltzius, popular woodcut broadsides and ballads, illustrated books such as Topsell's Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes and Fuchs's De historia stirpium, and others as yet unknown or even lost. The texts that accompany his drawings are also, for the most part, copied from printed sources, some from the Bible and others from books and broadsides; but some also preserve popular texts and verses that have otherwise been lost.The most fascinating aspect of Trevilian's work is his copying from printed books and broadsides of which no original copy is known to survive. Several of the moral ballads survive only in the famous Huth collection in the British Library. Others, such as the Sovereigns of Scotland, the 'Princeps Proditorum', and 'The Green Dragon', as well as lesser pieces such as the 'Winter' Queen's Wedding procession or 'Dives and Lazarus', may alos have been similar woodcut picture-books. Trevilian collected, or had access to, the full range of popular images and texts, and his Great Book is able to tell us, more than any other single survivng source, about the immensely wide range of graphic imagery that was available in the book- and print-shops of the London of his day.He was no slavish copyist, however. Many of his images, especially in the section of Bible stories and texts are of his own invention and even feature himself. He appears, a severe figure, book in hand, with neatly trimmed beard, wearing a dark coat trimmed with fur with a small ruff and a full-brimmed hat with a round crown, in 'The Authors Apostrophe to the Reader' (Pl 1) and the same figure can be seen as an onlooker in some of the scenes illustrating the Parables. A number of other figure, including that of Jesus, appear repeatedly, almost as if they are drawn from stencils or cut-outs. We do know that he was self taught because in the index he states, 'I was never taught by any to handell Apelles instruments or the muses skill, what I have done hath bin of myself without mans teaching God onlye infusing his celestial blessings.'Such is the scope of Trevilian's work that it seems extraordinary that this creation of his is not unique. Another similar, but shorter (500-page), version dated 8 years earlier (1608) is in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Trevilian was then aged 60 and, perhaps in retirement, he may have decided to gather a miscellaneous collection of workshop patters to order and replace his tattered and much-used collection of original materials. But what, other than a longer-than-expected retirement, could have made him start such a massive project again? The second version is both more orderly and longer than the first, with its extra sections of pictures of flowers, trees, and animals, and such is Trevilian's care and effort that surely it cannot have been the work of a single year. But yet there is still no sense of what the two books were for - if anything at all. In his address to the reader he simply says, 'I tooke this laboure in hande to accomplysh my minde, to pleasure my fryndes, and to show my self more willing then able in performing the same,' and he hopes that those who will see it 'are my frynds and accept it frendlye'.Unfortunately we know nothing of the Great Book's history until it is first recorded at Petworth House, Sussex, c1773, in the inventory of George O'Brien Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837). The Wyndhams were the heirs of Trevilian's contemporary Henry Percy, 3rd ('Wizard') Earl of Northumberland (1564-1632), which may provide a clue to its origins. It then passed by descent to Charles Henry Wyndham, 3rd Baron Leconfield, Of Petworth House, and was sold by auction at Sotheby's, 23 April 1928 (157). It was acquired by the American collector Boies Penrose from The Rosenbach Company during the Second World War and returned to England in 1988 when it was acquired by Sir Paul Getty, KBE, and it appeared in his exhibition 'The Wormsley Library: a Personal Selection' at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1999.Only a few of the coloured illustrations and some of the black-work embroidery designs have ever been reproduced but now Sir Paul Getty has commissioned a magnificent two-volume monograph by Nicholas Barker with many full-size colour reproductions for presentation to his fellow members of the Roxburghe Club, a distinguised club of book collectors founded in 1812 and limited to 40 members. The Great Book of Thomas Trevilian is also a tribute to the work of the printers andbinders who have given it form. Like the original it is bound in two volumes, here in red buckram with red leather labels, boxed. Over 300 of the pages of the 'Great Book' have been reproduced in superb facsimile by John Parfitt at the Westerham Press, using up to twelve different colours to achieve a faithful likeness to the original. These have been supplemented with 160 further illustrtions, reproduced in black and white and colour, showing the manuscripts, prints, and books, from which Trevilian drew his inspiration., and the embriodery, surviving and preserved in contemporary portraits, analgous to his patterns. The text has been set in Caslon's Great Primer, cast by Gloucester Typesetting Services, and printed in red and black throughout by Susan Shaw at the Merrion Press. The cream wove paper is Mohawk Superfine 176 gsm. In size, length and sheer quality of manufacture, this is perhaps the greatest monument to the arts of the book at the turn of the twentieth century. In addition to the 40 special copies not for sale, there a limited number of other copies available to purchase from Maggs Bros Ltd, priced at £2,200 excluding postage, insurance, and packing. Robert Harding wishes to acknowledge the kind assistance of Nicholas Barker in the preparation of this article, which was first published in a slightly different form in the British Art Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, and is reproduced here with their permission.

Stock Code: 229957

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