Shakespeare gets diagrammatic.
One for performing arts, literary, quote and maths-nerds to enjoy in equal measure.
In 1945, Lessing Rosenwald organized a meeting with the Folger Shakespeare Library. Rosenwald was already well known in the Washington D.C. museum community as an influential benefactor who had begun to donate his monumental collection to the Library of Congress and National Gallery of Art only two years prior. In 1943 Rosenwald publicly announced that he was collecting rare art and books for the nation. He firmly believed that “A work of art that is never seen is little better off than a work of art that has never been created.” His visit to the Folger Library was important, but the donation he was about to make was to be one of the greatest the Library had seen. In that meeting he donated what is now known as The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608, a huge manuscript detailing mundane details, historical accounts, and even design patterns from the era of Shakespeare.
The 594 page manuscript was in a poor state— 300 of the leaves were too fragile to even be handled. Despite its condition, the manuscript was soon to become one of the most valued treasures of the Folger Library. The preservation and reconstruction of the manuscript was time-consuming but the Miscellany is currently the only book in the Folger Collection that has had an entire exhibit dedicated to it.
In 1608 Thomas Trevelyon, a scribe and pattern-maker, finished the manuscript at the age of 60. The posthumously titled “Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608” was meant to inform his close friends and family of Biblical stories, encyclopedic information of the year, and design suggestions for print-making and artwork. Although Trevelyon was a commoner he had remarkable access to English and European woodcuts, engravings, broadsides, almanacs, and emblem books. In a time when the printing press had revolutionized his profession, Trevelyon dedicated his time to documenting the important information he found necessary for every-day life.
For the seventy-fifth anniversary in the Collection, the Folger Shakespeare Library reproduced the manuscript in a facsimile edition with an introduction by Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. In the introduction Wolfe explains “this is the mental world of Thomas Trevelyon: a world where looking to the past was a key means of understanding the future, where faith in the providence of a merciful God was the primary comfort against life’s unpredictability.” The manuscript was both a personal creation and a public donation of information on the era.
The manuscript begins with practical and historical information—an illustrated calendar, detailed information about each month, astronomical diagrams—but continues with the family members connected to William the Conqueror. Almost immediately after it plunges into Genesis and then follows the generations of Adam that pass into the kings and queens of England and Scotland. The rest of the manuscript covers everything from popular designs to advice on dealing with different people (the physician, the strumpet, etc). Additionally Trevelyon added multiple typefaces, maze designs, and patterns for admiration and recreation. Each page was painstakingly created and attentively designed—there are even mistakes, carefully edited out by Trevelyon to avoid misinformation.
A few days ago, one of our art professors walked into our office and donated a copy of the Folger’s 75th anniversary facsimile edition of The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608. Like Rosenwald, the Goucher community has always believed in the importance of sharing information. The Miscellany is already being added to the syllabi of our art courses at Goucher, and has attracted my attention for the hours we have had it in our office. It humbles me when I’m reminded of how much our community values us. While my days at work are often spent dealing with the average matters of a library, occasionally an impromptu visit from a professor turns into a gift of an expensive rare book that we might not have thought to add to our collection. I love the books, manuscripts, and memorabilia from my job, but I often think the people who donate to our collection are even more valuable.
God save thy grace, King Hal! my royal Hal!
The heavens thee guard and keep, most royal imp of fame!
God save thee, my sweet boy!
KING HENRY IV
My lord chief-justice, speak to that vain man.
Have you your wits? know you what ‘tis to speak?
My king! my Jove! I speak to thee, my heart!
KING HENRY V
I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;
How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
— Hal’s final repudiation of Falstaff, from Henry IV: Part II, V.v. [single tear]
But to say I know more harm in him than in myself,
were to say more than I know. That he is old, the
more the pity, his white hairs do witness it; but
that he is, saving your reverence, a whoremaster,
that I utterly deny. If sack and sugar be a fault,
God help the wicked! if to be old and merry be a
sin, then many an old host that I know is damned: if
to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh’s lean kine
are to be loved. No, my good lord; banish Peto,
banish Bardolph, banish Poins: but for sweet Jack
Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff,
valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant,
being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him
thy Harry’s company, banish not him thy Harry’s
company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.
— Falstaff pleads for clemency from his beloved Hal. He is pathetic here—both of them know how lecherous and greedy and legitimately harmful he is—but what’s also apparent is just how much he loves Hal. It’s heartbreaking. From Henry IV: Part I, II.iv.
Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
‘This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it.
— Duke Senior, an exiled ruler, celebrates his new, rustic lifestyle in As You Like It, II.i.
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature.
— This is my favorite of all of Hamlet’s soliloquies. From Hamlet, I.ii.
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy ‘Will,’
And ‘Will’ to boot, and ‘Will’ in overplus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea all water, yet receives rain still
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in ‘Will,’ add to thy ‘Will’
One will of mine, to make thy large ‘Will’ more.
Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one ‘Will.’
— All kinds of word play in sonnet 135.
I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in’t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king: and here you sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ the island.
— You tell ‘em, Caliban. They’re a bunch of colonialist pigs. (From The Tempest, I.ii.)
God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some
gentleman or other shall ‘scape a predestinate
Scratching could not make it worse, an ‘twere such
a face as yours were.
Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
— All screwball comedies were born here, at this moment. Much Ado About Nothing, I.i.
For a taste:
If a hart do lack a hind,
Let him seek out Rosalind.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalind.
Winter garments must be lined,
So must slender Rosalind.
They that reap must sheaf and bind;
Then to cart with Rosalind.
Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,
Such a nut is Rosalind.
He that sweetest rose will find
Must find love’s prick and Rosalind.
This is the very false gallop of verses: why do you
infect yourself with them?
— Touchstone mocks Orlando’s terrible love poetry in As You Like It, III.ii.
Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my
turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor:
I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.
— Shylock learns that his daughter traded away (in exchange for a monkey) the ring her mother, his dead wife, gave him before they were married. I love the image of “a wilderness of monkeys.” From The Merchant of Venice, III.i.
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
— You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating, Macbeth’s monologue in Macbeth, V.v.
For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
Sell when you can: you are not for all markets:
— Ultimate insult-disguised-as-advice from Rosalind to poor Phebe in As You Like It, III.v.
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little.
— Lear, presented with his daughter’s corpse. From King Lear, V.iii