A Booke of Diverse Devices

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Booke of Diverse Devices

Thomas Fella q

Enter in at the straight gate of Chryſtes heavenly pallaice,
For wyde is the gate and broad is the waye that leedeth unto diſtruction,
and many ther be that go in therat, But ſtraight is the Gate,
and narrowe is the waye, that leedeth unto life and fewe therbe that finde it

Thomas Fella

Quietnes of the minde delighteth the ſoule
man walketh in a vaine ſhadow
And diſquieteth himſelfe
in vaine he heapeth up riches
And can not tell who ſhall gather them together

Thomas Fella a

Of all the giftes of god wiſedome is the moſte excellent
she giveth goodness to the good, and forgiveth the wicked ther wickedness
she ordreth the minde ſhee directeth the life and ruleth the workes therof
teaching what ought to be don and what to be left undone.
-Plato 1585-

Thomas Fella d

[All?] men are by nature made equall,
for all have one entring into the worlde
O geve care unto good counſaile and be content to be reformed,
that thou mayſt be wiſe in thy latter days
Ther are many deviſes in a mans Harte,
yett nevertheleſſe the counſell of the lord ſhall ſtande
love not ſleepe leaſt thou come unto povertie,
But open thyn eyes that thou mayeſt have bread inough

Thomas Fella f

Thomas Fella g

Thomas Fella h

Where livelie once Godes image was expreſte
wherein ſometime was ſacred wiſdome placd
the heade (?) meane that is ſo ritchlie bleſte
with ſight. with ſmell. with hearing and with taſte
loe now a skull both rotten bare and drie
a relike meet in charnell houſe to lie

Thomas Fella i

Thomas Fella b

Thomas Fella c

Thomas Fella j

Thomas Fella k

Thomas Fella l

Thomas Fella m

Thomas Fella n

Thomas Fella o

Thomas Fella p

Since man is fraile and all his thoughts are ſinne
And of himſelf he can no good invent
then everie one before they ought beginne
should call on god from whom all grace is ſent
So I beſeeche that he the ſame will ſende
that to his prayſe I may begine and ende

"The Folger's Digital Image Collection offers online access to over 21,000 images from the Folger Shakespeare Library collection, including books, theater memorabilia, manuscripts, art, and more."
[direct link to In-browser collection (Luna Insight)]
This is an exceptional [new] database. [via]
The images above come from the amazing 'A Booke of Diverse Devices and Sorts of Pictures With the Alphabets of Letters..' [Shelfmark V.a. 311.] (created: 1585-1598, 1622) by Thomas Fella (d. 1637).

There is very very little background information available online about this remarkable pen and ink manuscript. Thomas Fella was born at Bramfield, near Halesworth, in Suffolk and was a successful draper and merchant and an "enthusiastic writer and artist who has left two historically important manuscripts with unique and fascinating illustrations.[..] One manuscript is deposited in the Lowestoft Record Office and the other is in America."

Described, at times, as a commonplace book (and also as an emblem book), some of the illustrations - shearing/rural scenes - appear in histories recording agricultural practices in Elizabethan times. Fella created the manuscript as some sort of private instructional or devotional work, combining religious or didactic verse*, idiosyncratic 'natural history' sketches, highly decorative - and likely copied - historiated alphabet letters, with occasional dedications to Queen Elizabeth I. It is a most extraordinary document, without precedent that I can recall offhand.
*At least some of the writing derives from Shakespeare, naturally.
Update: Aeron has been monster diving in the Folger.

UPDATE: Folger now provides access (via Luna software) to an upgraded version of their image dbase.

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