Two views of Noah's Ark, in John of Trevisa's translation of Higden's 'Polychronicon'
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
John of Trevisa (1326-1402) was Vicar of Berkeley, Gloucester, and chaplain to Thomas, 10th Lord Berkeley. Having been expelled from his post at Exeter College, Oxford, Trevisa continued his career as a clergyman and scholar under Lord Berkeley's patronage. This manuscript presents his English translations of three Latin texts, one of which is incomplete. A translator rather than an original author and not a great scholar, he is credited mainly with providing important examples of early English prose which were used by later writers such as Shakespeare. The book belonged to Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who died in 1439.
Two pictures of Noah's ark illustrate a page of Treviso's translation of Ralph (Ranulph) Higden's 'Polychronicon', a world history. The ark served as an emblem of one of the great events of Biblical history, a reminder that all royal and noble genealogies necessarily go back to the flood in this view. Outline drawings of it seem to have featured in 14th-century Latin copies of the 'Polychronicon,' and these continue in later Latin copies. In Middle English translations of the early 15th-century, such as this, the drawings of arks become finely shaded, probably because of the artistic skills of the workshops producing them as well as the tastes of the patrons who had the books made. In the margin, a later 'artist' has added drawings of a substantial jester (whose sceptre bears a 'smiley') and repetitions of the animal heads from the arks.