Holme created a wealth of drawings of the tools and instruments found in the shops of Chester to use as illustrations for An Academy of Armory. These descriptions of trades provide social and material historians with a rich source of information about practices which might otherwise have gone unrecorded.
They were published on woodcuts densely packed with more than a hundred thumbnail illustrations in numbered boxes corresponding to specific passages of Holme’s text, often with more than one image per box. The arrangement of these woodcuts was clearly a complex task, and several of Holme’s surviving drawings appear to have been made with this in mind.
The first example here is divided into three rows (or in the printed volume, columns) of tools used by three separate professions: butchers (left), bakers (centre) and coopers (right). These three occupations are treated successively in the Academy, and the order in which they appear in the drawing corresponds both to the sequence of the text (Bk. III, Ch. 7, sections 8-10) and the accompanying plate (Bk. III, no. 2). The relationship between the drawing and the plate is more complex, however, for while the order of the trades remained unchanged, the organisation of the individual images was often revised – as was the case with the sketches of the baker’s peels (shovels) and a dough scoop in the middle row of the sheet, which are twinned in the plate (box 102), but appear at opposite ends of Holme’s drawing. As the drawing offers no further guidance it is probable that Holme’s engraver received further instruction on the final arrangement of the plates, which may well survive elsewhere in the extensive mass of Holme’s manuscripts at the British Library.
See N.W. Alcock and N. Cox eds, Living and working in seventeenth century England : an encyclopedia of drawings and descriptions from Randle Holme's original manuscripts for the academy of armory, CD-ROM, British Library, 2000.