This little manuscript holds many hidden treasures in its 27 leaves. The anonymous author of the “Record of honor and virtue: the noble memorial of the right honorable Sir Edward Coke,” wrote and (we presume) illustrated this work around the time of Coke’s death in 1634. The author paid tribute to Coke in several creative and artistic ways, beginning with the title page, which features the (very long) title written in a beautiful clear hand, surrounded by a thick black hand-drawn border.
There are two full-page painted coats of arms, including this one. It features a shield containing the crests of the Coke, Paston and Cecil families – Coke’s wives were Bridget Paston and Elizabeth Cecil.
Opposite the coat of arms is an ornate Coke family tree, with Coke and his two wives forming the roots at the bottom of the page.
Following the family tree, our anonymous author composed a long “Funerall Elegie” in iambic pentameter, cautioning against the fleeting nature of life and the ultimate triumph of death. To further drive home the point, the author included a gruesome memento mori painting with the Latin inscription, “Mors sceptra ligonibus equat,” or “Death makes scepters and hoes equal.”
The author’s affection for Coke found its most unique expression in a two-page “Accrostique Epitaphe upon the name of the lord Coke.” In gilt and red letters, the words “Sir Edward Coke Knight” appear down the left sides of the two pages. The first letter in each line of the epitaph poem – also in iambic pentameter – spell out Coke’s name.
It was a pleasure to stumble upon this labor of respect and devotion in our stacks. I hope you have enjoyed looking at this treasure!