Collection : The Tradescant Collection (The Ark)

It is because of their botanical collections that the Tradescants are remembered today, but it is their museum (The Ark) at Lambeth that gave the Ashmolean a valuable, curious collection of 'rarities'. In 1656 a catalogue was printed, which included the contents of both The Ark and its adjacent garden.

The earliest surviving account of the Tradescant Collections collection was recorded by Peter Mundy, who went to view 'some rarities att John Tradescans' while on home from leave from the East India Company in 1634.

Some of these curios were acquired on their own travels, or by travellers upon request, others curios were given, because the catalogue contains a list of donors. Some purchases were made, including what was reputedly 'the thigh bone of the Hertfordshire giant Jack o' Legs'.

The practical function performed by The Ark was the provision of a remarkable collection of exotic flora and fauna which proved of real value to scolars of the day. John Ray studied stuffed birds, including the Dodo which was to become one of the casualties of over-handling.

Unlike other private collections, the The Ark was open to anyone for a fee of 6d.


Click on the photographs of the sword blade and portrait to see a larger version

The front cover of The Rarities catalogue

The front cover of the Tradescant 'Rarities'


detail of Scottish sword
Decorative detail on the Scottish sword blade, probably made for James V (AN1685.B105)

Henry VIII's hawks hood
Henry VIII's hawks hood (AN1656p47)

Henry VIII's stirrups
Henry VIII's stirrups (AN1685.B450)

Henry VIII's hawking glove
Henry VIII's hawking glove (AN 1685.B228)

engraving of G. Marshall, Archbishop of Canterbury
Engraving in turned bone frame of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1616 (AN1685.A522)

Pair of girls' shoes of white suede with brown leather sole. They are decorated on the uppers with chevron bands of zig zag perforations between slits cut into the surface of the leather. They date from the early 1600s and were probably made in England. (AN1685.B310)

pair of white suede shoes

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