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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery

Twelve Wonders of the World

Set of Roundels
1600-1630 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This set of 12 round wooden plates, or trenchers, in their original box, was made for special dinners, especially at New Year. The plain side would have been used for eating delicacies such as marzipan or sugar plums, before being turned over to reveal the paintings and poems. Rather like Christmas crackers today, each carries a verse to be read out and enjoyed by guests.

Subjects Depicted
Each roundel shows a character such as a soldier or a richly dressed lady, with a satirical verse about their habits. The verses, entitled The Twelve Wonders of the World, were written by John Davies, especially for trenchers at a New Year party given around 1600 by Thomas Sackville, Ist Earl of Dorset. They were published in 1608 and were then available for other trencher makers to copy. This set was probably made around 1620. Other sets show flowers, biblical texts and proverbs.

Ownership & Use
Only wealthy people could afford to use such luxury objects. The fact that they have survived means that they were carefully looked after through the generations. Surviving sets such as this one show no sign of use. The initials 'E.W.' on the box seem likely to have been added by a later owner.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 14 parts.

  • Box
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Roundel
  • Lid
Materials and Techniques
Sycamore or beech, painted and with silver and gold detail
Brief Description
Set of roundels in a box, 'Twelve Wonders of the World'
Physical Description
Twelve Circular Platters (Roundels) of wood, painted with gold and silver on black. In a box decorated on the cover with two male figures, a cock and a tree, with a building and a beacon in the background. Around is a band of guilloche ornament, on the sides leafy ornament. The roundels have each a figure in the centre surrounded by a band of guilloche ornament, outside which is an inscription.

Dimensions
  • Box height: 6.3cm
  • Box width: 19cm
  • Each roundel width: 15cm
Dimensions as recorded on catalogue Box, H. 2 ½ in., D. 7 ½ in.; roundels, Diam. 5 7/8 in. (Box, H. 6.4 cm, D. 19.1 cm; roundels, Diam. 14.9 cm) Actual dimensions checked: measured; 12/07/1999 by DW Thickness of each roundel c.3-4mm
Marks and Inscriptions
E W [?] (Painted in white on underside of box, probably not original)
Gallery Label
  • Label(?) by W.A.Thorpe (dept. of Furniture), 1950 TWELVE WONDERS OF THE WORLD Elizabethan dinner parties, especially at the New Year, were often followed by a 'banquet' of marchpane and other sweetmeats, somewhat similar to dessert. The trenchers were decorated ‘on their back sides' with designs and inscriptions intended to raise a laugh as each guest turned up his own ‘lot’. They were often made for amusement or suited to facetious subjects modelled in confectionery (e.g. the Signs of the Zodiac). The trade of trencher-makers preferred old-fashioned themes, especially Bible texts, Aesop's fables, the 'language of flowers', proverbs, and the like. Family 'lots' were sometimes kept for generations. A fashion for 'characters' followed Casaubon's THEOPHRASTUS (1592) and other works. The verses on this beechwood set were written specially for trenchers at a New Year party given, probably in 1600, by Thomas Sackville, first Earl of Dorset, who had succeeded Burghley as Lord Treasurer the previous year. Their "rash" author, John Davies (b. 1569, d. 1626), one of the 'Wiltshire Welsh', had already won golden opinions by his brilliant ORCHESTRA (1596), on the dance, and NOSCE TEIPSUM (1598), on the soul, among the first philosophical poems in English. The TWELVE WONDERS OF THE WORLD were printed in the second edition (1608) of a well-known anthology which had appeared in 1602, and gained further popularity from a musical setting published by John Maynard in 1611. The decoration of this set is in 'Indian' style brought into fashion by the East India Company, founded on 31st December, 1599 (O.S.). Several other extant objects were similarly decorated, perhaps by the same London tradesman EW, including a 'cadet' or ballot-box, dated 1619, in possession of the Saddlers Company. The transcription on the labels gives the wording of the trenchers, with modern spelling and punctuation. ENGLISH; about 1610 W. 30 to L-1912 1.THE COURTIER. (W.30F-1912) Longe have I lived in courte, yett learned not all this while, To sell poore sutors breath nor wheare I hate to smile, Superiores' to adore. Inferiors to dispise, To fly from such as fall, to follow such as rise, To cloake a poore desire under a rich aray, Nor to aspire by vice, Though it were the quicker way, 2. THE DIVINE (W.30C-1912) My Callinge is deuine, and I from god am sent, I will not chopp church be, nor pay my patron rent, nor yeeled to sacriledge but like the kind true mother, rather will loose aIl lthe child than part it with another, Much wealth I will not seeke nor worldly maisters serue, So to growe rich and fatt, while my poore flocke do sterue. 3. THE SOLDIER (W.30B-1912) My occupacon is the noble trade of Kinges, The triall that defids, the highest right of things, Though mars my mister, be, I doe not venue loue, nor honnor Bacchus hoast, nor often fweare by Joaue, of speaking of my swlfe, I all occation shun, And rather loue to doe, Then boast what I haue done. 4.THE LAWYER (W.30E-1912) The Lawe my calling is, my roabe my tounge my penn, Wealth and opynion gaine, and make me Judge of men, The Knowen dishonest cause, I never did defend, nor spun out guitts in length, but wish and taught an end, nor councell did bewraie, nor of both parties take, nor neuer tooke I fee for which I neuer spake. 5. THE PHYSICIAN (W.30L-1912) I SS(t)uddy to upphould the slippery state of man, Who dyes when we have donne, the best and all wee can, from practise and from bookes, I drawe my learned skill, not from the knowen receiptes, of pottecaries bill, The earth my faultes doth hide, the world my cares doe see, What youth and tyme effecttes, is oft ascribed to me. 6. THE MERCHANT (W.30H-1912) My trade doth euery thinge to euery land supply, discouer unknown coastes, strange cuntrys doth alye, I neuer did forestall, I neuer did engrosse, nor custome did withdrawe, though I returnd with loffe, I thrive by faire exchange, by buying and by sellinge, And nott by Jewish use, repris all fraude and lyinge. 7.THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN (W.30G-1912) Though- strange outlandish spirrettes praise towne and cuntrys scorne, The country is my home, dwell where I was borne, There proffit and command, with plesure I pertake, Yett do not haucks and doggs my sole companions make, I rule but not oppresse end quarrell not mainteyne, see townes but dwell not there, abridge my chardge or trayne. 8.THE BACHELOR (W.30K-1912) How many things as yett, are deere alike to me, The field the horse the dogg, loue armes or libberty, I have no wife as yett, whome I may call my owne, I have no children yett, that by my name are knowen, Yet if I married weare,, I wish I might not thrive, If that I coulde not tayme, the veriest shrewe aliue. 9. THE MARRIED MAN (W.30D-1912) I only am the man, Amoungst all married men, Thatoeay not wish the preist, to be unlincke againe, And though my shue do wringe, I would not make my moane, nor thinke my neighbours happ more better than my owne, yett courte I not my wife, but yield observance due, being neither fond nor crosse, Jelous nor untrue. 10.THE WIFE (W.30J-1912) The first of all our sex, came from the side of man, I thither am returnd, from whence our sex began, I do not, (not) vissett oft nor many when I doe I tell my mind to few, And that in councell two, I seeme not sicke in health, nor sullen but in sorrowe, I care for some what else, Then what to weare to morrow. 11.THE WIDOW (W.30I-1912) My husband knewe, how much his death would greiue me, and therefore left me wealth, to comforte and releiue me, Though I no more will haue, I must not loue disdaine, Penelope her selfe did sutors entertayne, And yett to draw on such, as are of best esteeme. nor younger then I am nor richer will I seeme. 12.THE MAID (W.30A-1912) I marriage would forswerue but that I heare men tell, that shee that dyes a mayde, shall lead an ape to hell, Therefore if fortune come, I may not mocke and playe, nor drive the bargaine of, tell all he driuen awaye, Titles and Iands I like, yett rather fancie can, A man that wanteth gould, then gould that wantes a man.
  • British Galleries: The plainer backs of these were used as plates, possibly for sweetmeats after dinner. They would then be turned over and the verses read out. The decoration is an early example of the British imitating Asian lacquer, which was a luxurious import at that time. These verses were published in 1608 after they were composed for a New Year dinner in 1600.(27/03/2003)
  • British Galleries online Object Type
    This set of 12 round wooden plates, or trenchers, in their original box, was made for special dinners, especially at New Year. The plain side would have been used for eating delicacies such as marzipan or sugar plums, before being turned over to reveal the paintings and poems. Rather like Christmas crackers today, each carries a verse to be read out and enjoyed by guests.

    Subjects Depicted
    Each roundel shows a character such as a soldier or a richly dressed lady, with a satirical verse about their habits. The verses, entitled The Twelve Wonders of the World, were written by John Davies, especially for trenchers at a New Year party given around 1600 by Thomas Sackville, Ist Earl of Dorset. They were published in 1608 and were then available for other trencher makers to copy. This set was probably made around 1620. Other sets show flowers, biblical texts and proverbs.

    Ownership & Use
    Only wealthy people could afford to use such luxury objects. The fact that they have survived means that they were carefully looked after through the generations. Surviving sets such as this one show no sign of use. The initials 'E.W.' on the box could be those of the owner or the maker.(1/12/2001)
Object history
Bought for £30 from Mrs Marshall, 32 Alderney Street, Eccleston Square, London SW (RF 12/1447M)

Condition 'rubbed'
Historical context
For contextual information, see Victoria Yeoman, ‘Speaking plates: text, performance, and banqueting trenchers in Early Modern Europe’, in Renaissance Studies Vol. 31 No. 5, pp. 755-779
Summary
Object Type
This set of 12 round wooden plates, or trenchers, in their original box, was made for special dinners, especially at New Year. The plain side would have been used for eating delicacies such as marzipan or sugar plums, before being turned over to reveal the paintings and poems. Rather like Christmas crackers today, each carries a verse to be read out and enjoyed by guests.

Subjects Depicted
Each roundel shows a character such as a soldier or a richly dressed lady, with a satirical verse about their habits. The verses, entitled The Twelve Wonders of the World, were written by John Davies, especially for trenchers at a New Year party given around 1600 by Thomas Sackville, Ist Earl of Dorset. They were published in 1608 and were then available for other trencher makers to copy. This set was probably made around 1620. Other sets show flowers, biblical texts and proverbs.

Ownership & Use
Only wealthy people could afford to use such luxury objects. The fact that they have survived means that they were carefully looked after through the generations. Surviving sets such as this one show no sign of use. The initials 'E.W.' on the box seem likely to have been added by a later owner.
Bibliographic References
  • H. Clifford Smith, Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork (London 1930), 633, Plate 39 Twelve Circular Platters (Roundels) of beech, painted with gold and silver on black. In a box decorated on the cover with two male figures, a cock and a tree, with a building and a beacon in the background. Around is a band of guilloche ornament, on the sides leafy ornament. The roundels have each a figure in the centre surrounded by a band of guilloche ornament, outside which is an inscription. Early 17th century. From catalogue Box, H. 2 ½ in., D. 7 ½ in.; roundels, Diam. 5 7/8 in.
  • 'Burlington Magazine,' Vol. XXXI, p. 234, 1917
  • 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries,' 2nd Series, Vol. XXVIII, p. 78
  • W.A.Thorpe, Transactions of the Radnorshire Society, vol. VVIV, 1954, pp. 40-54
Collection
Accession Number
W.30 to M-1912

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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