A London Provisioner's Chronicle

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In the Chronicle, Henry Machyn describes many funeral processions, often those honoring eminent persons. Because of his fascination with this subject, he has been supposed to be a merchant who rented or sold trappings for them, such as mourner's clothing, banners, and palls. This image portrays a procession that is likely very similar to those he describes.

From Thomas Lant, Sequitur Celebritas (1588). STC (2nd ed.) 15224. Image from Early English Books Online published with permission of ProQuest Information and Learning Company and the British Library.

A London Provisioner's Chronicle, 1550–1563, by Henry Machyn: Manuscript, Transcription, and Modernization is an electronic scholarly edition created by Richard W. Bailey, Marilyn Miller, and Colette Moore.

The Chronicle was one of the treasures of the library of the antiquarian Robert Cotton, and it was stored in the same bookcase with the Beowulf manuscript. Its location was in the book press surmounted by a bust of the Roman emperor Vitellius, and it takes its shelf mark in the British Library from that location: Cotton Vitellius F.v. In the terrible fire that did so much damage to this library in the early eighteenth century, the 162 leaves of the diary were badly damaged and portions of the outside margins and the top of the text were charred or burned away. Fortunately extensive selections had been published by the historian John Strype who used the manuscript before the fire, and it is possible to supply many missing portions by consulting his historical works.

The burned pages of the Chronicle were jumbled in a box until the early nineteenth century when one of the librarians at the British Museum had them mounted on framing pieces of paper and sorted into order. In 1848, an antiquarian produced an edition, but even a century ago scholars pointed to its errors and questioned its value for scholarship. Our edition gives a complete inventory of material required by scholars and readers: images of the manuscript, a faithful transcript of those images, and a rendering in modern English of this fascinating document.