Actes and Monuments (Book of Martyrs)

John FOXE

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“IT CAME TO EXERT A GREATER INFLUENCE UPON THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF EARLY MODERN ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND THAN ANY BOOK ASIDE FROM THE ENGLISH BIBLE AND THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER”: FOXE’S BOOK OF MARTYRS, RARE 1610 EDITION, WITH 150 SPLENDID WOODCUTS, BOUND IN A SPECTACULAR CONTEMPORARY BINDING

FOXE, John. Actes and Monuments of Matters most speciall and memorable, happening in the Church, with an unviersall history of the Same… London: Printed for the Company of Stationers, 1610. Two volumes bound in one. Large, very thick folio (12 by 17 inches), contemporary full brown blindstamped calf rebacked in morocco, raised bands, red morocco spine label, metal furniture and clasps with renewed leather on clasps.

17th-century edition (and sixth overall) of this remarkably influential work, with two elaborate engraved vignette title pages and 150 in-text woodblocks depicting scenes of martyrdom.

“After the Bible itself, no work so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment in England as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our own time it is a living force; some of its descriptions are burned into the memories of us all…The scenes rare presented with all the vividness of a dramatic representation; inquisitors, martyrs, and spectators are instinct with life and movement… It is an arsenal of controversy, and a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification” (Henry Craik). “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was for more than two centuries one of the most widely read books in England. Appearing when the memory of the treatment of Protestants in Mary Tudor’s reign was fresh in the minds of its readers, it built up an image of the persecuting papist, which not only resulted in the fierce hatred of the Inquisition, and hence Spain, in Elizabethan times, but has strongly colored English thinking on Roman Catholicism to this day… There was no instruction that it should also be provided in parish churches, but it very often was, and chained examples (often 17th-century editions) survive not infrequently. The lively style of the book, not to mention the gruesome illustrations… was thus given an opportunity to influence— and prejudice— the minds of people in all the classes of society, including those who could not otherwise have afforded it ” (PMM, 52). “A vast collection of unforgettable accounts of religious persecution…This compilation came to exert a greater influence upon the consciousness of early modern England and New England than any other book aside from the English Bible and Book of Common Prayer” (Oxford World Classics). First published in English in 1563, it became an immediate best-seller. Without the folding plates of Windsor Castle and of the early persecutions of the primitive church and the portrait of Foxe, all of which are often not present and which may have been sold separately (see STC11227.3) and the final leaf of the index (which is supplied in neat pen facsimile). See STC 11227; Read 1726; Allibone I, 626. Armorial bookplate. Early owner signature (“James Hollmann, his book 1658”) to bottom of a few early leaves.

Scattered mild soiling and dampstaining, last leaf of index and a corner of the previous leaf supplied in manuscript, title page backed, a few minor paper repairs. A large and impressive volume.

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