"THE FIRST ACKNOWLEDGED PROSE WORK PUBLISHED BY JOHN MILTON": OF REFORMATION TOUCHING CHURCH DISCIPLINE IN ENGLAND, SCARCE 1641 FIRST EDITION
[MILTON, John]. Of Reformation Touching Church-Discipline in England: and the Causes that hither-to Have Hindered It. [London]: Thomas Underhill, 1641. Small quarto (5-1/2 by 7-1/2 inches), modern half calf gilt, raised bands, red morocco spine label, marbled boards; pp. , 90, [2, blank].
First edition of Milton's first published prose work, a fiery anti-prelatical polemic that culminates "in a call for the execution of bishops and a prophecy that they will spend eternity being tortured in hell," complete with rare errata leaf.
"The first acknowledged prose work by John Milton… Jefferson, in his commonplace book, summarized and quoted from this pamphlet along with Reason of Church-Government" (Shawcross, 292). "The debate about episcopacy had rumbled on for decades, but in 1637 had erupted because of the indictment of three prominent puritans (Henry Burton, John Bastwick, and William Prynne) for publishing tracts which attacked episcopacy; the court of Star Chamber sentenced the three defendants to torture and mutilation on the scaffold and subsequent incarceration. By 1641 the combatants in the debate had begun to write polemical treatises… At this point Milton entered the lists with the first of his five anti-prelatical pamphlets, Of reformation touching church discipline in England and the causes that hitherto have hindered it, which was published between 12 and 31 May 1641. This anonymous tract outlines the pernicious effects of episcopacy, but sets aside the theoretical arguments about church government in favor of fulminations against the episcopate which culminate in a call for the execution of bishops and a prophecy that they will spend eternity being tortured in hell" (ODNB). By the publication of his fifth polemical tract, however, in 1642, "Milton had moved from being a constructively critical member of the national church to taking up the cause of ecclesiastical reform, and eventually becoming an impassioned opponent of ecclesiastical abuses: he had become an Independent" (ODNB). Preceded in Milton's publication history only by On Shakespeare (1632), Comus (1637), and Lycidas (1638). With rare errata leaf, following title page. Wing M2134. Shawcross 56.
Faint offsetting to title page. A fine copy of this scarce title.