The dead yet speaking

The elaborate engraved title page of this work makes its intentions clear: not just a memorial and historical narrative, but a series of moral exemplars that might inform and guide its readers. The dead have lessons for their successors. Published in 1651 in the immediate aftermath of the Civil Wars in England, this collection of 107 biographies draws together figures from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries and from across Europe, although English Reformers are certainly disproportionately represented. It thus offers a vision of a unified Protestant tradition that may have been particularly powerful in the turmoil of the religious politics of mid-seventeenth-century England. It was one of several works on church history produced by the royalist clergyman Thomas Fuller [1607/8–1661], all of which in some way reflected on the fragmentation and breakdown of the Church of England. His dead ‘spoke’ with purpose. In this particular copy a portrait of Martin Luther has been added opposite the image of Fuller himself, hinting at continuity from Luther as initiator of religious reform and renewal to Fuller as its recorder. One reader has found a more pragmatic use for this image, however: a series of notes on the reverse of Luther’s portrait give remedies for cramps, corns and other ailments. CL

Thomas Fuller, Abel redevivus or the dead yet speaking (London: John Stafford, 1651), title pages.

CUL: Young.260

Further Reading

Patrick Collinson. ‘“A Magazine of Religious Patterns”: An Erasmian Topic Transposed in English Protestantism’, in his Godly People: Essays on English Protestantism and Puritanism (London, 1983), pp. 499–525.

W. B. Patterson, ‘Fuller, Thomas (1607/8–1661)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004; online edn. 2008),

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