The Dippers dipped

Anabaptists believed that baptism is only valid when the candidate confesses his or her faith in Christ and wishes to be baptised; they therefore refused to baptise infants. They were heavily persecuted during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries by both Catholics and by conformist Protestants. Such groups varied throughout Europe, with a number of different doctrinal beliefs. Anabaptists in the Netherlands were known as Mennonites; in seventeenth-century England they were sometimes known by opponents as ‘Dippers’, following the practice of total immersion. Their rituals were heavily satirised, and a particular scandal attached to the urban myth that adult baptism was performed naked in open air ceremonies in rivers. At least one anabaptist in the period replied drily that common sense precluded such a practice in English weather. The book shown here is by Daniel Featley (1582–1645), a Church of England clergyman and religious controversialist. His outspoken support of episcopacy led to his imprisonment in 1643. From prison, he wrote ‘The discription of the severall sorts of Anabaptists with there [sic] manner of rebaptizing’; the alternative title page, shown here, has a central scene with some naked ‘Virgins of Sion’ being baptised in a river, flanked by a series of roundels depicting various sects and heresies, including the ‘Separatist’, the ‘Enthusiast’, the ‘Libertine’, and the ‘Adamite’. BC

Daniel Featley, The dippers dipt, or, The Anabaptists duck’d and plung’d over head and eares, at a disputation in Southwark (London: Nicholas Bourne, 1645).

CUL: F.3.117, alternative title page

Further Reading

Stephen Wright, The Early English Baptists, 1603–1649 (Woodbridge, 2006).

Arnold Hunt, ‘Featley , Daniel (1582–1645)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004).

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