The monuments of the English martyrs

Collected and edited by John Foxe, this volume of the writings of William Tyndale, John Frith and Robert Barnes must be seen as a supplement to his more famous work, The Actes and Monuments. In bringing together the writings of the ‘chiefe ryngleaders’ of the infant Church of England, Foxe gave hearty thanks to God for ‘the excellent arte of Printing, most happely of late found out’. Without this providential invention, he declared, the literary remains of these ‘learned fathers of blessed memory’ would have ‘lyen in oblivion’. With the aid of the press, they continued to ‘geeve no lesse lyght to all ages and posteritie after them’ than when they had been alive. Conscious of how many manuscripts of worthy writers had perished, Foxe envisaged this book as a secure archive of the worthy ‘monuments’ of these early Protestant martyrs, whose zeal, sincerity and modesty was already legendary by the early 1570s. He conceived of it as a lasting typographical memorial to their role in restoring the truth of the Gospel to the realm of England. Appropriately, the emblematic title-page of John Day’s edition takes the form of an imposing Renaissance-style monument itself. AW

The whole workes of W. Tyndall, John Frith, and Doct. Barnes, three worthy martyrs, and principall teachers of this Churche of England, collected and compiled in one tome togither, beyng before scattered, & now in print here exhibited to the church, ed. John Foxe (London: John Day, 1573), title-page.

CUL: F.8.18

Further Reading

Elizabeth Evenden and Thomas S. Freeman, Religion and the book in early modern England: The Making of Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’ (Cambridge, 2011).

Anthony Grafton, ‘Matthew Parker: The Book as Archive’, History of Humanities, 2 (2017), 15–50.

Margery Corbett and Ronald Lightbown, The Comely Frontispiece: The Emblematic Title-page in England, 1550-1660 (London, 1979).

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