The Book of Common Prayer in 1549 removed aspects of the medieval culture of death that were offensive to Reformed theology, including purgatory and the system of pardons. The 1552 revised version eradicated any last remnant of addressing the corpse. Some wished to go further, making burial the briefest of ceremonies in disposing of the body and recalling the life of the departed: a bare bones memory. This book by Christopher Sutton shows how conformist post-Reformation piety kept a careful balance. Sutton was a Church of England clergyman and devotional writer, probably born in Hampshire, educated at Oxford, and from 1591, incumbent of Woodrising in Norfolk. The book, published in 1600, uses the death-bed scene, represented on this opening, as a memento mori; but it is penitential and sober in character. The title of the book in Latin, Disce mori, means ‘Learn to die’. It calls itself ‘A religious discourse, moouing euery Christian man to enter into a serious remembrance of his ende. Wherein also is contained the meane and manner of disposing himselfe to God, before, and at the time of his departure’. BC
Christopher Sutton, Disce mori. Learne to die : A religious discourse, moouing euery Christian man to enter into a serious remembrance of his ende (London: [J.Windet], 1600).
CUL: SSS.27.1, title page
Ralph Houlbrooke, Death, Religion, and the Family in England, 1480–1750 (Oxford, 1998).