1589 Abridgement of the Booke of Acts and Monumentes, John Foxe (Book of Martyrs)


The first abridged edition of John Foxe's Booke of Acts and Monuments of the Church... often referred to as The Book of Martrys. Timothy Bright abridged Foxe's work and published this in 1589.

Bright writes that his intention for this abridged version is, "for such as either through want of leysure, or abilitie, have not the use of so necessary an history". This is a note on the title page, which is missing from this edition.

This copy is missing its preliminary leaves (eight leaves), eight leaves in the text, and three leaves of index. But it is a 16th century English printing of one of the most important works in the Christian library.

This copy also with some provenance. The Bysshopp family, Thomas, Martin and Humfrey, signed their names to the margins. The Rugby School, and its Assistant Master Matthew Bloxham applied their ex libris plates to the front endpapers.

About the Work -

John Foxe (1516/1517 – 1587), an English historian and martyrologist, was the author of Actes and Monuments (otherwise Foxe's Book of Martyrs), telling of Christian martyrs throughout Western history, but particularly the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the 14th century and in the reign of Mary I.

The first edition was printed in 1563. The book was produced and illustrated with over sixty distinctive woodcut impressions and was to that time the largest publishing project ever undertaken in England. Their product was a single volume book, a bit over a foot long, two palms-span wide, too deep or thick to lift with only one hand given it exceeded 1500 pages, and weighing about the same as a small infant.

This edition - The first abridgment appeared in 1589. Offered only two years after Foxe's death, it honoured his life and was a timely commemorative for the English victory against the Spanish Armada (1588). Timothy Bright's tight summary of Acts and Monuments headed a succession of hundreds of editions of texts based on Foxe's work, whose editors were more selective in their reading. Based with greater or lesser degrees of exactitude on the original Acts and Monuments, yet influenced always by it, editors continued to tell its tale in both popular and academic venues (although a different tale was told to each gathering).

Bibliographic Details -

English Short Title Catalogue number - S102503. Not rare, held at many of the world's best libraries.

Universal Short Title Catalogue number - 11179381 and 228713184

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 19 x 14 x 5 cm. Hardcover with leather spine. Spine with four raised bands; title in gilt in one compartment. Some decorative initials and tailpieces.

Missing - Preliminary 1st 8 leaves, gathering Bb (pages 385-400) of eight leaves, and the last three leaves of the index (signed ZZ2-ZZ4)

Pages extant - 1-384, 401-504. Volume 2 - 1-288. 29 leaves of index material

Collation of leaves extant - A-Aa8, Cc-Hh8, Ii4, AA-SS8, TT4, VV-YY8, ZZ1

Condition -

See pictures. Fresh binding, but still with a little wear at the edges. Ex libris plates on endpapers.

Missing first gathering (8 leaves; 16 pages) of preliminary material; starts at first page of Foxe's work (Signed A1). Missing pages 385-400 (gathering Bb). Also missing last three leaves of index, ending on Z1 (would be signed Z2-4).

Manuscript title page. Toned throughout, with thumbing. Some foxing, dog-eared pages, page edge chips, corner chips, etc. I see a few page-edge repairs. Some marginal ink spots. Some marginal moisture marks. Bysshopp family names written in margins at page 120 and 403 (Martine, Thomas, Humfrey). Marginal initials on 375.

Marginal annotation in v2 p65 slightly cropped, text block has been trimmed at some point. Several worm tracks near gutter from middle to rear; they do extend into text. Ink strike-through v2 p82. 2" tear bottom V2 p215. Last leaf repaired with marginal annotations in an old hand.

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