The Christian Directory

St. Omer, English College Press, 1633.


Small 8vo., pp. 689 (xv). Roman letter, woodcut ‘IHS’ device to title page, woodcut initials, typographical ornaments, ruled in red throughout. Autograph ‘Cleaveland’ in C17 hand to outer margin of title page, armorial bookplate of the Earl of Macclesfield (‘North Library’) on pastedown, Shirburn Castle blind stamp to head of title page. Light age yellowing, a very handsome copy in contemporary rose morocco, covers bordered and panelled gilt, decorative gilt corner pieces, gilt arms of Sir Kenelm Digby on covers, his monogram in compartments of ornately decorated spine. ‘The Lord Cleveland gave this booke and some others unto Humphrey Paynter when the sayd Earl was a prysoner in the Tower of London July 1 1655,’ in contemporary hand, presumably Cleveland’s or Paynter’s, on fly.

A fine and fascinating copy of one of the most influential works of the great Jesuit and missionary priest and the most important Recusant writer of his age. Although Persons is best known as a controversialist, the present work is essentially devotional, indeed it became the most popular book of devotion among both Catholics and Protestants in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

Originally published under the title ‘The Book of Christian Exercise,’ the name was changed after it was pirated by a Protestant Minister, Edmund Bunny, who after making modest deletions and alterations caused it to be published under his own name. Its London publisher described it simply as ‘one of the most vendible books ever issued in this country.’ Persons brought out several editions successively expanded, contracted and materially altered, but always in demand. It is here in its final form. The text influenced, with or without acknowledgement, numerous contemporary authors including Robert Greene, Thomas Nash, Henry Smith, John Dove and Gabriel Powell.

A remarkable and historic provenance. Thomas Wentworth, First Earl of Cleveland (1591-1667) was a cavalier general and distinguished cavalry commander who fought in the Civil War, and whose courage and presence of mind enabled the King’s escape after the Battle of Worcester. Imprisoned then by Parliament in the Tower, he was freed after 5 years in 1656. A year before his release he presented this volume, with others, to Humphrey Paynter, presumably the surgeon of that surname who was then imprisoned there for his Royalist attachments.

Sir Kenelm Digby, alchemist and bibliophile (his first library was presented to the Bodleian in 1634), courtier, diplomat, natural philosopher, soldier, and adventurer, was the leading English Catholic intellectual of his day at home in a circle which included Fermat, Descartes and Hobbes. Amongst his other claims to fame he is the father of the modern wine bottle.

STC 19354.9 (no copies in North America, 4 in the UK, two of them incomplete). Milward p. 73 et seq. Gillow V 278:6. Allison & Rogers II 623.


Print This Item Print This Item