Of the lawes of ecclesiastical politie, eight bookes by Richard Hooker

London, printed by William Stansbye – and are to be sold by George Lathum, [1636].

£1,250.

Folio. pp. [lviii] 583 [xvii]. “Book 5 has separate letterpress title page dated 1632. “Certayne divine tractates, and other godly sermons” has separate title page dated 1632 on 2V6; it includes a reprint of “A supplication made to the Councell” by Walter Travers. “The answere of Mr. Richard Hooker to a supplication, preferred by Mr. Walter Travers, to the honourable lords of the Priuie Councell” has separate title page dated 1635 on 2Y2r. “A learned discourse of justification, workes, and how the foundation of faith is ouerthrowne” has separate title page dated 1636 on 2Z5r. “Five learned sermons” has separate title page dated 1636 on 3C6r. “Two sermons upon part of S. Iudes epistle” has separate title page dated 1636 on 3F2r. Register is continuous.” ESTC. Roman letter, some Italic, Greek and Hebrew. Engraved architectural general t-p by William Hole (Johnson p. 26, Hole-7), 5 part titles within woodcut architectural borders (McKerrow and Ferguson 224). Woodcut initials (some large), head-and tail-pieces and ornaments. Light age yellowing, rare minor marginal mark, slight marginal soiling to first ll. A very good copy, crisp and clean in contemporary calf, covers bordered with a triple blind rule, spine, rebacked  original laid down, raised bands, double blind ruled, corners restored.

A very good copy of this most important Anglican work; the influential theologian Richard Hooker (1554-1600) is arguably the co-founder (with Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker) of Anglican theological thought. Hooker was born near Exeter and educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he became a fellow in 1577. In 1584 he married, resigned from his college position, and became rector of a parish, followed by appointments in London, Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire and Kent. The first four books of this work were published in 1594, the fifth in 1597, and the final four posthumously. The present copy, contains all parts of Hooker’s treatise within a single volume. (Here the part titles are dated 1636 not 1631 but otherwise identical to STC 13719) The Lawes argued for a middle way (‘via media’) between the positions of the Roman Catholics and the Puritans. Hooker argued forcefully that reason and tradition were important when interpreting the Scriptures, and suggested that it was important to recognise that the Bible was written in a particular historical context, in response to specific situations: “Words must be taken according to the matter whereof they are uttered” (Lawes IV.11.7).

The principal subject of this compendious work is the proper governance of the church. The Puritans were at this time advocating the demotion of clergy and ecclesiasticism, and Hooker attempts to establish which methods of organising churches are best. What was at stake was the position of the sovereign as the head of the church. If doctrine were not to be settled by authorities, then having the monarch as the head of the church was intolerable. On the other side, if the monarch were appointed by God to be the head of the church, then local parishes going their own ways on doctrine was similarly intolerable. Hooker’s work owes much to Thomas Aquinas, but his scholastic thought presents a number of innovations. He argues that church organisation, like political organisation, is one of the ‘things indifferent’ to God. Minor doctrinal issues are, he states, not issues that damn or save the soul, but rather frameworks surrounding the moral and religious life of the believer. Thus, there are good monarchies and bad ones, good democracies and bad ones, and what matters is the piety of the people. Hooker’s emphases on reason, tolerance and inclusiveness considerably influenced the development of Anglicanism, as well as the thinking of John Locke. Locke quotes Hooker numerous times in The Second Treatise of Civil Government.

“The monumental work of Richard Hooker was intended as a defence of the Church of England as established in the reign of Elisabeth I, and more particularly as a defence of the Episcopacy and the government of the Church against the objections of the Presbyterians. In fact he proceeds to consider the ultimate principles on which all authority rests, which he finds in the concept of law ‘whose seat is the bosom of God, whose voice is the harmony of the world’. … This is the earliest statement of the ‘Original Contract’ as the basis of government, which had originated in France and was to become a major issue in the political struggles of the seventeenth century. Hooker’s theory formed the basis of Locke’s ‘Treatise of Civil Government’ and can thus be considered the first statement of the principles behind the Constitution of England”: Printing and the Mind of Man 104 on the first edition;

Although copies of the early editions of the present work are relatively straightforward, later copies, from around 1617, are often chimeras, assembled from different printings: see STC p. 597 for discussion. The present copy is, however, a complete example, identical in collation to STC 13719..

ESTC S125468. STC 13719. Lowndes III 1107. see also PMM 104 (earlier edition) this edition not in Pforzheimer or Grolier

L3300