ENGLISH CIVIL WAR Humble Answer of the Lords and Commons Assembled in Parliament, ... with an Order of both Houses concerning Irregular Printing and for the suppressing of all false and Scandalous Pamphlets

London, for John Wright, 1642


FIRST EDITION. 4to. 4 unnumbered leaves. A4. Roman letter. Woodcut initial, woodcut and typographical ornaments, title within typographical border (trimmed at foot just touching border). Light age yellowing. A very good copy, crisp and clean. Disbound.

First edition of this most interesting pamphlet in three parts that includes “His Majesties gracious message to both Houses of Parliament, sent from Nottingham”; “A declaration of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament.” concerning pillaging of Catholic households, and “An order of the Lords and Commons, concerning printing.” The first part of the pamphlet contains Parliament’s reply to King Charles’ abortive plea to Parliament for a peace treaty that would avert civil war. The second part of the work concerns the pillaging of Catholic houses by puritan soldiers. “This began as early as summer of 1642, as, for instance, with the escapade of the volunteers of Essex Army who felt justified in ransacking the houses of alleged papists even of ‘meate and money’. At Oxford in September 1642, Lord Saye and Seles forces undertook a search of the surrounding areas bringing in popish artefacts .. The public destruction of such objects was an exercise in propaganda, with parliamentarian authorities aiming to stir up anti-Catholicism and promote the godly cause.” Julie Spraggon ‘Puritan Iconoclasm During the English Civil War’. The declaration of Parliament decreed here that “Whatsoever Souldier or Souldiers shall without the command of the Captaines of their respective Companies, or the officers of the field, attempt upon, or breakeopen any houses whatsover, or pillage or ransacke any yhouse, shall be pursued and punisht, according to the law as a felon.”

The third part of the work concerns a most interesting attempt to regulate unauthorised and scandalous printing that had exploded since the beginning of 1640. It was one of several decrees that would lead to the 1643 printing act which brought the control of the press under the Parliament. “The 1643 “Ordinance for correcting and regulating the Abuses of the Press” completed Parliament’s takeover of the licensing of printers in Britain. It was just one of a series of such controls Parliament would continue to exert over the press until 1695. The Crown had regulated printing, primarily by means of Star Chamber decrees, since it was introduced to England in 1476. An essential aspect of the Crown’s regulatory scheme involved a licensing process. Like laws against heresy, libel, and treason, the general requirement of licensing for printers had been a way in which the Crown silenced religious and political dissent. … Printers were licensed through the printers’ guild, the London Stationers Company, which was chartered in 1557 and given authority to conduct searches and seizures, confiscate unlicensed works, and promulgate its own regulations. In exchange for protecting the Crown’s censorship interests, the guild received the exclusive copyright to the printed works. The enforcement of printing laws was erratic, and the regulations became a weapon for the Crown to use against Puritan religious and political leaders during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. However, Parliament abolished the court of Star Chamber in 1641, which left English printing briefly unregulated. Even as it was abolishing the Crown’s control of printers, Parliament began taking steps, with urging from the printers guild, to institute controls of its own. Orders issued from Parliament to the Stationers in July 1641, and again in January 1642, required the Stationers to record the name of any person bringing material to be printed. Another order issued from the House of Commons in March 1643 directed the Stationers to seize “scandalous and lying Pamphlets” and to arrest those responsible. These measures foreshadowed the Printing Ordinance enacted in June 1643. Its stated purpose was to end the “great defamation of Religion and Government” resulting from unconstrained printers.” Kevin R. Davis. ‘Printing Ordinance of 1643’.