An abridgement of the booke of acts and monumentes of the Church:London, by I. Windet, at the assignment of Master Tim Bright, 1589
FIRST EDITION thus. 2 parts in 1 vol. 4to. pp. [xiv], 504, 288, [lxiv]: [¶]⁸, (-[¶]1), A-Hh⁸, Ii⁴, AA-SS⁸, TT⁴, VV-YY⁸, ZZ⁴. “The abridgement of the second volume has separate pagination, and register re-commences with AA.” Estc. Black letter, some Roman and Italic. Title with woodcut illustration of the Pope and a monk in foreground slitting the throat of a lamb, with the corpses of lambs strewn before them, devils burning martyrs in the background, large historiated woodcut initials, woodcut head and tail-pieces, contemporary ms. inscription to foot of ¶8; “First the Crosse and then the Crowne” and in a different hand below “And so at lengthe the Pope came downe”, engraved armorial bookplate of Thomas Freeling on pastedown, ‘Fox Point Collection’ label on fly, occasional contemporary ms. marginal notes and pointing hands. Title and second leaf a little dusty, light age yellowing, blank outer margin of F1 torn, touching printed side-note, blank outer corner of H7 torn, ink splashes to one leaf, occasional thumb mark, light waterstains in places, a few headlines fractionally shaved at head. A good copy, crisp in early C20th calf, spine remounted.
Rare first and only edition of Timothy Bright’s Abridgement of John Foxe’s monumental work and the first in a series of abridgements that would help popularise Foxe’s achievement; this edition was published a year after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and set out to capitalise on that event. The first line of the ms. inscription to foot of ¶8 was likely added by a worker in Windet’s printing house at the behest of the publisher as it appears in a number of the surviving copies of this edition. The second line is illustrative of the Protestant nationalism invoked by the work.
“When in 1589 Timothy Bright bought out an abridgement of the book, he justified it precisely because, “by reason of the largenes of the volume, and great price,” so many were “bereaved of the benefite of so necessarie an Historie”. Bright thought to do exactly what Turner had proposed, leaving out material that would be thought superfluous’ in order to make the book affordable. “I often wished, some man would take the paines to draw [Foxe’s book] into an Abridgement,” Bright writes, “But seeing hitherto nothing done that way, nor hearing of any that had it in purpose, I ventured upon the labor myself.” .. As Jesse Lander has convincingly shown, it is only in this abridged form of 1589 that Acts and Monuments can be said to set out “a discourse of national election in order to propagate a Protestant English triumphalism,” but it is also only in this form that Acts and Monuments first began to be widely owned by individual readers. Bright’s abridgement probably sold for 5 shillings; “small in price yet of great worth,” .. though even 5 shillings, if it made the book affordable to desiring readers, was still not a trivial amount. Bright’s was not to be the only abridgement of Foxe’s book, though its determination, in light of the victory over the Armada, to sound its “Special note of England”, arguably makes it the most interesting. … The quarto abridgement indeed made Foxe’s Acts and Monuments more accessible that the massive folios, but, perhaps because at 5 shillings it was still not inexpensive, only one edition ever saw print.” C. Highley, ‘John Foxe and His World.’
“Even today ..the Acts and Monuments … is an impressive tome, vastly more ambitious than anything previously printed in England. John Foxe’s text – itself drawing on the work of many other writers – not only tells the stories of the men and women persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church, ..it is also ,… the single most important body of biographical life-writing in post Reformation Britain. Although initially conceived as a new ecclesiastical history for the English Protestant Church, and as a repository for the documentary evidence for that history, Acts and Monuments became most celebrated as a collection of martyr’s lives, a Book of Martyrs, as it became popularly known.” The Oxford history of Life-Writing.
Sir Francis Freeling, (1764 – 1836), was Secretary of HM General Post Office. He acquired a very large library and was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1801, and was one of the original members of the Roxburghe Club, founded in 1812