MORE, St. Thomas

MORE, St. Thomas The apologye of syr Thomas More knyght

[London], Prynted by w. Rastell, 1533


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. ff. 290, [vi]: A-X , a-z [et]², 2A-2X , ²2A-2H , last blank. Black letter in various sizes. Title within charming woodcut border (McKerrow & Fergusson 17), white on black woodcut initial, marginal annotations in an early hand, “Joh: Ravens pretium 6d.” on title page, ‘The Library of Montague House on ff-ep verso, ‘John Burns, August 1916’ below, bookplate of H Bradley martin on pastedown, and Fox Pointe Collection opposite. Light age yellowing, t-p fractionally dusty, blank outer corners slightly restored on t-p and blank upper outer corner on next three and final ll., the rare marginal mark or spot. A fine copy crisp and clean in handsome brown morocco antique circa 1900 by Zaehensdorf, covers blind worked to a panel design with alternate blind scrolls at centers, spine with raised bands, ruled in compartments with blind tooling, a.e.g.

Exceptionally rare first edition of this most important late work by Saint Thomas More in defence of his own actions and those of the clergy in general; a reply to Christopher Saint German’s ‘A treatise concernynge the division betwene the spirytualtie and temporaltie.’ in which the author argued for the supremacy of the King and for the drastic limiting of church power. In religious matters Saint-German was a moderate reformer. In 1532 he issued, anonymously, his ‘Diuision’ which lays the blame for the troubles and divide in the country on the clergy. It is said to have been commended to Sir Thomas More for its moderation, in contrast to his own intemperance of language. Early in 1533 More made a vigorous attack upon it in this ‘Apology,’ referring to the author as ‘the pacifier.’ This provoked a reply from Saint-German entitled ‘A Dialogue betwixte two Englishmen, whereof one was called Salem and the other Bizance’, and More retorted in the same year with his ‘Debellacyon of Salem and Bizance,’ which ended the controversy.

“By the early sixteenth century the rival claims of canon and common law had been a vexed question in England at least since the time of Thomas Becket. But to what had once been a simple struggle for power between the king and Church, there was added during the reign of Henry VIII a combination of two factors which considerably increased the complexity and the importance of this question, namely, the Protestant Revolt and Henry’s desire to obtain a divorce from his wife, Catherine of Aragon. Saint-German was a prominent London lawyer whose services were occasionally employed ‘by Henry VIII and ‘Cromwell, but his desire for anonymity – he never signed any of his works – has blotted out much of his public career .. The ‘Diuisions’ two main points are that strife exists between the laity and the clergy and that this strife is owing to the pride and avarice of the latter. An interesting feature of the work, for which it was first drawn to More’s attention, is that that these contentions were made in what appears to be a very mild and impartial spirit. … Looking more broadly at this controversy, we find that by the time More came to write against Saint-German – he had previously championed the cause of the Church against Luther, Burgenhagen, Tyndale, Barnes, Fish, and Frith – his main concern had become the extirpation of heresy in England. It seems that anything which worked towards this end he regarded as right, and anything which would not bring about this result he rejected as useless. For instance, his defence of ‘ex officio’ trials is put on a very practical basis indeed-if we did not have them says More we would have to release the reformer John Frith, who is now a prisoner in the Tower. In the same passage he defends imprisonment without charge by saying that if this could be done, and if accused persons were released on bond, heretics would never keep their bond but would escape (Apologye, pp. 100-101) .. If this seems harsh, it must be remembered his youth had premised the earthly happiness of his Utopians on discipline and order, in his later years saw the good order of Catholic England upset by what he regarded as the disorder-provoking doctrines of the reformers. Even more important, he saw the spread of a doctrine which he believed would deny its adherents not only earthly happiness, ‘but also bliss in the world to come. He decided that England had to be kept Catholic at all costs and threw himself resolutely into the battle against those attacking the Church. To this battle he devoted himself wholly, sacrificing leisure, ambition, and-in the end-life itself.” Rainer Pineas. ‘Sir Thomas More’s Controversy with Christopher Saint-German’.

A very good copy of this exceptionally rare and important work by Saint Thomas More.

Gibson 46. ESTC S112850. STC 18078. Not in Pforzheimer.
Stock Number: K177 Categories: ,

In stock