PERSONS, Fr. Robert Quaestiones duæ de sacris alienis non adeundis, ad vsum praxim Angliæ breuiter explicatæ..

[Saint Omer], [François Bellet], 1607


FIRST EDITION. 12mo. pp. 144, [4]. A-M , N². Roman letter, some Italic. Small typographical ornament on title, small woodcut historiated initials, typographical head-pieces, early ms shelf mark on title. Head of title page excised just touching the top of a few letters, light age yellowing, the odd marginal ink splash, tiny worm trail at blank gutter of a few quires. A very good copy in contemporary limp white vellum, remains of ties, upper edge of vellum a little chewed.

Rare first and only edition of this important work written against the renewed and virulent persecution of Catholics in Britain with the advent of the Oath of Allegiance and the reintroduction and addition of laws against recusancy by James 1st after the gunpowder plot. The Recusancy Acts began during the reign of Elizabeth I, but were extended and harshly enforced under James I. They imposed various types of punishment on those who did not participate in Anglican religious activity, such as fines, property confiscation, and imprisonment. Their repeal, in 1650, under Oliver Cromwell was mainly intended to give relief to nonconforming Protestants rather than to Catholics.“The following year, in 1607, Persons felt it necessary to reiterate the case against attending church, recognizing that with the confirmation and even augmentation of the recusancy laws, the appeal for sanctioned church papism was on the increase again. The Blackwell case for compassion in the face of hardship seemed strong. Persons confessed that he had received a Latin translation of an English work on hearing Protestant sermons; this, too, was too dangerous to allow. In response he wrote a Latin tract entitled Quæstiones duæ de sacris alienis non adeundis, ad vsum praxim Angliæ breuiter explicatæ. Here too his intention was to persuade Catholics to hold the line. In his published work against the Oath of Allegiance Persons was concerned to discredit the official policy and to present a reasoned account of conscientious Catholic solidarity against the Oath. In dealing with his Royal opponent, he had to resist compromise but also avoid unnecessary provocation” Victor Houliston. ‘Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Persons’s Jesuit Polemic 1580 – 1610.

Robert Persons (1546 – 1610) Jesuit, missionary priest, and controversialist was one of the finest (and most prolific) English authors of his day. He was commended by the Protestant, Swift, as a model of simplicity and clarity. For thirty years he was at the centre of the great struggle between the English crown and its Catholic subjects and neighbours and during that period his astounding industry brought forth a stream of pamphlet initiatives and enterprises to aid his fellow countrymen – not least the succession of young men trained by him at the English College in Rome (of which he was for many years rector) and sent to England to keep alive the Catholic faith.

Lowndes 1792. Allison & Rogers. Engl. Counter-Reformation, I, 893, Milward Jacobean 756.
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