A directorie teaching the way to the truth in a briefe and plaine discourse against the heresies of this time.[England], Printed with licence [by the English secret press], 1605
FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. [xxiv], 608: [Maltese cross]⁸, A⁴, B-2Q⁸. Roman letter some Italic. Small woodcut initials and headpieces. Title fractionally dusty with small hole in blank inner margin, little worm trails to last three leaves touching a few letters, last five leaves somewhat oil stained. A very good, crisp copy in handsome contemporary English limp vellum, covers bordered with a gilt scroll, arabesque gilt stamped at centres, spine gilt ruled in compartments, fleurons gilt at centres, a.e.g. a little rubbed and soiled.
Rare first and only early edition of this clandestinely printed controversial work, probably printed in London, by the ‘English secret press’, which produced a number of polemical Catholic texts in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period. “Systematic printed propaganda against conformity dates from 1578, when Gregory Martin published his ‘Treatise of Schisme’ .. in subsequent decades, ‘dissuasives against frequenting Protestant Churches’ appeared from the pens of Catholic activists and evangelists as eminent as William Allen, Robert Southwell, Henry Garnet and perhaps John Gerrard. While Elizabethan examples were primarily directed towards an upper-class audience, after James’s I’s accession in 1603 experienced seminary priests like John Radford … determined to indoctrinate plebeian as well as aristocratic Catholics in the principles of dissent, composed similar tracts ‘accommodating’ themselves to the understanding of the ‘unlearned’ and ‘poore simple soules’.” Alexandra Walsham. ‘Church Papists: Catholicism, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modern England’.
John Radford (1561–1630) spent the majority of his life working clandestinely in England, in great danger, for the Catholic Church. A “jesuit, born in Derbyshire in 1561, was educated at Douay College while it was temporarily located at Rheims. Having completed his studies in humanity and theology, he was ordained priest in 1587, and returned to England on 17 Jan. 1589. There he wrote ‘A Directorie teaching the Way to the Truth in a briefe and plaine Discourse against the Heresies of this Time. Wherunto is added a Short Treatise against Adiaphorists [i.e. Laodiceans], Neuters,’ &c. The preface was dated 10 April 1594, and the dedication to ‘George Blackwell, archipresbyter,’ in 1599, but the book was first published .. in 1605. The book circulated in England, and John Manby (or Manly) of Broughton, Northamptonshire, ascribes his conversion in 1607 to ‘Father Parsons’s “Christian Directory,” and a controversial work written by Mr. Radford,’ adding that he was afterwards received by Radford into the catholic church. Radford doubtless carried on the perilous work of a catholic missionary in the part of England most familiar to him. On 30 Oct. 1606 Father Robert Jones, alias North, wrote to Parsons at Venice, recommending that the latter should communicate further with Radford, who, the writer suggested, ‘might be admitted at home, and would prove a sufficient jorneyman’. Parsons accepted the view of his correspondent, and Radford accordingly entered the Society of Jesus in 1608. On 2 January 1618 he was made a spiritual coadjutor. He remained at Northampton until after 1621, when he came to London. John Gee .. mentions his name without comment in a ‘list of Jesuites now  resident about the City of London;’ and when papers and goods belonging to jesuits were seized at ‘a house near Clerkenwell, on 19 March 1627–8,’ by order of the council, Radford’s name appears among the ‘Veterani Missionarii.’ He soon transferred his missionary work to Devonshire, where he died, .. on 9 Jan. 1630, aged 69.” DNB. A lovely copy of this rare work.