ST. BEDE, The Venerable.

BEDE, The Venerable. The historie of the Church of England. .. Translated, by Thomas Stapleton.

St Omer, [Printed by Charles Boscard] For Iohn Heigham, 1622


8vo. pp. 368, 353-504, [xvi]. A-2K , 2L . Roman letter, some Italic. Small woodcut ornament on t-p., woodcut initials, typographical headpieces, woodcut tailpieces, contemporary manuscript note in English on p.64, shelf mark with price with date 1725 on fly, bibliographical note quoting Selden on fly in early hand, bookplate of Robert S. Pirie on pastedown, another early shelf mark below. Light browning, small hole at blank gutter of t-p., fore-edge cut a little close just touching a few side-notes, an occasional minor marginal spot. A very good copy in excellent, contemporary tan morocco, probably from St. Omer, covers with gilt ruled and gilt dentelle border with quadruple blind rules, gilt oval medallion stamped at centres with gilt side pieces, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, fleurons gilt at centres, edges gilt ruled in pointillé, a.e.g.

A very handsome copy of the very rare second edition of this work, printed at the English Jesuit College of St. Omer, with the dedication adapted from the first, to Queen Elizabeth, here given to James I, in a fine contemporary binding. “Stapleton’s Bede is the first masterpiece of English patristic translation in the Renaissance. Thomas Stapleton was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford. .. He was successively lecturer and professor at the English college at Douai (founded in 1568), and professor of holy scripture at Louvain from 1590. He achieved international renown as a scholar and controversialist, deserving from the seventeenth-century memorialist Anthony Wood the title of the ‘Most learned Roman Catholic of his time”. .. His version of Bede’s history forms part of the Catholic response to Bishop Jewel’s Challenge Sermon, delivered at Paul’s Cross in London on 26th November 1559 and again on 31 March 1560, in which the future author of the Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae called upon Roman Catholic divines to demonstrate a basis in Christian literature of the first six centuries for the doctrines which they upheld and which the reformers rejected.” Irena Dorota Backus. ‘The Reception of the Church Fathers in the West.’

Stapleton’s work, first published in 1565, reveals how early English Christian history could be used by both Catholics and Protestants to attempt to demonstrate their faith’s superiority. Stapleton believed that the Elizabethan Protestants were in error in believing there was a pure British, or English Church. Protestants argued that there was a preexisting British Church which had been corrupted by Roman customs. Stapleton attempted to prove that Roman Catholicism was the original faith in England, and did so not only by providing a list of errors in the book, but by providing a gloss next to key passages in the text. Stapleton states in his introduction, “I have gathered out of the whole History a number of diversities between the pretended religion of the Protestants and the primitive faith of the English church.” This demonstrates that he was using this text to reject Protestant claims to historicity. He also calls the reader to “gather honny, lyke bees, oute of this comfortable history of oure countre, not venim like spiders. Reade it with charitable simplicitie, not suspicious curiosite, with virtuous charite, not with wicked malice.”

“A second line of attack that Stapleton makes follows a line that every undergraduate historian should be familiar with: the primary source vs. the secondary source debate. He points out that Bede was not only an Englishman but was also alive at the time or near enough to that of which he wrote about. He is therefore an eyewitness, but also one who has no knowledge of later arguments, such as those between Protestants and Catholics, and as such has no agenda. Whilst Stapleton is wrong to suggest that Bede had no agenda, it nonetheless works as a powerful statement against those like Foxe, Bale, and Parker writing some 900 years later. Through Bede, Stapleton is presenting a genuine voice from the past, unspoilt by later judgements and arguments. Thus, in Stapleton’s words. “There is no suspicion of partes taking, no prejudice of favouring either side, no feare of affection of missejudgement to be gathered upon him. We have good cause to suspect the reports of Bale, of Fox, of Beacon and suche other, whiche are knowen to maintaine a faction and singular opinion lately spronge up, who reporte thinges passed many hundred yeares before their dayes.” Matt Phillpott. ‘Sixteenth Century Scholars.’

“The well-known Jesuit college at St. Omer was founded by Father Parsons in 1592 or 1593. All Catholic education having been prohibited in England, several colleges had been founded by Englishmen on the Continent — at Douai, Rome, and Valladolid; their primary object was the education of the clergy. Father Parsons recognized the need of a college intended in the first instance for the laity, and for this purpose he chose a spot as near as possible to England. St. Omer was twenty-four miles from Calais.” Catholic Encyclopaedia. The printing press was set up a the College in 1608

The style of the binding is unusual, though of high quality, in fine morocco. St. Omer was then part of the Spanish Netherlands in the province of Artois and the binding was probably made there or close by in the Spanish Netherlands.

STC 1779; ESTC S101390. Allison & Rogers 734.

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