Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, as this work is popularly known, is an ambitious adaptation of the Catholic martyrology. Foxe portrayed executed English Protestants as successors to a line of true martyrs going back to the early Church. Affecting and gruesome accounts of their fates sit alongside anti-Catholic polemic. Foxe’s history had a profound impact: a copy was placed in every cathedral and his vision of Protestant nationhood and suffering influenced Milton and Bunyan.
Although synonymous with Foxe’s name, the work was a collaborative effort. Its intimidating size reflects an array of cannibalized sources, from chronicles, episcopal registers, and depositions, to tracts, speeches, poems, letters, and oral testimonies. Moreover, its publication would have been impossible without its evangelical printer, John Day, taking a substantial financial risk.
This seventh edition, published decades after Foxe’s death at the time of Archbishop Laud’s ascendancy, includes a new section for Puritans on preparing for martyrdom. It came to the College as part of the personal library of Edward Herbert of Cherbury, whose research for The Life and Reign of King Henry the Eighth (1649) is evident in the erudite annotations.
Emma Jones (Library Assistant)
Sources and further reading:
- Catalogue record on SOLO
- Freeman, Thomas S., ‘Foxe, John (1516/17–1587)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
- King, John N. (ed.) Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: Select Narratives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
- Loades, David, ‘The Early Reception’, John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments Online (HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011).