June 2015 Book of the Month: Acts and Monuments by John Foxe (1632)

Title-page of Acts and monuments: Fellows’ Library E.15.11 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

Title-page of Acts and monuments: Fellows’ Library E.15.11 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

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.

Annotation reads: 'In all Kerne's Dispatches (of wel I have seen good store) I find not a word to this purpose.' : Fellows' Library E.15.11 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

Annotation reads: ‘In all Kerne’s Dispatches (of wel I have seen good store) I find not a word to this purpose.’ : Fellows’ Library E.15.11 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

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).
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One Response to June 2015 Book of the Month: Acts and Monuments by John Foxe (1632)

  1. Gerry Smith says:

    Twenty-five years ago I bought an old rare book from an Antique Store. It is the 1632 Seventh Edition Volume 3 of the Acts and Monuments by John Foxe. It is a treasure of mine that I began to read and study (some words very hard to decipher). I read through the thousand page book a few years back and am now wanting to sell this rare book. It is missing the Publishing page as well as all of the wood-cuts of the Martyrs burning at the stake. If your school would be interested in this book, please let me know. Ken Smith Bremerton WA

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