Acts and Monuments Of matters most speciall and memorable, happening in the Church, with an universall Historie of the same
John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments—widely referred to as the Book of Martyrs—had an immense impact after it was first printed in 1563 although the high cost of the massive tome limited distribution. Almost immediately Foxe and printer John Day began planning for a second edition. The first edition was printed in a hurry, and there were corrections to be made. Also, Foxe felt it necessary to respond to intense criticism from Catholics.
The second edition was published in 1570, expanded to two folio volumes and about 2,200 pages in length. Day misestimated the eventual size of the book and had to use inferior paper to finish the printing. Much source material in Latin was deleted from the first edition; substantial text, however, was added on the Marian martyrs, and Foxe drew on manuscript materials held by Archbishop Parker and other private collectors to expand greatly the religious history of medieval England. This edition was ordered to be chained in all cathedral churches for the use of the congregation. All Englishmen needed to be reminded of Queen Mary’s persecution of their ancestors and the dangers that papists and Catholic Spain posed to their nation.
Foxe largely disengaged from the printing of the third edition and so did John Day, who turned over the responsibility to his son, Richard Day. The content was essentially unchanged; poor quality paper, however, was used. The 1,800 pages of this edition were easy to tear and difficult to read because of the use of smaller typeface and ink bleeding through the thin paper. Foxe and John Day were much more engaged in the final printing during their lifetimes (1583), using high quality paper in sufficient supply to include some additional materials. Subsequent printings occurred in 1596, 1632, 1641, and 1684; 18th-century editions were abridgments, which made Acts and Monuments more affordable and served to expand readership.
The present copy is an example of the eighth (and last black-letter) edition, dated 1641. It is expanded over all earlier editions and included a biography of John Foxe. New woodcuts were used because the earlier woodblocks had worn out. In the present copy two of the three large volumes bear the signature of John Wilkes (a pastedown covers the third signature). Wilkes (1725–1797) was an English radical, journalist, and politician. He fought for the right of voters to determine their representatives, was instrumental in securing the right of printers to publish verbatim accounts of parliamentary debates, and introduced the first bill for parliamentary reform in the British Parliament.
Chrzanowski 1641f *