Acts and Monuments

Shakespeare’s Library –  Religion

#11 John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1570)

This volume is better known as Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs.” Foxe, a Protestant scholar who had been exiled during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary, set out to write the history of the church in England, focusing on the persecution of English martyrs from the fourteenth century to the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1559. Foxe worked closely with the printer John Day, who published the massive and unprecedented book in 1563. Despite its size and expense, it was an immediate success, and it made Foxe famous. He continued his labors, revising and expanding the book for a second edition which appeared in 1570. The printer Day financed the production of additional woodcut images, a key component of the book. The striking image on display here depicts the burning of the Protestant reformers Martin Bucer and Paulus Phagius. Both had already died, but were exhumed during the reign of Queen Mary in order to be burnt, along with copies of their books. The remarkable event captured by this image demonstrates the power accorded to the printed word.

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