Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England

Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England

Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England

Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England


'Green provides the first truly comprehensive overview of reformed print culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and his book should be required reading for anyone interested in literacy and literate culture in the period.' -Years Work in English Studies'A handsome volume in the very best tradition of the OUP.' -Reformation'Green's book is a significant addition to English Reformation 'revisionism', and its tour through the 'steady sellers' of early modern England is both authoritative and enlightening.' -Journal of Ecclesiastical History'Impressively researched and exhaustively documented survey... a work of admirable and meticulous scholarship. It will be an invaluable guide to historians and bibliographers for many years to come, an authoritative aid to the combined STCs which many of us will find ourselves constantly consulting.' -History'In demonstrating that divinity dominated the output of the printing presses until the eighteenth century, Green also provides a salutary corrective to accounts which overestimate the speed of secularization and the impact of Englightenment scepticism.' -History'This is a thorough and significant book... it is the best kind of academic writing, lucid, free of jargon, trenchant but fair, and courteous to other scholars; it illuminates every subject that it touches upon and is knit together by a strong and important argument.' -Journal of Theological Studies'Ian Green brings to the job an impressive knowledge of different genres and a sensitivity in the reading of individual works: his every judgement seems authoritative... The very scale of his work carries conviction.' -Journal of Theological Studies'This is an ambitious work of profound scholarship... an extraordinary achievement in the making, the scholarly equivalent of walking to both poles.' -Patrick Collinson, The Times Literary Supplement'The book is a mass of information... I would hazard that no other historian has an encyclopaedic a knowledge of printed English religious literature as Green has for this lengthy period.' -English Historical ReviewThis is the first study of the full range of Protestant publications from the Reformation to the start of the Evangelical Revival. Based on a sample of over seven hundred best-selling titles of the period, it demonstrates a rapid diversification of the religious works printed and of the readerships at which they were targeted by canny publishers, and also highlights the growing variety of 'Protestantisms' then on offer.


This study forms the second part of a trilogy of works on the ways in which Protestant ideas and images were communicated in early modern England. Each part has a different focus. Part 1 was a study of one particular type of instruction, and has appeared as The Christian's ABC: Catechisms and Catechizing in England c.1530–1740 (Oxford, 1996). Part 3, provisionally entitled Religious Instruction in Early Modern England, will survey all of the most commonly deployed methods of instruction including many not tackled in much detail in the previous parts, such as the oral delivery of sermons, the new music in church, and the use of visual aids in church, churchyard, and home. the discussion in this second instalment, on the nature and impact of print, should therefore be viewed in the context of the trilogy as a whole. Print clearly contributed in a variety of ways to the Protestantization of England, but it was by no stretch of the imagination the only or the crucial means by which the Protestant message was conveyed to those who were illiterate or had only limited reading skills.

When I began work on this volume, books were still books, and I was (trying to be) an historian. But nowadays we acknowledge that 'a text exists only because a reader gives it meaning', with the result that 'historians regard print as a cultural artefact', and 'we are all semiologists now'. One does not have to follow cultural historians slavishly to welcome the transformation they have helped to effect in the way that we regard the way that the typical products of the printing press were handled, any more than one has to go all the way with the 'new historicists' or the 'cultural materialists' to admit that early modern texts need to be placed firmly in context and seen as capable of many interpretations. From my point of view, however, just as important as these changes have been others of a practical kind: the publication of much fuller versions of the Short-Title Catalogues for this period, which have made a statistical approach much more feasible; and the microfilming of a high proportion of early modern printed works, which has enabled scholars to examine widely scattered copies much more easily than before. What all these changes

G. Cavallo and R. Chartier (eds.), A History of Reading in the West (Oxford, 1999), 1; D. D. Hall,
'Introduction: the Uses of Literacy in New England, 1600–1850', in W. L.Joyce, et al. (eds.), Printing
and Society in Early America (American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, 1983), 3; J. Brewer and R. Porter,
'Introduction', in Brewer and Porter, Consumption and the World of Goods (London and New York, 1993),

See below, pp. 4, 25–6, 32–4. I have benefited from reading the works of Alan Sinfield, Jonathan
Dollimore, Alistair Fox, Deborah Shuger, J. H. Knott, jr., and others, but their focus is rarely on the
best-sellers examined here.

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