WHILE collecting material on the careers of the parish clergy of the Stuart church, I became curious about what they were teaching their flocks. The large number of catechisms they published seemed to offer a potentially valuable vein of ore to mine, and from catechisms I moved on to other instructional works which, though not necessarily the work of the lower clergy, were, like catechisms, printed in large quantities and scattered widely among the clergy and laity of early modern England: collections of sermons, aids to Bible study, psalters, devotional works, religious verse, and a variety of other works containing explicit or implicit religious instruction. Then there were the new forms of music provided by metrical psalms and change-ringing, and the new visual aids inside and outside the parish churches, such as Commandment boards and scripture texts on the church walls, symbols and inscriptions on the gravestones in the churchyard, and engravings and woodcuts in books, pamphlets, and broadsheets. Unfortunately, by this stage the materials amassed were threatening to topple over and smother any author--or publisher-- unwise enough to come too close to them. Since there had proved to be many more catechisms than had been expected, and a study of them offered the unusual prospect of examining a whole genre both as medium and message, and over a longer period of time than is usually attempted, the decision was taken to publish a separate monograph on catechisms, which is in front of you, and then two further volumes. The first of these (provisionally entitled Print and Protestantism in Early Modern England) will focus on the production of Bibles, aids to Bible study, psalters, prayer books, and other works widely disseminated through the medium of print, while the second ( Religious Instruction in Early Modern England) will try to cover the complete gamut of commonly used methods of religious instruction, with references back to the previous volumes where necessary. Readers of this study should bear in mind, therefore, that the aims and impact of catechizing have to be seen in the broader context of a whole range of techniques of imparting religious ideas.
This study would not have been possible without the enormous efforts and great skills shown by the compilers of the two Short-Title Catalogues referred to below as STC2 and Wing2, and to the as yet incomplete Eighteenth-Century STC. The first of these in particular has set standards which it will be hard for others to match, and I am very grateful for additional help from Ms Katherine Pantzer in tracking down catechisms. I am also grateful to Michael Smallman of Queen's University Library for helping me conduct several computer searches in the files of the embryonic Eighteenth-Century Short-Title Catalogue; and to all the librarians in that Library for their help and co-operation with more conventional forms of enquiry and