The Elizabethan Protestant Press: A Study of the Printing and Publishing of Protestant Religious Literature in English, Excluding Bibles and Liturgies, 1558-1603.
Doctoral thesis, University of London.
Uninterrupted for forty-five years, from 1558 to 1603, Protestants in England were able to use the printing press to disseminate Protestant ideology. It was a period long enough for Protestantism to root itself deeply in the life of the nation and to accumulate its own distinctive literature. English Protestantism, like an inf ant vulnerable to the whim of a parent under King Henry VIII, like a headstrong and erratic child in Edward's reign, and like a sulking, chastised youth in the Marian years, had come of age by the end of the Elizabethan period. At the outset of Elizabeth's reign the most pressing religious need was a clear, well-reasoned defence of the Church of England. The publication of Bishop Jewel's Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae in 1562 was a response to that need and set the tone of literary polemics for the rest of the period. It was a time of muscleflexing for the Elizabethan Church, and especially in the opening decades, a time when anti-Catholicism was particularly vehement. Consistently throughout the period, when Queen and country were threatened by Catholic intrigues and conspiracies, literature of exceptional virulence was published against Catholicism. But just as the press became an effective tool for defenders and apologists of the Church of England, it soon was being used as an instrument to advance the cause of further reform by more radical Protestants. Puritans, Familists and Separatists resorted to the printing press to publicize their particular brand of Protestantism. Puritans, especially, used the press to put pressure on Parliament by arranging the publication of their demands to coincide with the calling of Parliament. Stinging attacks on the established church were met with stout resistance; authors, printers and booksellers often were imprisoned and the literature suppressed. The radicals then turned to secret presses, or to presses outside of England, and continued their onslaught against the "half" reformed Church of England. The bitterness and pugnacity once reserved for the popes of Rome now became, for the dissidents, appropriate sentiments to be levelled at English bishops. Religious polemics, however, though most eye-catching and revealing from the historian's viewpoint because they reflect pressing issues and concerns, were only one aspect of Elizabethan literature. While the polemicists crossed swords, the great majority of authors and translators busied themselves in producing works designed for general Protestant edification. These were the devotional, didactic and exegetical works that went into multiple editions and were in constant demand throughout the reign. Polemical and controversial writings were published from time to time, but works of edification issued from the press in a continuous stream throughout the reign. The constant repetition of Protestant doctrine and attitudes reinforced the Protestant policies consistently laid down by the government. For moral and financial support in publishing their literature, Elizabethan Protestant authors relied heavily upon a relatively small group of persons. The great majority of dedications in Protestant literature were addressed to no more than a dozen or so patrons, and, except for a few, tended to sympathize with moderate Puritanism. Furthermore, the Elizabethan period was a watershed in the history of literary patronage and this was reflected in Protestant literature. Printers and publishers became more important to the author than the patron in getting his manuscript into print and furthering his literary pursuits. And it was a relatively small number of printers and publishers (no more than twenty-five) who bore the brunt of financing the lion's share of Protestant literature. With such a powerful and relatively new medium as print to disseminate ideology, it is not surprising that strong censorship was exercised. From the Queen's Injunctions of 1566, when the Vestments controversy was at its height and offensive Puritan tracts were being published, control of the press tightened as Catholics and radical Protestants became more adept at clandestine printing and at smuggling their literature into the country. Officers of the government, the church and the Stationers' Company worked so effectively together in their "search and destroy" missions for printing presses used in illegal publishing ventures that, by the end of the period, almost all offensive religious literature had to be printed abroad. The role of the printing press in Elizabethan England is comparable to that of television in the 20th century. As television revolutionizes the art of politics, from political party conventions to national elections, so the printing press affected politics and religion in the last half of the 16th century. The most effective way for Puritans, for example, to attack and embarrass the Establishnent -- and for the Establishment to defend itself -- was to use the medium of print. So much more efficient than preaching -- with much less risk of detection -- the press replaced the pulpit as the main instrument of religious education and of religious reform.
|Title:||The Elizabethan Protestant Press: A Study of the Printing and Publishing of Protestant Religious Literature in English, Excluding Bibles and Liturgies, 1558-1603.|
|Open access status:||An open access version is available from UCL Discovery|
|Additional information:||Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS|
|UCL classification:||UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > History|
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