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Inventing the Lollard Past: The Afterlife of a Medieval Sermon in Early Modern England


This essay explores the evolving significance of a famous fourteenth-century Paul's Cross sermon by Thomas Wimbledon in late medieval and early modern England and its transmission from manuscript to print. It highlights the ideological ambiguity of the text against the backdrop of the academic Wycliffite challenge and shows how it illuminates the permeability of the boundary between heterodoxy and orthodoxy in the fifteenth century. It then examines how the sermon was revived and published in the mid-Tudor period as a Lollard tract as part of an effort to supply the new Protestant religion with an historical pedigree and how it subsequently entered into the popular stock of commercial publishers. The afterlife of Wimbledon's celebrated sermon sheds fresh light on the ongoing process of inventing and re-inventing the pre-Reformation past.

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1 Three modern scholarly editions of manuscript copies of the sermon have been published: A famous Middle English sermon … preached at St Paul's Cross, London, on Quinquagesima Sunday, 1388, ed. K. F. Sundén (Göteborgs Högskola Årsskrift xxxi, 1925) (based on Bodleian Library, Oxford, ms Hatton 57); ‘Thomas Wimbledon's sermon: “Redde racionem villicacionis tue”’, ed. Nancy H. Owen, Mediaeval Studies xxviii (1966), 176–97 (based on Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, ms 357); Wimbledon's sermon: Redde rationem villicationis tue: a Middle English sermon of the fourteenth century, ed. Ione Kemp Knight (Duquesne Studies, Philological Series ix, 1967) (based on Corpus Christi, ms 357, but collated with other copies); and E. P. Wilson, ‘A critical text with commentary of MS. English Theology f. 39 in the Bodleian Library’, unpubl. BLitt. diss. Oxford 1968. Ch. ii of the Kemp Knight edition contains a description of the following manuscripts (shelfmarks have been updated). English copies: Corpus Christi, ms 357; Magdalene College, Cambridge, Pepys ms 2125; Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, ms 74; Trinity College, Cambridge, ms B. 14. 38; BL, ms Add. 37677; BL, ms Harleian 2398; BL, ms Royal 18 A xvii; ms Royal 18 B xxiii; Bodl. Lib., ms Engl. th. f. 39 (formerly Helmingham Hall, LJ II 9); Bodl. Lib., ms Hatton 57; University College, Oxford, ms 97; Huntington Library, California, ms HM 502; and a manuscript now in the hands of a private collector (formerly Helmingham Hall, ms LJ II 2, sold by Bernard Quarich Ltd in 1966: BL, microfilm RP 13). I am grateful to Arnold Hunt of the British Library for assisting me in tracing the destination of this manuscript. Latin copies: Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, ms 334; Cambridge University Library, ms Ii 3. 8. Further English copies are in Trinity College, Dublin, ms 155 (formerly ms C. 5. 7) (noted by Owen, 176); Bodl. Lib., ms e Museo 180, fos 242–7v (noted by Alan J. Fletcher, Preaching, politics and poetry in late-medieval England, Dublin 1998, 208 n. 35, and H. Leith Spencer, English preaching in the late Middle Ages, Oxford 1993, 487 n. 116); Lincoln Cathedral Library, ms 50 (formerly ms A.6.2, noted by G. R. Owst, Preaching in medieval England: an introduction to sermon manuscripts of the period, c. 1350–1450, Cambridge 1926, 361 n. 5). The considerable problems which surround the dating of this sermon are discussed in Wimbledon's sermon at pp. 41–3. Internal evidence (a reference to the arrival of AntiChrist ‘in þe fourtenþe hundred зeer fro þe birþe of Crist, þe whiche noumbre of зeeris is now fulfillid not fully twelve зeer and an half lackynge’, p. 116) implies that it was composed in 1387. Annotations to various manuscripts suggest that it may have been preached in 1388 and 1389 as well as 1387. See also Fletcher, Preaching, politics and poetry, 208 n. 35.

2 RSTC 25823.3–25839. I have followed the advice of Alec Ryrie in tentatively re-dating the first extant edition from [1540?] to [1541–2]. For the concept of bestsellers see Ian Green, Print and Protestantism in early modern England, Oxford 2000, esp. pp. 195–6, though he may misconstrue the significance of the endurance of Wimbledon's sermon in print.

3 Aston Margaret, ‘Lollardy and the Reformation: survival or revival?’, History xlix (1964), 149–70, and ‘John Wycliffe's Reformation reputation’, Past and Present xxx (Apr. 1965), 23–51, repr. (with some additional notes) in her Lollards and reformers: images and literacy in late medieval religion, London 1984, 219–42, 243–72 respectively; Anne Hudson, ‘“No newe thyng”: the printing of medieval texts in the early Reformation period’, in E. G. Stanley and Douglas Gray (eds), Five hundred years of words and sounds for E. J. Dobson, Cambridge 1983, 74–83, repr. in her Lollards and their books, London–Ronceverte 1985, 227–48.

4 See Owst, Preaching in medieval England, ch. v and pp. 264–5; Millar Maclure, The Paul's Cross sermons, 1534–1642, Toronto 1958, esp. p. 144; and Susan Wabuda, Preaching during the English Reformation, Cambridge 2002, 40–8.

5 See Wimbledon's sermon, 45–51, for a detailed analysis of its structure in relation to scholastic method. All quotations of Wimbledon's sermon in this section are taken from the Kemp Knight edition.

6 See Owst, Preaching in medieval England, esp. pp. 36–47. See also idem, Literature and pulpit in medieval England: a neglected chapter in the history of English letters and of the English people, Oxford 1966.

7 Wimbledon's sermon, 61–97, quotations at pp. 74, 77, 78.

8 Ibid. 79, 80.

9 Ibid. 63.

10 Ibid. 98–128, quotations at pp. 99, 116–17.

11 Printed editions ascribed the sermon to R. or Robert Wimbledon, as did annotations in later hands in a number of manuscript copies (probably on the basis of the imprints). However, scribal attributions to Thomas Wimbledon in incipits and explicits are more authoritative and reliable. See Owen Nancy H., ‘Thomas Wimbledon’, Mediaeval Studies xxiv (1962), 377–81 passim, and Wimbledon's sermon, 41–3.

12 Wykeham's register, ed. T. F. Kirby (Hampshire Record Society, 1896–9), i. 300, 302; ii. 370–1.

13 A. B. Emden, A biographical register of the University of Oxford to AD 1500, Oxford 1957–9, iii. 2120.

14 See A. B. Cobban, ‘Colleges and halls 1380–1500’, in J. I. Catto and Ralph Evans (eds), The history of the University of Oxford, II: Late medieval Oxford, Oxford 1992, 602.

15 Trinity College, Cambridge, ms B. 14. 38, fo. 127r. See Owen, ‘Thomas Wimbledon’, 381.

16 See K. B. McFarlane, John Wycliffe and the beginnings of English nonconformity, London 1952, esp. pp. 101–14; Anne Hudson, The premature Reformation: Wycliffite texts and Lollard history, Oxford 1988, ch. ii; J. I. Catto, ‘Wyclif and Wycliffism at Oxford, 1356–1430’, in Catto and Evans, History of the University of Oxford, ii. 175–261; and Richard Rex, The Lollards, Basingstoke 2002, ch. iii. On the connections between Lollardy and sedition see Aston Margaret, ‘Lollardy and sedition, 1381–1431’, Past and Present xvii (1960), 144, repr. (with additional notes and postscript) in her Lollards and reformers, 1–47. On the Lollard sermon cycle see Hudson Anne, ‘A Lollard sermon-cycle and its implications’, Medium Aevum xl (1971), 142–56. See also her ‘“Springing cockel in our clene corn”: Lollard preaching in England around 1400’, in Scott L. Waugh and Peter D. Diehl (eds), Christendom and its discontents: exclusion, persecution, and rebellion, 1000–1500, Cambridge 1996, 132–47.

17 Anne Hudson and Anthony Kenny, ‘John Wyclif’, Oxford DNB; Maureen Jurkowski, ‘Heresy and factionalism at Merton College in the early fifteenth century’, this Journal xlviii (1997), 658–81.

18 See R. N. Swanson, Church and society in late medieval England, Oxford 1993 edn., 318–26, esp. p. 321.

19 Hudson, Premature Reformation, 429, 421–30 passim.

20 See Thomson J. A. F., ‘Orthodox religion and the origins of Lollardy’, History lxxiv (1989), 3955.

21 Wimbledon's sermon, 78–9.

22 See Owst, Literature and pulpit, 278–81. Its tone contrasts sharply with Nicholas Hereford's Ascension Day sermon preached a few years earlier, in 1382: see Simon Forde's edition and discussion in Mediaeval Studies li (1989), 205–41. Similar criticism of the worldliness and pride of the clergy can be found in Lollard sermons, ed. Gloria Cigman (Early English Text Society ccxciv, 1989), 1–2. Reflecting the difficulties and the ongoing division of academic opinion surrounding the identification of ‘Lollard’ writings, Robert Swanson is dubious about this attribution (private communication).

23 The speed with which the boundaries of acceptable discourse shifted between 1380 and 1420 makes precise comparison difficult, but these texts do share some common themes with Wimbledon's sermon. See M. Teresa Brady, ‘The pore caitif: an introductory study’, Traditio x (1954), 529–48, and ‘Lollard sources of “The pore caitif”’, Traditio xliv (1988), 389–418; Dives and pauper, ed. P. H. Barnum (Early English Text Society o.s. cclxxv, cclxxx), esp. i.i, p. x (where it is described as ‘neither apology for the shortcomings of the clergy nor a plea for a Wyclifian reform of doctrine but something in between the two’); and Hudson Anne, ‘The expurgation of a Lollard sermon cycle’, JTS n.s. xxii (1971), 451–65, repr. in her Lollards and their books, 201–15 at pp. 211–12. William Langland's Piers plowman (the first version of which dates from the 1360s) has been equally difficult to fix within the contemporary religious spectrum: see Pamela Gradon, ‘Langland and the ideology of dissent’, Proceedings of the British Academy lxvi (1980), 179–205 at p. 205, and Fletcher, Preaching, politics and poetry, 208.

24 See Marjorie Reeves, The influence of prophecy in the later Middle Ages: a study in Joachimism, Oxford 1969, esp. ch. viii; Richard Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse: sixteenth-century apocalypticism, millenarianism and the English Reformation from John Bale to John Foxe and Thomas Brightman, Abingdon 1978, esp. ch. i; Katharine R. Firth, The apocalyptic tradition in Reformation Britain, 1530–1645, Oxford 1979, 2–7; and Curtis V. Bostick, The AntiChrist and the Lollards: apocalypticism in late medieval and Reformation England, Leiden 1998.

25 Bostick, AntiChrist and the Lollards, chs iv, v. Bostick argues that Firth and Bauckham underestimate the strength of historicist apocalyptic exegesis within Lollard thought. On the Opus arduum see also Anne Hudson, ‘A neglected Wycliffite text’, this Journal xxix (1978), 257–79, repr. in her Lollards and their books, 43–65.

26 Bostick, AntiChrist and the Lollards, 137–9. See The St Alban's chronicle, 1406–1420, ed. Vivian H. Galbraith, Oxford 1937, 1–2, and Two Wycliffite texts: The sermon of William Taylor, 1406; The testimony of William Thorpe, 1407, ed. Anne Hudson (Early English Text Society ccci, 1993), pp. xiii–xxv, 1–23.

27 John Foxe, Actes and monuments, London 1570 edn, i. 653. Glossing Foxe, John Strype interpreted this as evidence of its ‘fame’, but the placement of the sermon in Foxe's text suggests that this is a misreading: Annals of the Reformation and establishment of religion, Oxford 1824 edn, iii/1, 416. See pp. 645–7 below.

28 Lambeth Palace Library, London, register of William Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury (1381–96) (Institute of Historical Research, London, Microfilm XR 29/5). If the ‘olde worne copy’ was a loose manuscript kept with the register, it is likely to have been separated from it and to have since perished. On Courtenay see Joseph Dahmus, William Courtenay, archbishop of Canterbury, 1381–1396, University Park, Pa 1966, esp. ch. vi, and R. N. Swanson, ‘William Courtenay’, Oxford DNB.

29 Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae, ed. David Wilkins, London 1737, iii. 314–19. See Spencer, English preaching, 163–88.

30 See David Aers, ‘Altars of power: reflections on Eamon Duffy's The stripping of the altars: traditional religion in England, 1400–1580’, Literature and History 3rd ser. iii (1994), 94–5.

31 Hudson, Premature Reformation, 408, and pp. 390–445 passim.

32 Heresy trials in the diocese of Norwich, 1428–31, ed. Norman P. Tanner (Camden 4th ser. xx, 1977), 98–102; Anne Hudson and H. L. Spencer, ‘Old author, new work: the sermons of ms Longleat 4’, Medium Aevum lii (1983), 228, and pp. 220–38 passim.

33 Owst, Preaching in medieval England, 292–4.

34 Hudson, Premature Reformation, 437–40. See Nicholas Love's ‘Mirror of the blessed life of Jesus Christ’, ed. Michael G. Sargent, New York 1992, pp. xliv–xlvi.

35 See Jacob E. F., ‘Reginald Pecock, bishop of Chichester’, Proceedings of the British Academy xxxvii (1951), 122–53; Margaret Aston, ‘Bishops and heresy: the defence of the faith’, in her Faith and fire: popular and unpopular religion, 1350–1600, London 1993, 73–94; C. W. Brockwell, Reginald Pecock and the Lancastrian Church: securing the foundations of cultural authority, Lewiston, NY–Queenston, Ont. 1985; Hudson, Premature Reformation, 440–3; Wendy Scase, ‘Reginald Pecock’, in Authors of the Middle Ages: English writers of the late Middle Ages, iii/8, Aldershot 1996, 69–146, and ‘Reginald Pecock’, Oxford DNB; Mishtooni Bose, ‘Reginald Pecock's vernacular voice’, in Fiona Somerset, Jill C. Havens and Derrick G. Pitard (eds), Lollards and their influence in late medieval England, Woodbridge 2003, 217–36; and Stephen E. Lahey, ‘Reginald Pecock and the authority of reason, Scripture and tradition’, this Journal lvi (2005), 235–60. The argument that Pecock's use of the vernacular was central to the case against him has been contested by Sarah James, ‘Debating heresy: fifteenth-century vernacular theology and Arundel's Constitutions’, unpubl. PhD diss. Cambridge 2004.

36 Spencer, English preaching, 277.

37 Watson Nicholas, ‘Censorship and cultural change in late-medieval England: vernacular theology, the Oxford translation debate, and Arundel's Constitutions of 1409’, Speculum lxx (1995), 822–64, quotations at pp. 846, 859.

38 See Anne Hudson, ‘Wycliffite prose’, in A. S. G. Edwards (ed.), Middle English prose: a critical guide to major authors and genres, New Brunswick 1984, 249–70. For a similar argument for the later period see McSheffrey Shannon, ‘Heresy, orthodoxy and English vernacular religion, 1480–1525’, Past and Present clxxxvi (Feb. 2005), 4780 at pp. 55–7, for remarks on the earlier fifteenth century.

39 For Lollard ‘farcing’ of orthodox texts see Hudson, ‘Expurgation’, 203, and Premature Reformation, 485. For orthodox editing of Lollard texts see idem, ‘Expurgation’, passim; Hudson and Spencer, ‘Old author, new work’; and Spencer Helen L., ‘The fortunes of a Lollard sermon-cycle in the later fifteenth century’, Mediaeval Studies xlviii (1986), 352–96. See also the comments of Anne Hudson in her edition of English Wycliffite sermons, i, Oxford 1983, 98–123, esp. pp. 106, 122.

40 See Spencer, English preaching, 487 n. 116. The examples cited here are intended to be merely indicative: the point deserves closer and more thorough investigation.

41 For Sidney Sussex, ms 74 see Spencer, ‘Fortunes’, 353–6; for Bodl. Lib., ms Eng. th. fo. 39 see Wimbledon's sermon, 7, and Hudson, Premature Reformation, 204, 424. Trinity College, ms B. 14. 38, includes it in a compilation with other sermons annotated ‘Some English homilies of the Epistles & Gospels in which are several things against the pope, by Wickliffe as I believe’: Wimbledon's sermon, 16. For the suggestion that Mirk's Festial was written in part to counter the Lollards see Fletcher Alan J., ‘John Mirk and the Lollards’, Medium Aevum lvi (1987), 217–24, and Preaching, politics and poetry, 213; and Judy Ann Ford, John Mirk's Festial: orthodoxy, Lollardy and the common people in fourteenth-century England, Woodbridge 2006. Ironically its advocacy of the vernacular may have rendered it sensitive in the period after Arundel's Constitutions, explaining why few copies were made after this date: McSheffrey, ‘Heresy’, 57–8.

42 Concilia, iii. 866. See Spencer, ‘Fortunes’, 358–9.

43 Wimbledon's sermon, 19.

44 Owst, Preaching in medieval England, 361 n. 5. This manuscript was formerly A.6.2. See also Spencer, English preaching, 67, 387 n. 200, regarding Bodl. Lib., ms e Museo 180.

45 Cf. the consensual picture sketched by Eamon Duffy in The stripping of the altars: traditional religion in England, 1400–1580, New Haven–London 1992, pt i. The relative unimportance of Lollardy is defended in the preface to the 2nd edn at pp. xviii–xxviii. Watson, ‘Censorship and cultural change’, 858–9, sees the ‘traditional’ devotion described by Duffy as the product of ‘a movement of reform’ imposed on English society from above and held in place by Arundel's Constitutions, but this too may underestimate the degree of diversity within the fifteenth-century Church; cf. Aers, ‘Reflections’.

46 See especially R. N. Swanson, Church and society in late medieval England, Oxford 1993 edn, 335 (‘the Lollard “movement” may be no more than an historians' construct’); Rex, Lollards; and Andrew E. Larsen, ‘Are all Lollards Lollards?’, in Somerset, Havens and Pitard, Lollards and their influence, 59–72. For a recent, balanced analysis see McSheffrey, ‘Heresy’.

47 This paragraph summarises Aston, ‘Lollardy and the Reformation’, and Hudson, ‘“No newe thyng”’. See also Hudson, Premature Reformation, 483–94.

48 Commentarius in apocalypsin, Wittenberg 1528, sigs A2v–A3r; Aston, ‘Lollardy and the Reformation’, 226–7.

49 The praier and complaynte of the ploweman unto Christe, [Antwerp 1531?] (RSTC 20036), sig. A3r, and The true copye of a prolog wrytten about two C yeres paste … by J. Wycklife, London 1550 (RSTC 25588), ‘preface to the reader’, quoted in Aston, ‘Lollardy and the Reformation’, 224, 231.

50 John Foxe, Actes and monuments, London 1583 (RSTC 11225), ii. 707. See also Foxe's ‘Epistle or preface to the Christian reader’, in The whole works of W. Tyndall, John Frith, and Doct. Barnes, London 1572–3 (RSTC 24436), sigs A2r–A3r.

51 A compendious olde treatyse, shewynge howe that we oughte to have ye scripture in Englysshe, Marburg [Antwerp] 1530 (RSTC 3021), quoted by Aston, ‘Lollardy and the Reformation’, 224; The examinacion of Master William Thorpe, [Antwerp 1530] (RSTC 24045), sig. A2v; Two Wycliffite texts (ed. Hudson), 142. On the absence of evidence for forgery see Hudson, ‘No newe thyng’, 238 and passim.

52 Aston, ‘Lollardy and the Reformation’, 234–40. See also Alec Ryrie, ‘The problems of legitimacy and precedent in English Protestantism, 1539–47’, in Bruce Gordon (ed.), Protestant history and identity in sixteenth-century Europe, Aldershot 1996, i. 78–92.

53 A sermon no lesse fruteful then famous made in the yeare M.CCC.lxxxvij. in these oure latter dayes moost necessary to be knowen: nether addyng to, neyther demynyshynge fro. Save tholde and rude Englysh ther of mended here and there, [London 1541–2], (RSTC 25823.3). The [c. 1548] and [c.1550] editions are RSTC 25823.7 and 25824. In this article, I do not investigate the minor textual variations between different editions.

54 See E. Gordon Duff, A century of the English book trade, London 1905, 59, 83, 102, 169; Alec Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: evangelicals in the early English Reformation, Cambridge 2003, 46–7, 114, 120, 198, and ch. iv passim, and ‘John Gough’ and ‘Edward Whitchurch’, Oxford DNB; and Meraud Grant Ferguson, ‘Richard Grafton’, Ibid.

55 Rex, Lollards, 142.

56 A sermon no lesse fruteful then famous, [1541–2] edn (RSTC 25823.3), epistle ‘To the Christen reader’, sigs A1v–A2v.

57 Spencer, English preaching, 324–6. On the printing of Mirk see Susan Powell, ‘What Caxton did to the Festial: the Festial from manuscript to printed edition’, Journal of the Early Book Society i (1997), 49–77.

58 Sermons by Hugh Latimer, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Parker Society, 1844), 62, quoted in Wabuda, Preaching, 26.

59 The vision of Pierce plowman, London 1550 (RSTC 19906), sig. *2, quoted in Hudson, ‘No newe thyng’, 247–8. See also John N. King, ‘Robert Crowley: a Tudor gospelling poet’, Yearbook of English Studies viii (1978), 220–37.

60 John Bale, Illustrium maioris Britanniae scriptorium, Wesel 1548, fo. 156v, and Scriptorum illustrium maioris Brytannie, Basle 1557–9, 453. It is possible that Bale had not seen the sermon himself: his list included many items derived from other works. It is not included in his Index Britanniae scriptorum: John Bale's index of British and other writers, ed. Reginald Lane Poole and Mary Bateson, intro. Caroline Brett and James Carley, Cambridge 1990, 264–74.

61 Ryrie, Gospel and Henry VIII, ch. iv, quotation at p. 9.

62 This edition is not extant. But see Transcript of the registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554–1640, ed. Edward Arber, London 1875–94, i. 207. ‘Patrick's places’ were first published in [Antwerp 1531?], (RSTC 12731.4); other extant editions date from [c. 1532], [1534?], [1549?] and 1598 (RSTC 12731.6–12734).

63 Duff, Century of the book trade, 93–4.

64 John Foxe, Actes and monuments, London 1563 edn (RSTC 11222a), 175–83, quotation at p. 175.

65 John Foxe, Actes and monuments, 1570 edn (RSTC 11223), i. 653, 658. The ‘olde worne copye’ that Foxe inspected was amongst the papers of William Courtenay: see p. 635 above.

66 Patrick Collinson, ‘Truth and legend: the veracity of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs’, in A. C. Duke and C. A. Tamse (eds), Clio's mirror: historiography in Britain and the Netherlands, Zutphen 1985, 31–54, quotation at p. 43, and ‘Truth, lies and fiction in sixteenth-century Protestant historiography’, in Donald R. Kelley and David Harris Sacks (eds), The historical imagination in early modern Britain: history, rhetoric and fiction, 1500–1800, Cambridge–Washington 1997, 37–68. Among many essays by Thomas S. Freeman see ‘Fate, faction, and fiction in Foxe's Book of Martyrs’, Historical Journal xliii (2000), 601–24; ‘The importance of dying earnestly: the metamorphosis of the account of James Bainham in “Foxe's Book of Martyrs”’, in R. N. Swanson (ed.), The Church retrospective (Studies in Church History xxxiii, 1997), 267–88; and ‘Dissenters from a dissenting Church: the challenge of the Freewillers, 1550–1558’, in Peter Marshall and Alec Ryrie (eds), The beginnings of English Protestantism, Cambridge 2002, 129–56, esp. pp. 154–5. See also Susan Wabuda, ‘Henry Bull, Miles Coverdale and the making of Foxe's Book of Martyrs’, in Diana Wood (ed.), Martyrs and martyrologies (Studies in Church History xxx, 1993), 245–58.

67 McFarlane, Wycliffe, p. xii.

68 C. W. Brockwell, ‘The historical career of Bishop Reginald Pecock, D. D.: the poore scoleris myrrour or a case study in famous obscurity’, Harvard Theological Review lxxiv (1981), 177–207, quotations at pp. 182–3. The Catholic writers Nicholas Harpsfield and Robert Persons also identified Pecock as a Wycliffite heretic.

69 2 Kings xxii–xxiii. I am grateful to Sarah Hamilton for drawing this to my attention.

70 Gesta Abbatum Monasterii Sancti Albani, ed. Henry Thomas Riley (Rolls Series, 1867–9), i. 26–7. See also Otter Monika, ‘“New werke”: St Erkenwald, St Albans and the medieval sense of the past’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies xxiv (1994), 387414. I owe both these references to Julia Crick.

71 Keith Thomas, Religion and the decline of magic, Harmondsworth, 1973 edn, ch. xiii, esp pp. 463–4, 470; Jerome Friedman, Miracles and the pulp press during the English Revolution, London 1993, ch. iv. For some examples of this formula in print see ‘A prophecie found in a wall, in a Carthusian house in the county of Sommerset, Anno Dom. 1548. by a mason’, in William Lilly, A prophecy of the White King, London 1644 (Wing L.2240), 29–31; A prophesie that hath lyen hid above these 2000 yeares, London 1610 (RSTC 15111.5); A prophesie of the judgment day: being lately found in Saint Denis Church in France, and wrapped in leade in the forme of an heart, London [1620?] (RSTC 20440); A true coppie of a prophesie which was found in old ancient house of one Master Truswell, sometime recorder of a towne in Lincolne-shire, London 1642; Ignatius his prophecie … found in the abby of St Benedict neere the city of Norwich in Norfolke, London 1642 (Wing T.2633); Basilius Valentinus Friar of the Order of St. Benedict: his last will and testament … hid under a table of marable behinde the high-alter of the cathedral church, in the imperial citie of Erford .…, London 1657 (Wing I.41); A prophecy, said to be written three hundred years ago, for this year; lately found in a chest, hid in the wall behind the altar in the temple-church, London 1682 (Wing P.3684).

72 BL, ms Lansdowne 122, fo. 31v. The finding of mysterious books of heavenly origin bears comparison with the discovery of ‘unpainted images’ (archeiropoieton, ‘not made by hand’), which subsequently became the subject of cultic devotion: see Margaret Aston, England's iconoclasts, I: Laws against images, Oxford 1988, 22, and Hans Belting, Likeness and presence: a history of the image before the era of art, trans. Edmund Jephcott, Chicago–London 1994, 49, 55, 62–9.

73 Diarmaid MacCulloch, Tudor Church militant: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation, London 1999, ch. ii and passim.

74 Henry Howard, A defensative against the poyson of supposed prophecies, London 1583 (RSTC 13858), fo. 117a–b.

75 J[ohn] H[arvey], A discoursive probleme concerning prophesies, London 1588 (RSTC 12908), 66.

76 Poor Robin's prophecy, for the year 1701: found several years after his death, hid under an old close-stool-pan, London 1671 (Wing P.2892A). A more solemn and serious variation on this theme was the discovery of a Reformation tract in the stomach of a cod fish in 1626: see Alexandra Walsham, ‘Vox piscis: or the book-fish: providence and the uses of the Reformation past in Caroline Cambridge’, EHR cxiv (1999), 574–606. For the persistence of the authenticating formula of the hidden book or tablet among the Mormons in the nineteenth century see Fawn B. Brodie, No man knows my history: the life of Joseph Smith the Mormon prophet, London 1963, 35, 38–40, 46–9. I owe this reference to Michael Duffy.

77 Francis Bacon, ‘Of prophecies’, in The essayes or counsels civill & morall, London 1906, 112.

78 A point made by Spencer, English preaching, 329.

79 See Margaret Aston, ‘The fiery trigon conjunction: an Elizabethan astrological prediction’, Isis lxi (1970), 159–87; Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse.

80 Duff, Century of the book trade, 5; Tessa Watt, Cheap print and popular piety, 1550–1640, Cambridge 1991, 51, 89, 274, 285–6, 359; Sidney Lee, rev. Kathleen E. Kennedy, ‘John Awdely’, Oxford DNB. Awdely's editions of the sermon are RSTC 25825.7–25827.5.

81 Duff, Century of the book trade, 26; Watt, Cheap print, 50–1; H. R. Tedder, rev. Robert Faber, ‘John Charlewood’, Oxford DNB; Charlewood's editions are RSTC 25828–33.

82 R. B. McKerrow, A dictionary of printers and booksellers in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of foreign printers of English books, 1557–1640, London 1968, 229, 153–4 respectively. Roberts' and Jaggard's editions are RSTC 25834–25836.

83 Henry R. Plomer, A dictionary of the booksellers and printers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1641–1667, London 1968, 53. The Cotes' editions are RSTC 25837–9.

84 Richard [sic] Wimbledon, The regal, clerical, and laical bayliffs cited by three som'ners, to give a reckoning of their bayliwickes, London 1738.

85 Phoenix britannicus, ed. J. Morgan, London 1732, preface at pp. i–iv.

86 Ibid. pp. ii, 1.

87 Joseph Ames, Typographical antiquities, London 1749.

88 Daniel Woolf, The social circulation of the past: English historical consciousness, 1500–1730, Oxford 2003, 168–73.

89 Magdalene College, ms Pepys 2125; Wimbledon's sermon, 11–12; copy of RSTC 25828 in the University of Illinois Library (copy reproduced on Early English Books Online (

90 Ames, Typographical antiquities, preface.

91 Phoenix britannicus, 1, 21–2.

92 John Lewis, The history of the life and sufferings of the reverend and learned John Wicliffe, D. D., London 1720, 156–7. For the evolving historiography of Wyclif see Aston, ‘John Wycliffe's Reformation reputation’, esp. p. 265, and Geoffrey Martin, ‘Wyclif, Lollards, and historians, 1384–1984’, in Somerset, Havens and Pitard, Lollards and their influence, 237–50. Walter Waddington Shirley cast doubt on the attribution to Wyclif in A catalogue of the original works of John Wyclif, Oxford 1845, 55.

93 CUL copy of RSTC 25835, sig. A3r (shelfmark Syn 8. 61. 132).

94 Emmanuel College Library copy of RSTC 25823.3, [1541–2] edn (shelfmark S10. 5. 59 (1)). I am very grateful to the college librarian Dr Helen Carron for supplying details of these items.

95 For example CUL copies of RSTC 25836, 1617 edn (shelfmarks Bb*. 12. 56 and Syn. 8. 60. 33 (7)).

96 See Rex, Lollards, 78, citing James Carley.

97 Aylmer Vallance, Old crosses and lychgates, London 1920, 116; Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse, 165: ‘the Lollard Ralph [sic] Wimbledon's sermon’.

I would like to thank Margaret Aston, Julia Crick, Patrick Collinson, Alec Ryrie and the anonymous reader for this Journal for commenting upon earlier drafts of this article. Members of the audience at the session of the Leeds International Medieval Congress, at which a paper based on it was delivered in July 2004, also offered helpful suggestions.

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The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
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