1543 Henry Viii King's Book Necessary Doctrine Church Of England Tudor Anglican

1543 Henry Viii King's Book Necessary Doctrine Church Of England Tudor Anglican

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1543 Henry Viii King's Book Necessary Doctrine Church Of England Tudor Anglican:

[Early Printing - Post-Incunabula - England - Thomas Berthelet] [Church of England - Doctrine] [History of Reformation - England]
[English Monarchy - Tudors - Henry VIII] [Thomas Cranmer - The Institution of a Christian Man]

Printed in London, Thomas Berthelet, 29 May, 1543.

Text in English (with a few words and passages in Latin).
Printed in large and elegant gothic type (black letter). Embellished with a superb woodcut title border and the full page woodcut of the Royal arms on A4v. Includes the preface by king Henry VIII.

With the curious "price control" statement above the colophon page: "This boke bounde in paper boordes or claspes, not to be solde aboue .xvi.d.", and with the following issue points: A1v line 2 has: "boke"; A2r line 2 of heading has: "KYNGE"; N4v catchword is: "welth"; and line 1 ends: "wysedom"; Z2r line 2 ends: "resistynge ther-" and line 3 ends: "wil is"; in colophon: "Barthelet".



"Known as The King's Book, with a preface written in the name of Henry VIII, this item is a revision and enlargement of The Institution of a Christian Man." (STC).

Published at the height of Henrician conservatism, the The King's Book was far more conservative in its doctrine than the one it superseded - The Institution of a Christian Man, aka "The Bishops' Book", a rather ambiguous document from which Henry had cautiously withheld his personal approval when it had been published in 1537.

In the spring of 1543, while the Prebendaries' Plot against Cranmer was proceeding, the reformers were being attacked on all fronts. On 20 April, the Convocation reconvened to consider the revision of the Bishops' Book. Cranmer presided over the sub-committees, but the conservatives were able to overturn many reforming ideas, including justification by faith. On 5 May, the new revision called A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man, or the "King's Book", was released. On 12 May, the reformers received another blow. the Parliament passed the Act for the Advancement of True Religion, which authorised a complete statement of the Christian faith to be held by the Church of England, as formulated in "The King's Book", and also, notoriously, abolished "erroneous books" and restricted the reading of the Bible in English to clergy nobility and the gentry. From May to August, reformers were examined, forced to recant, or imprisoned.

"A revised and extended [version] of the Institution was published in 1543 under the new title, A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man. This contains some additional articles on the subjects of faith, free will, and good works. [...] To distinguish this publication from that of 1537, it was called the "King's Book." Between these two dates the decidedly Catholic statute of 1539, known as the Six Articles, had been passed. It is probable Gardiner had greater influence in the preparation of this work ["The King's Book"] than in either of the former, for its bent is decidedly towards the Catholic position." (William H. Beckett, The English reformation of the sixteenth century, p.151)

As Dr Richard Rex, of Queens' College, Cambridge, notes, "In general terms, the King's Book modified the Bishops' Book in directions that pointed back towards traditional Catholic doctrine and devotion. It explicitly excluded such Lutheran teachings as 'justification by faith only', affirming the role of free will and the importance of good works in the process of Christian salvation. Its claim that religious truth should be conveyed by the 'true exposition of the scriptures, according to the apostolical doctrine received and maintained from the beginning' was an implicit repudiation of the Protestant principle of sola scriptura (scripture alone), which purported to base religious truth on nothing but the 'Word of God', without reference to 'human traditions'. And it not only upheld against 'sacramentarians' the full Catholic doctrine of the real presence, the transformation of the consecrated bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the celebration of the Mass, which it described in strictly Catholic terms as the 'sacrament of the altar', it also affirmed the propriety and value of prayer to the saints and prayer for the dead - two Catholic practices anathematised by almost all Protestant Reformers.

"There is no doubt that Henry saw his book as finally settling the debates and disputes which had plagued his Church since the Break with Rome ten years before. [...] This striving for doctrinal uniformity was a particular preoccupation of Henry's after he assumed the headship of the Church of England. His desire that all his people might 'uniformly be led and taught the true understanding' of the Christian faith shows that he saw this book, and the statute which sanctioned it, as in effect an 'Act of Uniformity'. He would certainly not have baulked at calling all this the 'Henrician Settlement'."

The Institution of the Christian Man (also called The Bishops' Book), published in 1537, was written by a committee of 46 divines and bishops headed by Thomas Cranmer. The purpose of the work, along with the Ten Articles of the previous year, was to implement the reforms of Henry VIII in separating from the Roman Catholic Church and reforming the Ecclesia Anglicana. It was considered reformatory in basic orientation, though it was not strongly Lutheran. The work functioned as an official formulary of the reformed Anglican faith in England.

"As befits a book written by committee, its doctrinal stance was unclear, and neither conservatives nor evangelicals were fully satisfied with it. It was published by the king's printer, Thomas Berthelet, but the king refused to give it his personal approval and it became known as the Bishops' Book. [...] The process of revising it began almost immediately. The king himself took a close interest. Two copies of the Bishops' Book annotated by him survive. Another leading participant was Archbishop Cranmer, whose comments on the king's annotations include some remarkably brusque put-downs of his royal master. [...] When the final text came before Convocation in March 1543, Cranmer was still fighting to have the book reflect an evangelical understanding of justification. In this he failed completely. "A necessary doctrine and erudition for any christen man" was published on 29 May, with full royal approval that gave it the nickname of the King's Book. It decisively rejected the notion that justification comes through faith alone. Drawing on the theology of John Fisher, it argued that although scripture spoke of justification by faith, 'men may not thynke, that we be iustified by faith, as it is a seuerall vertue, separated from hope and charitie, feare of god and repentaunce, but by it is ment Faith neither onely ne alone, but with the forsaid verues coupled togyther'. The new book presented a more conservative face than its predecessor in a number of areas, but this was the decisive shift. [...] The evangelicals' central doctrine, which had been left almost untouched by the Six Articles, was now unambiguously rebuffed. Indeed, it was also proscribed.

On 8 May 1543, three days after the completed text of the King's Book was presented to the House of Lords, the Lords read a bill 'for the Abolishment of Erroneous books". This eventually issued as the Act for the Advancement of True Religion, a grandiose title for what was essentially a penal statute enforcing the King's Book. The Act did not refer to the book directly, but it prohibited any writing, preaching or other promulgation of any material which contradicted the doctrine set forth by the king since - significantly - 1540. A hefty fine was imposed for the possession of openly heretical books, to be effective almost immediately on the Act's coming in to force. After a further three months, such fines were to be imposed for any books which questioned any aspect of the new doctrinal settlement, even in passing. The Act also explicitly reaffirmed the Six Articles. [...]

However, the most notorious clause of the 1543 Act was directed not at evangelical books in general, but at the Bible. The well-established and quixotic ban on Tyndale's translation was reiterated, and Bibles with 'any annotacions or preambles' were banned. Only licensed clergy were now permitted to read from the Bible publicly. Nobles and gentry were permitted to read it aloud only within their own households. Merchants, noblewomen and gentlewomen might read it only privately. The whole of the rest of the population was now banned from reading the English Bible at all..." (Alec Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation, p.45-7.)

Contents, as given in "Contentes of this boke" on verso of title-page:

  • The declaration of faith
  • The articles of our belief called the Creed
  • The seven sacraments
  • The 10 commandments of Almighty God
  • The Lord's Prayer called the Pater Noster
  • The salutation of the angel called the Ave Maria
  • An article of free will
  • An article of justification
  • An article of good works
  • Of prayer for souls departed.

Bibliographic references:

STC 5170; ESTC S124666; Lowndes p.907 (erroneously citing a 1542 edition); Ames/Dibdin, Typographical Antiquities, Vol. 3, no.1254; Bernard Quaritch, Catalogue of the Monuments of the Early Printers, 1888, no.38153.

Physical description:

Quarto, textblock measures 183 mm x 132 mm. Bound in 19th-century diapered calf, boards with elaborate blindstamped borders, spine lettered and decorated in blind.

114 unnumbered leaves (forming 228 pages).
Signatures: A-Z4 a-d4 e6.

Printed in gothic types (black letter) of several sizes, with occasional use of Roman type. Title printed in Roman letter within architectural woodcut border with printer's initials 'TB' at bottom (McKerrow & Ferguson 50).

Woodcut royal arms of England on A4v with Tudor rose flanked by two angels holding banners inscribed with the motto: "Hec rosa virtutis de celo missa sereno / Eternum florens regia sceptra feret."
Numerous 5- and 6-line decorative or historiated woodcut initials.

"Contentes of this boke" on verso of title (A1v), followed by King Henry VIII's Preface (leaves A2r-A4r). Colophon, preceded by the pricing statement ("This boke bounde in paper bourdes or claspes, not to be solde aboue. xvi. d.") on last page (e6v).


Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete. Binding rubbed, joints worn and partially cracked, but still secure, both boards attached. Title leaf (A1) remargined on both recto and verso, without any loss to woodcut border or text; following three preliminary leaves with inner margin reinforced, and leaf A4 also with outer margin reinforced; colophon leaf e6 with top margin slightly cropped, and other margins reinforced, all without any loss. Several other leaves with minor marginal repairs to tips of the outer corners (without loss). Occasional light marginal dampstaining, mostly to corners. Occasional light soiling and spotting. In all, a complete, fairly clean and solid example of this important and scarce title, rarely found complete.

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1543 Henry Viii King's Book Necessary Doctrine Church Of England Tudor Anglican:

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