In this highly innovative study, Ian Green examines the complete array of Protestant titles published in England from the 1530s to the 1720s. These range from the large specialist volumes at the top to cheap tracts at the bottom, from radical on one wing to conservative on the other, and from instructive and devotional manuals to edifying-cum-entertaining works such as religious verse and cautionary tales. Wherever possible the author adopts a statistical approach to permit a focus on those works which sold most copies over a number of years, and in an annotated Appendix provides a brief description of over seven hundred best selling or steady selling religious titles of the period. A close study of these texts and the forms in which they were offered to the public suggests a rapid diversification of both the types of work published and of the readerships at which they were targeted. It also demonstrates shrewd publishers' frequent attempts to plug gaps in a rapidly expanding market. Where previous studies of print have tended to focus on the polemical and the sensational, this one highlights the didactic, devotional, and consensual elements found in most steady selling works.
It is also suggested that in these works there were at least three Protestantisms on offer an orthodox, clerical version, a moralistic, rational version favoured by the educated laity, and a popular version that was barely Protestant at all and that the impact of these probably varied both within and between different readerships. These conclusions shed much light not only on the means by which English Protestantism was disseminated, but also on the doctrinally and culturally diffused nature of English Protestantism by the end of the Stuart period. Both the text and the appendix should prove invaluable to anyone interested in the history of the Reformation or in printing as a medium of education and communication in early modern England.
Publisher: Oxford University Press