Context

Textual Introduction

These two works, titled The first examinacyon (1546, STC 848) and The latter examinacyon (1547, STC 850) respectively, are of interest not only in their surviving bibliographic manifestations but also for their socio-political and cultural significance. Describing state-sanctioned torture of a twenty-five year old woman geared towards the control of religious belief, the two texts are intensely subjective documents providing fascinating insights into the workings of the early Tudor society and politics that they unwittingly document. They were printed many times during the course of the sixteenth century (interestingly, both with and without Bale’s commentary)<fn>Kimberley Anne Coles sees this omission as substantiating the view that Bale’s commentary was perhaps ‘counter-productive’ to the success of the books and that it depended upon the appeal of the martyred figure of Askew herself rather than Bale’s propagandist polemic. See Kimberly Anne Coles, Religion, Reform, and Women’s Writing in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 41</fn> and could be said to have became modest bestsellers,<fn>Leslie P. Fairfield calls it ‘something of an early best-seller,’ Kimberly Anne Coles concurs that it was a ‘terrific commercial success.’ See Leslie P. Fairfield, John Bale: Mythmaker for the English Reformation (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1976), 135 and Kimberly Anne Coles, Religion, Reform, op. cit. 17–18.</fn> so much so that John Foxe considered them important enough to warrant an inclusion in his own ambitious project. Indeed, Foxe printed them in a Latin version (with an introductory note and a 32-line Latin eulogy) as well as an English one in the Actes and Monumentes (1563).<fn> The Latin version is Foxe’s Rerum in ecclesia gestarum[ . . . ]commentarii (Basel: Nicholaus Brylinger and Johannes Oporinus, 1559). The Actes and monuments of these latter and perillous dayes (London: John Day, 1563), STC 11222.</fn> Thomas Bentley’s Monument of matrones (1582), too, excerpted ‘The praier by Anne Askue the Martyr, before hir death’ in its mammoth collection.<fn>Thomas Bentley, The monument of matrones: conteining seuen seuerall lamps of virginitie, or distinct treatises; whereof the first fiue concerne praier and meditation: the other two last, precepts and examples, as the woorthie works partlie of men, partlie of women; compiled for the necessarie vse of both sexes out of the sacred Scriptures, and other approoued authors, by Thomas Bentley of Graies Inne student (London: Henry Denham, 1582), STC 1892–94; see Lamp 2 (STC 1892), sig. T5v (p. 214).</fn> Among contemporary translations too, accounts of her narrative survive, not surprisingly, in Dutch and German versions.<fn> The Dutch version is in De geschiedenisse ende den doodt de vromer martelaren (‘The Lives and Deaths [literally the histories/events and killings] of the Pious Martyrs,’ trans. mine) (Emden, 1559), printed by Adriaan van Haemstede. It is discussed in Thomas S. Freeman and Sarah Elizabeth Wall, ‘Racking the Body, Shaping the Text: The Account of Anne Askew in Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs,’’ Renaissance Quarterly 54 (2001): 1165–96, 1170. Freeman and Wall believe that Bale actually edited out a dialogue between Askew and Bishop Stephen Gardiner which van Haemstede retains and reproduces in his martyrology. Ludwig Rabus used the Examinations in his Historien der heyligen ausserwölten gottes zeügen, bekennern vnnd martyrern (Accounts of God’s Holy Chosen Witnesses, Confessors, and Martyrs) (Strasbourg: Sammuel Emmel, 1555–57); see John N. King, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and Early Modern Print Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 41–42, 177–78.</fn>

Bale’s presentation of the texts are an important part of the experience of Anne Askew’s paradoxically unique and typical voice. To witness, let alone analyse, how Bale moulds and shapes the newly-martyrd young woman’s words of suffering and faith to further his own partisan cause is illuminating and deeply rewarding, although it has received a great deal of negative scholarly attention.<fn>See, for instance, Coles, Religion, Reform, op. cit., 31.</fn> His copious annotation and polemic ‘elucydacyon’ has been seen as stifling/distorting the woman author’s ‘authentic’ voice. Foxe too has not been exempt from this charge, and most modern teaching editions has silenced Bale’s voice in their versions much more effectively than Bale could possibly have done to Askew’s.<fn>Both Stephen Greenblatt et al., eds., The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th ed., vol. B, ‘The Sixteenth Century/The Early Seventeenth Century’ (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012), 684–88 and Joseph L. Black et al. eds., The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, 2nd ed., vol. 2, ‘The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century’ (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2010), 88–93 print extracts from the interrogation followed by Foxe’s description of Askew’s death.</fn> As Clare Costley argues with the help of the theory of ‘remediation’ developed within new media studies in an incisive and perceptive recent essay, Bale’s structuring and embellishment of Askew’s voice is important in the overall textual experience of these works.<fn>Clare L. Costley, ‘Authenticity and Excess in The Examinations of Anne Askew,’ Reformation, 19.1 (2014), 21–39.</fn> This edition thus tries to give as much weightage to Bale’s marginalia and often strident preaching as it does to the remarkable chronicle of Anne Askew’s torture and death.

According to the STC, there are copies of no. 848 at the British Library (two copies); The Bodleian Library; Worcester College, Oxford; Cambridge University Library (two copies); Lincoln Cathedral Library; the Folger Shakespeare Library; the Huntington Library; and the Houghton Library, Harvard University. STC 850 exists at all the above locations except the Huntington Library; the British Library carries three copies and the Cambridge University library has two of them. Of the extant ten copies of STC 850, four are censored (pages pasted together, pages cut). A later edition of STC 848 is STC 849, printed in London by Robert Waldegrave in 1585 (one copy in the British Library, another at the Folger Shakespeare Library). Both ‘Examinations’ were printed together in 1547 by Nicholas Hill (STC 851, a copy at Christ Church, Oxford); by William Hill in 1548 (STC 852, one copy at the Bodleian Library and one at the Folger Shakespeare Library); by William Copland around 1550 (STC 852.5, single known copy at the Pierpont Morgan Library); and one around 1560 (STC 853, unique copy at the British Library). John Foxe also printed the ‘true copy’ of Askew’s confession from the Bishop’s Register in his Acts and Monuments in 1563.<fn>For more bibliographical details see Elaine Beilin ed. The Examinations of Anne Askew (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), xlv–lvii</fn>

As has been noted above, Askew’s texts were very popular at the time. After a hiatus of a few centuries they were revived in 1831 by the Religious Tracts Society, which had moderate success, running to four editions.<fn>Writings of Edward the Sixth, William Hugh, Queen Catherine Parr, Anne Askew, Lady Jane Grey, Hamilton and Balnaves. London: The Religious Tract Society; 56 Paternoster Row; 65 St Paul’s Churchyard; and 164 Piccadilly; and sold by the Booksellers. n.d., 1831, 1836, 1840, 186[?]. Republished in British Reformers (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1842), vol. 3.</fn> Two modernised versions came out in 1849, one with the intriguing title The Account of the Sufferings of Anne Askew for opposing the Gross Fiction of Transubstantiation which is So repugnant to Truth and Common Sense, and Has No Warranty Whatever from Scripture, Written by Herself and Re-printed by a Catholic;<fn> London: Francis & John Rivington/St Paul’s Church Yard, & Waterloo Palace, 1849.</fn> the other as part of a volume of the selected works of John Bale published by the Parker Society.<fn>Select Works of John Bale, D.D., Bishop of Ossory, Containing the examinations of Lord Cobham, William Thorpe, and Anne Askewe, and the Image of Both Churches. Edited for The Parker Society by the Rev. Henry Christmas, M.A. F.R.S. F.S.A. Librarian and Secretary of Sion College, Cambridge: Printed at the University Press. 1849</fn> Elaine Beilin’s critical edition<fn> Beilin, Examinations, op. cit.</fn> and the first volume of the facsimile series ‘Early Modern Englishwoman’ edited by Betty Travitsky and Patrick Cullen (Scolar Press, 1996) are the two major scholarly resources available. Among modern teaching texts, the anthology edited by Randall Martin’s is the only version that offers the complete annotated texts but again without Bale’s commentary and notes.<fn>Randall Martin ed., Women Writers in Renaissance England: An Annotated Anthology (New York: Routledge, 2014), 58–79.</fn> Although richly deserving of study from various points of view, these texts do not yet have proper scholarly representation online. Indeed, at the time of writing, the only electronic source other than EEBO for STC 848 and STC 850 appear to be the Women Writers Online archive, which does not provide free access to the texts. All the other available online texts at the time of writing are reproduced from Foxe’s edition. The ambition of this edition is to present the texts in as minute detail as possible, and in as rounded a context, so that they can support readings from a plethora of scholarly perspectives.

Below is a tabular presentation of the extant copies of the texts published in the sixteenth century. It has been prepared from the following sources:

  • The British Library English Short Title Catalogue
  • A.W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave (W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson, and Katharine F. Pantzer) eds. A Short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English books printed abroad 1475–1640 (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976–1991. Second edition, revised and enlarged, 3 vols.). Referred to as STC or STC (2nd ed.) sitewide.
  • Elaine Beilin ed., The Examinations of Anne Askew (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

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