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Bunyan's Copy Of The Book Of Martyrs








There is no book, except the Bible, which Bunyan is known to have
perused so intently as the Acts and Monuments of John Fox, the
martyrologist, one of the best of men; a work more hastily than
judiciously compiled, but invaluable for that greater and far more
important portion which has obtained for it its popular name of The
Book of Martyrs. Bunyan's own copy of this work is in existence, and
valued of course as such a relic of such a man ought to be. It was
purchased in the year 1780, by Mr. Wantner, of the Minories; from him it
descended to his daughter, Mrs. Parnell, of Botolph-lane; and it was
afterwards purchased, by subscription, for the Bedfordshire General
Library.

This edition of The Acts and Monuments is of the date 1641, 3 vols,
folio, the last of those in the black-letter, and probably the latest
when it came into Bunyan's hands. In each volume he has written his name
beneath the title-page, in a large and stout print-hand. Under some of
the woodcuts he has inserted a few rhymes, which are undoubtedly his own
composition; and which, though much in the manner of the verses that
were printed under the illustrations of his own Pilgrim's Progress,
when that work was first adorned with cuts, (verses worthy of such
embellishments,) are very much worse than even the worst of those.
Indeed, it would not be possible to find specimens of more miserable
doggerel.

Here is one of the Tinker's tetrasticks, penned in the margin, beside
the account of Gardiner's death:--

"The blood, the blood that he did shed
Is falling one his one head;
And dredfull it is for to see
The beginers of his misere."

One of the signatures bears the date of 1662; but the verses must
undoubtedly have been some years earlier, before the publication of his
first tract. These curious inscriptions must have been Bunyan's first
attempts in verse: he had, no doubt, found difficulty enough in tinkering
them to make him proud of his work when it was done; otherwise, he would
not have written them in a book which was the most valuable of all his
goods and chattels. In later days, he seems to have taken this book for
his art of poetry. His verses are something below the pitch of Sternhold
and Hopkins. But if he learnt there to make bad verses, he entered fully
into the spirit of its better parts, and received that spirit into as
resolute a heart as ever beat in a martyr's bosom.


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