OF THE CHVRCH.(London: Imprinted by Humfrey Lownes, for Simon Waterson, 1606). 225 x 165 mm (8 7/8 x 6 1/2"). 8 p.l., 275, , 23 pp. FIRST EDITION.
Probably contemporary limp vellum, ink titling on spine, remnants of ties. Headpiece and printer's emblem on title page, large historiated initials, historiated headpieces and tailpieces. Front pastedown with bookplate of John Sparrow, title page with early inscription of the Reverend Henry Wright. STC 10857; Lowndes I, 796. Vellum a bit rumpled and soiled, very small portions of the vellum missing in two places, but the original unsophisticated binding still entirely solid and with significant appeal as a period survival. A handful of gatherings with very faint dampstain in lower corner, trivial worming in bottom margin of three leaves, other insignificant defects in the text, but still an excellent wide-margined copy with fresh leaves and deep impressions of the type.
This work constitutes a classic statement of the position of the Anglican church on such controversial topics as grace, the Bible, and the proper relationship of church and state, steering a cautious course between Catholicism and Lutheranism. Among the many "heretical" views denounced here is the notion that women could be priests. Of this book, Field's great work, DNB says, "It is needless to speak of a work which has long taken its stand by the side of Hooker among the grandest monuments of polemical divinity in the language." Despite the title, this volume contains (as it should) only four books (the fifth appeared in 1610), with an apology on the final page by the author, who "thought it more fit . . . to publish these foure Bookes by themselves than to stay them til the fift might bee added to them." Our copy does, however, contain the sometimes missing appended material at the end in which Field clarifies his position on some key points, including the doctrines of original sin and of transubstantiation. Richard Field (1561-1616, called "Feild" on the title page) was chaplain to James I and held other ecclesiastical offices, but spent most of his time in peaceful Burghclere, Hampshire, where he was rector and where learned men sought his conversation. Former owner John Sparrow (1906-92) was a barrister and literary critic who was elected dean of All Souls, Oxford, in 1952. He gave various talks on the BBC and was an avid as well as discriminating collector of books, letters, and paintings. (ST11022)