Bunyan in chains

We can gain a remarkable insight into the use of Bunyan’s works thanks to a copy of the 1692 folio that has just been donated to the Angus Library and Archive, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, by the Faringdon Baptist Church, in Berkshire. While working in that Library, I was astonished to be shown what I believe is the only chained copy of the folio in existence. A portion of the rusty chain is still attached to the book, and a fly-leaf note, bearing the name of Philip Farmer, describes how the book was to be used in its original home :

This book was given by Phillip ffarmer to the Church of Christ meeting at their meeting house in Westbrook at ffaringdon, Constituted of such only as are baptized upon profession of their faith; to abide fixed in their meeting house for the use of all such whether members or hearers as shall resort thither at convinient seasons to read in it or hear any part of it read; Never to be moved from their present meeting house so long as they or their succcessours of the same faith and order shall possess and use the same for their meeting house; and if ever that church so constituted shall remove to another meeting place or be [letters deleted] divided, it is the will of the donor that the greatest number of such members as afores[ai]d that shall hold together shall possess and enjoy this book for common use as aforesaid This is declared by the donor the first day of ffebruary anno dom[in]j 1711

                                                                                                Phillip ffarmer

Witness. Tho: Langley

This is a unique document, describing how the Bunyan folio was to be permanently kept in the meeting house, for all those wishing to read it, or be read to from it, when stepping into the building. The volume does not possess the frontispiece, the list of subscribers, or the index dedication.

Faringdon Baptist Church, Bromsgrove face, http://www.geograph.org.uk © Roger Templeman, CC BY-SA 2.0

Faringdon Baptist Church, Bromsgrove face,http://www.geograph.org.uk © Roger Templeman, CC BY-SA 2.0

A 19th-century loose sheet inserted in the volume, simply entitled ‘Baptist Church, Faringdon,’ reveals the full contents of a second fly-leaf, which is unfortunately torn. The text runs:

‘A book of Bunyan’s works, originally presented to the Church in the year 1711, by Philip Farmer, and removed by Thomas Mace to prevent it being stolen in the year 1761, was restored by Mr. J. Broad, of Reading, May 21st 1888, particulars of each circumstances being written on the fly-lead of the book, now chained to [an] antique oak lectern in its original position in the Chapel’.

The Angus Library and Archive now possesses three copies of the folio, whose editorial history might still yield some surprises. For those unfamiliar with their wonderful records, see their website, http://theangus.rpc.ox.ac.uk

With many thanks to Emma Walsh and Emily Burgoyne.

Anne Page, Oxford, July 2014

IJBS’s meeting at Harlington Manor

Joel Halcomb, David Parry, Roger Pooley, Bob Owens, David Walker, Nathalie Collé-Bak, Tamsin Spargo, Michael Davies, Anne Page, Christopher Page, Lydia Saul and Vera Camden.

Joel Halcomb, David Parry, Roger Pooley, Bob Owens, David Walker, Nathalie Collé-Bak, Tamsin Spargo, Michael Davies, Anne Page, Christopher Page, Lydia Saul and Vera Camden.

To stand in the very room where John Bunyan waited to be interrogated at Harlington manor in Bedfordshire; to follow his footsteps into the main part of the house where the questioning took place; to find the same panelling on the wall that Bunyan would have seen and the same fireplace where the fire would have been roaring that chilly November evening in 1660: this was all an extraordinary experience for twelve members of IJBS when the society held its first ever spring-day meeting at Harlington Manor on 23rd May 2014. There were members from France, Britain and the USA.

Bunyan window in Harlington Church

After a short train journey from London St Pancras, we gathered for a pub lunch in the village before meeting the present owner of Harlington Manor, David Blakeman. David then gave us a most interesting and erudite tour of the house culminating in the visit to the two rooms mentioned above. This was a moving occasion for us all, since for most of us it was our first visit to the house and gardens.

We then retreated to the dining room for a meeting held in two parts: Vera Camden, currently on a research trip to Dr Williams’s Library, London, spoke about her forthcoming edition of Mary Franklin’s commonplace book and ‘experience’, a manuscript of the 1680s taken up a hundred years later by her granddaughter Hannah Burton. Then David Parry presented some of his current work on conceptions of rhetoric and allegory in Puritan writings.

???????????????????????David Blakeman’s six-year old son Alex is currently collecting for Addenbrookes charity, so during our break, after the two papers, we were served tea and delicious cakes for a modest contribution to this worthy cause.

The second part of the afternoon was dedicated to IJBS business, according to the following agenda:

  • 2016 Triennial Conference planning (report by President, Anne Page)
  • Links with other relevant societies
  • Membership (report by Secretary, Bob Owens)
  • Finance (report by European Treasurer, David Walker)
  • Website and communication with members (report by President, Anne Page)
  • The Recorder (report by Editor, Nathalie Collé-Bak)
  • Bunyan Studies (report by Editor, Bob Owens)

 IMG_0943The ensuing discussion concluded that the IJBS should pursue three main actions in the next few months: (1) to encourage institutional membership by targeting libraries and institutions with Dissenting interests, (2) to place panels, introducing the society and its work, in the programmes or accompanying literature for international conferences, and (3) to institute a category of Honorary Membership. Furthermore, Bob Owens and David Walker announced plans for an Annual Bunyan Symposium to be convened conjointly by the Universities of Bedfordshire and Northumbria. Those who have seen the magnificent (and imminent) edition of The Recorder prepared by Nathalie Collé-Bak were able to give her the warmest praise and thanks, while others wait in eager anticipation!

Owner David Blakeman with Committee members Bob Owens, David Walker and Nathalie Collé-Bak

Owner David Blakeman with Committee members Bob Owens, David Walker and Nathalie Collé-Bak

The IJBS Harlington day was a truly memorable event, combining historical interest, research, Society business and true companionship. We hope to hold another one of these before too long! We would all like to thank David Blakeman and his family most warmly, for welcoming us to a house of such very great significance to Bunyanists, Bob Owens, for devising the magnificent programme, and the members of the IJBS who were willing to contribute in this way to the life of our Society.

Anne Page, Aix-Marseille Université

First performance of new work based on The Pilgrim’s Progress

Cliff Falling by Simon Rackham

Cliff Falling by Simon Rackham

‘On Sunday 23rd March 2014, members of Bedford School, Bedford Girls’ School and Pilgrim’s Pre-Preparatory School will be joining forces with professional vocal ensemble VOCES8 and the Phoenix Orchestra to present the first performance of a specially commissioned work ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ composed and directed by Harvey Brough.

The work was commissioned with generous support from the Bedford School Trust; with a specially written libretto by James Runcie, it re-tells the classic allegorical story of Bunyan’s hero ‘Christian’ as he makes his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City’

The first performance of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ will take place on Sunday 23rd March 2014 at 7.30pm in the Great Hall, Bedford School. Tickets, priced £8 (£4 students) are available from the Bedford School Music Box Office Tel : 01234 362254, Email : rielden@bedfordschool.org.uk

For more information download the leaflet here .

BUNYAN STUDIES 17 (2013): FORTHCOMING

By W.R. Owens

WHH portraitThe 2013 number of Bunyan Studies is now in press and will be available in early March. It is a special number marking the one hundredth anniversary of the death of the novelist William Hale White, better known by his literary pseudonym ‘Mark Rutherford’. White was born in Bedford on 22 December 1831, and died in Groombridge in Kent on 14 March 1913. It is appropriate that he is being commemorated in Bunyan Studies, because his parents were prominent members of Bunyan Meeting and White himself attended it every week up until he was about seventeen. Among the last things he wrote was a book-length study of Bunyan, published in 1905. He is best remembered for the six novels he published between 1881 and 1896: The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (1881); Mark Rutherford’s Deliverance (1885); The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887); Miriam’s Schooling (1890); Catherine Furze (1893); and Clara Hopgood (1896).

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A walking tour…

By Roger Pooley

‘whereas Christian goes on a pilgrimage, Christiana goes on a walking-tour’

This quotation was posted on Facebook by Jameela Lares, with a plea to get the source of it to her before she taught The Pilgrim’s Progress that morning. I’m sorry that it’s taken me rather longer than that, other than a vague memory, but I thought other members of the Society might like to know the results.

It comes from ‘The Identity of the Pseudo-Bunyan’ in Ronald Knox, Essays in Satire (London, 1928: Sheed & Ward), on p.206. The essay is one of a number of satires on biblical source criticism and other ‘modern’ theological ideas of the time – the volume also contains a poem in the manner of Dryden, ‘Absolute and Abitofhell’. The essay itself invents a number of Bunyanesque pseudo-scholars: among them Professor Sack-the-lot, Mr Tithe-mint, and my personal favourite, Canon Obvious, the author of Dear Old Bunyan. The quotation in question is actually ascribed to Mr Muck-rake’s On the Trail of the Pilgrims, as the climax to a whole series of inconsistencies that he has pointed out between Parts One and Two.
The conclusion, after a discussion of the differences between the two parts which (ironies aside) is still worth attending to, is too magnificent not to quote at length. He draws attention to Great-heart’s ‘panegyric upon women’ where:
‘he traces the influence of women in the Gospels with the avowed object of showing that they were ahead of the other sex from end to end of the story. It is my own belief, though one which I offer with all due reserve to the public, that this is the true reading of the problem. The fortunes of Christiana, strange as it may seem, were foisted upon the world by a woman, jealous for the credit of her own sex, and an Anglican, equally jealous for the reputation of a much-maligned and recently persecuted Church.’ (p.219)