In Defence of the Scottish Presbyterians. Printed at Edinburgh by Robert Waldegrave

Penry, John (1559-1593)

A Briefe Discovery of the Untruthes and Slanders (Against the True Government of the Church of Christ) contained in a sermon, preached the 8. [sic] of Februarie 1588. by D. Bancroft, and since that time, set forth in print, with additions by the said authour. This short ansvver may serue for the clearing of the truth, vntill a larger confutation of the sermon be published.

Edinburgh: Robert Waldegrave, 1590


Quarto: 7 x 5 in. [8], 56 pp. Collation: A-H4 (lacking preliminary blank A1).


Bound in later boards. A nice copy. Some side notes and catchwords shaved. A little light dampstaining. Discreet repair to a few leaves.

In this tract, the Puritan martyr John Penry defends the Scottish Presbyterians against accusations of disloyalty made by Richard Bancroft, future Archbishop of Canterbury. The book was published anonymously in Edinburgh by Robert Waldegrave (c.1554–1603/4), who had published Penry’s earlier works on a series of secret presses in England. Waldegrave and Penry both fled England in 1589 to escape persecution and arrest. Waldegrave arrived in Scotland in the spring of 1590 and in October of that same year, James VI appointed Waldegrave king’s printer.

John Penry in Scotland:

“Hospitably received by the Edinburgh ministers, in A briefe discovery of the untruthes and slanders (against the true governement of the church of Christ) Penry tried to repay their generosity by defending Scottish presbyterians against the aspersions of disloyalty made by Bancroft in his Paul's Cross sermon of February 1589. Robert Waldegrave published this tract without attribution early in 1590. Following protests from the English ambassador about Penry's activities, James VI had him proclaimed an outlaw in the summer of 1590, but apart from a clandestine visit to London at the time of the Hacket conspiracy in July 1591, Penry succeeded in remaining quietly in Scotland for a further two years.”(Claire Cross, ODNB)

Penry later returned to England and was hanged for treason in 1593, at the age of thirty.

Robert Waldegrave, Scotland’s Most prolific Printer:

“Long before he arrived in Scotland Waldegrave had direct and indirect contacts with that country. Both Penry and Udall had strong Scottish associations, Penry joining Waldegrave in Scottish exile in 1589. Moreover Waldegrave had earlier printed for the Scottish reformed church, including Knox's confession of faith in 1581. When he came to Scotland he was welcomed as the first printer of the puritan Booke of the Forme of Common Prayer (1584–5), a book banned by the English Star Chamber. But Waldegrave impressed James VI as well as the kirk, and on 9 October 1590 he was appointed to the vacant position of king's printer and came under royal protection. Over the next thirteen years, at an undiscovered Edinburgh address, he printed over 100 works, making him the most prolific Scottish printer of the sixteenth century. His ‘puritan’ output did not cease overnight and he produced two anonymous editions by Penry (1590) and openly printed the works of committed Scottish presbyterians like John Davidson and James Melville. As well as the writings of puritans and presbyterians, Waldegrave published William Welwood's The Sea-Law of Scotland (1590), the earliest British book of maritime jurisprudence, John Napier's popular millenarian work A Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of Saint John (1593), and much else. His press is best known, however, as the mouthpiece of the major works of King James: his Poetical Exercises (1591), Daemonologie (1597, reprinted 1600), The Trew Law (1598), and Basilikon doron (1599, reprinted 1603).

“Waldegrave's ‘pirated editions’, such as Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia (1599), were not pirates in the Scottish market. Nevertheless, these editions were resented by the Stationers' Company, just as his Edinburgh-produced puritan tracts were by the English government. Both types of production were subject to confiscation when they crossed into England. In general Waldegrave introduced a measure of Anglicization to the Scottish press, both in language and manners, such as the greater incidence of printed dedications. He suffered little government interference in Scotland, though King James was angered by some of Davidson's views. Nonetheless, in February 1597 Waldegrave was charged with ‘tressonabill imprenting’ an act of parliament (Pitcairn, 2.2). He was, indeed, the only Scottish printer to be tried for treason. Waldegrave's crime was to print, without permission, a version of the so-called Golden Acts of 1592 authorizing presbyterianism, and in a form too embarrassing for the increasingly Erastian regime of 1597. He was found guilty by the high court of justiciary, but the charge was set aside when it was found that a clerk of register had furnished him with the act.

“Leaving his wife to continue printing in Edinburgh, in 1603 Waldegrave followed King James to London. This was a return he had hoped for during all his years in Scotland, but it was to be brief. He obtained a licence with the Stationers' Company in June that year, but had died by February 1604. The following month his widow sold certain of his Scottish printing privileges to Thomas Finlason, who also took possession of Waldegrave's printing materials. His office of royal printer, held for life only, reverted to the crown. In spite of generalized information conveyed by the Marprelate pamphlets very little is known in detail about his family. Presumably he married his wife Mary c.1580, as they had six children before they came to Scotland. A seventh child, Robert, was born in Edinburgh in September 1596. No will and testament has survived and his place of burial is unknown.”(A. J. Mann, ODNB)

ESTC S114383; STC (2nd ed.), 19603