The Works of William Tyndale: The Most Important Figure of the Early English Reformation

Tyndale, William (ca. 1494-1536), Frith, John (1503-1533); Barnes, Robert (1495-1540)

The Whole Workes of W. Tyndall, John Frith, and Doct. Barnes, three most worthy Martyrs, and principall Teachers of this Churche of England, collected and compiled in one Tome togither, before beyng scattered, & now in Print here exhibited to the Church …

London: Printed by John Daye, and are to be sold at his Shop … An. 1572 1573


Folio: pp. [14], 478, [18, index], [4], 3-172, [4, index], [8], 183-376, [4]. A4, B4(-B4) C-Y4 Aa-Yy6 AA-BB6 CC6(±CC3) DD-EE6, FF-GG4 HH6(-HH1) II-XX6 YY4 *3A4 3A6(-3A1) 3B-3Q6 3R4. Complete.


This is the variant with 1572 rather than 1573 in the imprint (altered in manuscript to 1573 as always). Bound in contemporary blind-tooled calf over wooden boards, rebacked. A crisp copy with minor cosmetic faults: the title-page is slightly dusty; there is a pale dampstain to head at front, a small flaw to BB2, a tear to EE4. The final leaf soiled, just shaving the woodcut. Illustrated with three half-page woodcut illustrations, two of which show the martyrdoms of Tyndale and Barnes. There are title-pages to each part within woodcut borders (McKerrow & Ferguson 76). Leaves B4, HH1 and AAa1 are cancelled as always; ESTC states ‘CC3 is a cancel’, but we can find no evidence of that in this copy. A very desirable copy of a book often found in poor condition. Excellent.

First edition, edited by John Foxe, of the works of Tyndale, Frith, and Barnes, with brief lives drawn from his Book of Martyrs. The works of Tyndale, translator of the Bible into English, occupy the better part of the volume.


‘We have great cause to geeve thankes to the high providence of the almighty God, for the excellent arte of Printing, most happely of late found out, and now commonly practised every where, to the singular benefite of Christes Church … Wherfore such Printers in my mynde, are not to be defrauded of their due commendation, who in pretermitting other light triflyng pamflets of matter unneedful, and impertinent, little serving to purpose, lesse to necessitie, doe employe their endeavour and workemanship chiefly to restore such fruitfull workes and monumentes of auncient writers, and blessed Martyrs: who as by theiry godly lyfe, and constant death, gave testimonie to the trueth …’ (Preface).


In the second edition of his Actes and Monuments (1570), Foxe had promised his readers an edition of the works of Tyndale, Frith and Barnes. His aims were twofold, apologetic and pastoral – to demonstrate the logic of embracing the gospel, and to offer spiritual guidance: ‘Briefly, whatsoever thou art, if thou be yong, of John Frith: if thou be in middle age, of W. Tyndall: if in elder years of D. Barnes, matter is here to be founde, not onely of doctrine to enforme thee, of comfort to delyte thee, of godly ensample to directe thee: but also of special admiration, to make thee to wonder at the workes of the Lord’ (‘Epistle or Preface’).

Tyndale’s works fittingly head and dominate the volume; they were first collected here and were not reprinted until the nineteenth century. The introductory biographies by Foxe largely taken from the Actes but with some new additions (such as the ‘few notes touching [Tyndale’s] private behaviour in diet, study [etc.]’); the first two woodcuts, of the martyrdoms of Tyndale and Barnes, were also taken from the Actes, but the last, an allegorical ‘lively picture describyng the authoritie and substance of Gods most blessed word, weyghing agaynst Popish traditions’, appears for the first time here.

“Tyndale was in the vanguard of the popular English Reformation. His books, especially The Wicked Mammon, The Obedience, and his expositions of Romans, gathered to a head the widespread revulsion at the corruptions and superstitions of the church as it then was, all of which are clearly described. Scripture had to be the base for these judgements, and it was spelt out with clarity and excellent scholarship, from the original languages. From the great release that justification by faith brings to the sinner, Tyndale showed, always in the language of the New Testament, that central to a Christian's life were not curious rituals and practices, but the promises of God. He was passionate in his wish that England could be a Christian state under a Christian prince, free from the intrusions of a totally alien system stemming from the bishop of Rome.

“The great change that came over England from 1526, the ability of every ordinary man, woman, and child to read and hear the whole New Testament in English, accurately rendered, was Tyndale's work, and its importance cannot be overstressed. The Vulgate was incomprehensible to the ploughboy and most of his familiars throughout the land. Now all four gospels could be read, often aloud, in their entirety, and the whole of Paul. A useful definition of the popular reformation is ‘people reading Paul’. There is no shortage of evidence of the gatherings of people of all ages, all over the country, to read and hear these English scriptures—and reading meant, so often, reading aloud.

“Tyndale as the first translator of Hebrew into English stands up well to informed scrutiny. His understanding of New Testament theology, and how it related to the Old Testament, pointed forward. He left Luther behind. His fresh appraisals from the Greek effectively liberated New Testament theology in English, allowing the possibility of reinterpretation in every generation, as had clearly happened in the life of the early church.

“Tyndale's gift to the English language is unmeasurable. He translated into a register just above common speech, allied in its clarity to proverbs. It is a language which still speaks directly to the heart. His aims were always accuracy and clarity. King James's revisers adopted his style, and his words, for much of the Authorized Version. At a time when European scholars and professionals communicated in Latin, Tyndale insisted on being understood by ordinary people. He preferred a simple Saxon syntax of subject–verb–object. His vocabulary is predominantly Saxon, and often monosyllabic. An Oxford scholar, he was always rhetorically alert. He gave the Bible-reading nation an English plain style. It is a basis for the great Elizabethan writers, and there is truth in the remark ‘without Tyndale, no Shakespeare’. It is not fanciful to see a chief agent of the energizing of the language in the sixteenth century in the constant reading of the Bible in English, of which Tyndale was the great maker.”(David Daniell, ODNB)

STC 24436; Luborsky & Ingram. Engl. illustrated books, 1536-1603, 24436; McKerrow & Ferguson 76