The Gunpowder Plot Foiled, James I Delivered from Massacre. An Extra-illustrated Copy

[Gunpowder Plot] James VI and I, (1566-1625), King of Scotland, England, and Ireland

Prayers and Thankesgiuing to be used by all the Kings Maiesties louing subiects, for the happy deliuerance of His Maiestie, the Queene, Prince, and States of the Parliament, from the most traitorous and bloodie intended massacre by gunpowder, the 5 of Nouember, 1605, set forth by authoritie

London: by Bonham Norton and Iohn Bill..., before 1629


Quarto: 17.8 x 13 cm. [51] pp. Collation: A-H4, G2

ONE OF SEVERAL EDITIONS printed between 1606 and ca. 1629.

Bound in 19thc. morocco and marbled boards. Title within 5 part illustrated woodcut border, royal arms on second leaf, printed in black letter, some shaving of headlines. Overall quite nice. Extra-illustrated with fine engraved 17thc. portraits of King James and his wife Anne of Denmark, the latter with slight loss to a corner, not affecting image. EXTREMELY rare. 3 copies in the U.K., no copies in North America.

The volume opens with "An act for publike thankesgiuing to almightie God, euery yeere on the fift day of Nouember", in which the author rehearses the attempt of "malignant and devilish papists, Jesuits, and seminary priests… suddenly to have blowen up… His Majestie, the Queene, the Prince, and all the Lords Spiritual and Temporal… with Gunpowder; An invention so inhumane, barbarous, and cruell as the like was never before heard of." Fortunately, we are told, God inspired James I to uncover the plot just hours before the bomb was to be detonated, thereby saving himself, his family and all of Parliament.

On midnight of November 4th, the notorious Guy Fawkes was discovered in a cellar under Westminster Hall with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes was arrested and disaster averted. He confessed under torture on the rack that he and his co-conspirators Robert Catesby (who instigated the plot), Thomas Percy, John Wright (Percy’s brother-in-law), and Thomas Wintour (1571-1606) had dug a "mine" (tunnel) beneath Parliament in order to place the gunpowder beneath the building. The other conspirators fled but were overtaken by the Sheriff of Worcestershire and his men. Catesby and Percy were killed; Wintour –who had been wounded in the arm- was captured, along with John Grant, and Ambrose Rookwood. All of the plotters were executed, with the exception of Fawkes, who broke his neck while trying to escape from the scaffold.

More than 400 years after the event, the Gunpowder Plot still maintains its place as a central event in England's history. If the plotters had succeeded, many of the achievements of James I's reign, from the colonization of Virginia (James I granted the Virginia Company a charter in 1606) to the creation of the King James Bible (begun in 1604 but not completed until 1611), might not have materialized. Moreover, England would have had to endure renewed religious, social, and political upheaval. The physical devastation alone would have been enormous. If the 36 kegs (an estimated 2,500 kilograms) of powder had exploded, the blast would have destroyed Westminster Abbey and undermined buildings as far away as Whitehall.

The foiling of the Plot is commemorated annually on November 5thas "Guy Fawkes' day" (so named after the most notorious of the plotters) and celebrated, appropriately, with fireworks, bonfires, and the burning in effigy of Fawkes.

ESTC S4760; STC 16497.1. STC conjectures a date of 1606 for the first publication of this pamphlet. All editions are rare, copies of this edition located at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Christchurch, Oxford, only.