Printed on Parsons’ Press at Rouen

Parsons, Robert, S.J. (1546-1610)

A Christian directorie guiding men to their saluation. Deuided into three bookes. The first vvherof apperteining to resolution, is only conteined in this volume, deuided into tvvo partes, and set forth novv againe vvith many corrections, and additions by th’authour him self, vvith reprofe of the corrupt and falsified edition of the same booke lately published by M. Edm. Buny. Ther is added also a methode for the vse of al; with two tables, and a preface to the reader, which is necessarie to be reade

[Rouen: Printed at Fr. Parsons’s press], 1585


Duodecimo (in 8’s and 4’s): 14.5 x 8 cm. 23 leaves, 883, [21] p. Collation: a8(-a1) b4, c8, d4, A-Z8/4, Aa-Zz8/4; Aaa-Ccc8/4, Ddd-Eee8, Fff4

SECOND EDITION. A major revision and expansion.

Bound early in 18th c. speckled calf, paneled in blind, spine repaired, corners worn. Text a bit grubby, numerous light stains, margins trimmed close affecting some headlines and some side-notes. Ink smudge on leaf V1, small hole in lvs. H1 and Kk2, lvs. Ddd1 and 5 with marginal tears, no loss. Provenance: Alfred White, 19th c. bookplate. Ink inscription, “John Barlow 1716/15.”

The “Christian Directorie”, a landmark in English recusant literature, is an enlarged version of Parsons’ “Resolution” (published as "The first booke of the Christian exercise" in 1582). Parsons adds four completely new chapters, along with side-notes for addressing the “infinite corruptions, maymes, and manglings” in the Protestant adaptation of the book made by Edmund Bunny.

The printing was done on Parsons’ own make-shift press at Rouen, in “a voyde house given to the Society in a garden”, with the assistance of Stephen Brinkley and the merchant George Flinton. Both men had previously assisted Parsons’ in printing other books. Brinkley had run Parsons’ itinerant press in England before being captured and thrown in the Tower. Flinton had helped Parsons establish the Rouen press after the confiscation of Brinkley’s.

“Parsons’ book is a key document in the understanding of the impact of the Catholic reformation on England. Many Jesuits were subsequently to claim that they owed their vocation to a reading of the ‘Resolution.’ With its secure foundation in Scripture, St. Augustine, and St. Bernard, the work implicitly promoted the Roman church’s post-Tridentine claims of continuity and authority and challenged the Anglicans to produce their credentials. That challenge was in turn made explicit and reinforced by Parsons’ directly polemical works…

“The first version of the “Resolution” was completed by April 1582. In it, Parsons addressed both pastoral care and missionary activity. “To write a spiritual handbook, ‘some one sufficient direction for matters of life and spirit’ (as Parsons put it in his preface), rather than become embroiled in controversy, was in line with the Jesuit practice in Europe, relying on moral regeneration for the establishment of Catholic orthodoxy… Yet he also intended the book to reinforce the missionary campaign against compromise. In his correspondence he was consistently to link resolution with recusancy and consequent persecution, and he later explained that the ‘Resolution’ contained motives ‘to encourage Catholics to virtue and specially to patience and firm resolve to bear the present persecution.’

The 1585 revision:

“Bunny’s ‘neutralizing’ of the ‘Resolution’ was not the only, nor indeed the main, stimulus to Parsons to revise the book. He was influenced by the need for reprinting (by 1585, Parsons told Claudio Aquaviva, all of the copies of the first edition had been read to bits), a certain dissatisfaction with what he felt to be a hasty, unpolished first edition, the comments and criticisms of his colleagues, and a desire for a more reflective kind of devotion…

“The preface to the re-titled ‘Christian Directorie’ gives an efficient synopsis of the revision. Persons had reviewed and amplified some chapters, wholly altered some others, and added four new ones. Two of these, ‘of the Certaintie of one God,’ and ‘of our Christian faith and religion,’ were added because the heat of religious controversy was inducing an atmosphere of indifference and atheism: ‘a certaine contempt and careless insensibilitie in these affaires, esteeming all things to stand upon probabilitie only of dispute to and fro.’ Another chapter was added, ‘against despaire of Godes mercie,’ to correct an alleged over-emphasis on God’s judgement. He also ‘inserted divers chapters and discourses of matters more plausible, and of themselves more indifferent’ for the benefit of readers who might be discouraged by the unmitigated vehemence of the ‘Resolution.’ This would presumably apply to the new chapter of ‘examples of true resolution,’ which was entertaining (in the precise sense) rather than intimidating.”(Houliston, “Robert Persons S.J. – The Christian Directory, 1582)

Allison and Rogers, English Counter Reformation, II, 618; ESTC S114169; STC (2nd ed.), 19354.1