Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Injunctions of 1559 – With Injunctions Regulating the Printing of Books

[Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533-1603)]

Iniunctions geuen by the Queenes Maiestie, anno Domini 1559, the fyrst yere of the raigne of our soueraigne lady Queene Elizabeth

No place, no printer [R. Jugge], ca. ? 1572


Quarto: 18.2 x 12.3 cm. [32] p. Collation: A-D4

Bound in 20th c. paneled calf, spine sunned. The fore-edges of this copy have been abraded and are a little brittle, slightly affecting the title border and costing some letters in the side notes. The title is set within four-part decorative border with the printer’s initials (R.I.) at the foot within a circle with the motto “Omnia Desuper”. Provenance: early inscription “Tho: Baker Coll: Jo: Socius [e]jectus”. This is Thomas Baker (1656-1740), clergyman, antiquary, and book collector.(See foot of this description for more details of his activities.)

Extremely rare. ESTC locates 1 copy (Cambridge, St. John’s College). A total of 10 editions of the 1559 injunctions were printed between 1559 and ca. 1574 (all dates in ESTC are conjectural and marked with “?”). In aggregate, the number of copies from all editions combined that are held in North America is 7. Holdings as follows: Folger (1559?), Berkeley (1559?), Folger, Huntington, LC (1569?), Union Theological (1559?), Harvard Law (1574?)

The Royal Injunctions of 1559 were one of the five principal elements of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, along with the Act of Supremacy, Act of Uniformity, The Thirty-Nine Articles, and The Book of Common Prayer. With the death of Mary Tudor in 1558, the newly-enthroned Elizabeth I set about re-establishing the Protestant reforms enacted under Edward VI (d. 1553) and healing the schism that existed between Protestants and Catholics, through a blend of mildness (people were to live in charity and to avoid religious epithets like ‘papist’ or ‘schismatic’ as words of reproach) and severity (all forms and symbols of Catholic worship were to be abolished.)

The Injunctions were drawn up by William Cecil and his advisers, and were ready in June 1559 to be taken by the Royal Visitors as they set out for every parish throughout the kingdom. As announced at the opening of the document, the Injunctions would serve to suppress “superstition throughout all her highness's realms and dominions, and plant true religion to the extirpation of all hypocrisy, enormities, and abuses.”

To deal with the abuses of the ministers, the injunctions stipulated that no ecclesiastical person shall “haunt or resort to any taverns or alehouses. And after their meats, they shall not give themselves to drinking or riot, spending their time idly by day and by night at dice, cards, or tables playing.” 

In order to suppress Catholic worship, curates were commanded to “take away, utterly extinct, and destroy all shrines, coverings of shrines, all tables, candlesticks, trindals, and rolls of wax, pictures, paintings, and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry, and superstition, so that there remain no memory of the same in walls, glass windows, or elsewhere within their churches and houses; preserving nevertheless, or repairing both the walls and glass windows; and they shall exhort all their parishioners to do the like within their several houses.”

As for superstition and witchcraft, “no persons shall use charms, sorceries, enchantments, witchcraft, soothsaying, or any suchlike devilish device, nor shall resort at any time to the same for counsel or help.”

Injunctions Regulating the Press

“Two of the Injunctions refer specifically to books. The first, item 6, required the clergy to provide for their parish "one boke of the whole Byble of the largest volume in Englyshe" (at the expense of the parish) which was to be "set vp in some conuenient place within the said Churche" so that their parishioners should be able to read the same "with greate humilitie and reuerence" outside the times of common service. [The same injunction orders that Erasmus’ Paraphrases, in the English translation of 1549] be purchased. The second, item 51, concerned the licensing of books, and contained essentially three discrete provisions. The first set out that "no manner of person shall print any manner of boke or paper, of what sort, nature, or in what language soeuer it be" unless it was first licensed either by the queen herself, or by six of her Privy Council, the chancellors of the universities, or the ecclesiastical authorities referred to within the Injunctions. The second referred specifically to the High Commission who were charged with licensing "any manner of bokes or papers" to ensure that no publication contain anything "either heretical, sedicious, or vnsemely for Christian eares". Finally, item 51 included a proviso that "these orders do not extend to anye prophane [that is, secular] aucthors, and workes in any language, that hath ben before commonly receyued or allowed in any the vnyuersities or Scoles: But the same may be printed and vsed, as by good order they are accustomed". Of these two injunctions Arber writes that they "were the sole foundation of, and the primal authority for, all Protestant Episcopal licensing of books in England".(Deazley, R. (2008) ‘Commentary on the Elizabethan Injunctions 1559', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer.)

Injunction 51:

“Because there is a great abuse in the printers of books, which for covetousness chiefly regard not what they print, so they may have gain, whereby ariseth great disorder by publication of unfruitful, vain, and infamous books and papers; the queen's majesty straitly charges and commands, that no manner of person shall print any manner of book or paper, of what sort, nature, or in what language soever it be, except the same be first licensed by her majesty by express words in writing, or by six of her privy council; or be perused and licensed by the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishop of London, the chancellors of both universities, the bishop being ordinary, and the archdeacon also of the place, where any such shall be printed, or by two of them, whereof the ordinary of the place to be always one. And that the names of such as shall allow the same to be added in the end of every such work, for a testimony of the allowance threof.

“And because many pamphlets, plays, and ballads be oftentimes printed, wherein regard would be had that nothing therein should be either heretical, seditious, or unseemly for Christian ears; her majesty likewise commands that no manner of person shall enterprise to print any such, except the same be to him licensed by such her majesty's commissioners, or three of them, as be appointed in the city of London to hear and determine divers causes ecclesiastical, tending to the execution of certain statutes made the last Parliament for uniformity of order in religion. 

“And if any shall sell or utter any manner of books or papers, being not licensed as is above-said, that the same party shall be punished by order of the said commissioners, as to the quality of the fault shall be thought meet. And touching all other books of matters of religion, or policy, or governance that have been printed, either on this side the seas or on the other side, because the diversity of them is great, and that there needs good consideration to be had of the particularities thereof, her majesty refers the prohibition or permission thereof to the order which her said commissioners within the city of London shall take and notify. According to the which her majesty straitly commands all manner her subjects, and especially the wardens and company of Stationers, to be obedient.

“Provided that these orders do not extend to any profane authors and works in any language, that have been heretofore commonly received or allowed in any the universities or schools, but the same may be printed and used as by good order they were accustomed.”

Thomas Baker: Antiquary and book collector

“In the first decade of the eighteenth century Baker began a thorough study of the past, especially that of his college and of his university. For a nonjuror and antiquarian scholar at that period Cambridge was not the most congenial environment, yet Baker came to be one of the best informed historical and antiquarian scholars of his day. Not only was he the expert on St John's College, he was also familiar with the holdings of the other college libraries and the university library. He was sent material by scholars and friends from all over England, and he had access to books and manuscripts from some of the best collections in the country, including those of Harley, Thomas and Richard Rawlinson, John Bagford, John Strype, Thomas Hearne, White Kennett, Francis Peck, Humfrey Wanley, and the library of Bishop John Moore of Ely, which came to Cambridge in 1715. In the course of the years he transcribed many original documents, printed and manuscript, which he saw as an indispensable research tool for his work. Although he had completed the first draft of a history of St John's College by the end of 1705, he refrained from publishing it, fearful of adverse reactions in his own circle. Similarly in the early 1730s he abandoned the 'Athenae Cantabrigienses', a comprehensive history of Cambridge University like Anthony Wood's work on Oxford, because, cautious and perfectionist as he was, he had become daunted by the extent and the difficulty of the task. None the less, he continued to collect material, and ultimately there were forty-two volumes of transcripts.

“[Baker] also accumulated a valuable library of some 5,000 printed books and manuscripts. Apart from works by and about St John's and Cambridge men, and an impressive number of bibliographical reference works, emphases in his library were early printed books, and the history of the church and the state, especially in the sixteenth century. Baker was a bibliophile, but a utilitarian one. He spent much time carefully correcting, repairing, and supplementing the defective and incomplete books and manuscripts that he, as a book collector of modest means, often had to be contented with. His letters, the preliminary pages and margins of his books and manuscripts, and his interleaved copy of Andrew Maunsell's 1595 catalogue abundantly illustrate his expertise as a bibliographer. Baker's extensive correspondence makes clear that he was at the centre of a network of some forty scholars and book collectors from many different backgrounds, and that in this way he played a very important role in the world of historical and antiquarian scholarship.”(ODNB)

ESTC S2083; STC 10102.10