London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, Ltd., 1934. First edition. Octavo (8 3/4 inches tall), contemporary gilt russet morocco, gilt dentelles, patterned gray endpapers with additional patterned flyleaf, all edges gilt. Very gentle edge-wear, minor bumping to still-sharp corners of bright gilt boards. A beautiful copy. Item #828
First edition of this important anthology of the poetry of Thomas More, Robert Southwell and four English Martyrs—uniquely bound in a contemporary gilt morocco binding with a "Biretta-and-Leaf" vignette. This collection presents the verse of Sir Thomas More (martyred July 1535), Venerable Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel (October 1595), Blessed Henry Walpole (April 1595), Blessed Robert Southwell (February 1595), Venerable Father John Thulis (March 1619), and Venerable Father Nicholas Postgate (August 1697). Edited by the Rev. Sir John R. O'Connell, an Irish lawyer who had been ordained a Catholic priest after the death of his wife but remained active in the Celtic Revival and Arts-and-Crafts movements. This volume is "Dedicated to my beloved brethren, the Fathers of the Catholic Missionary Society, who are devoting their lives so zealously to win back England to that Faith for which her Martyrs died."
A brief Foreword by Francis Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster (dated, "Hare Street House, Feast of St. James, July 25, 1934") commends the anthology: "Did we not read the verses wrung from their hearts by the greatness of their love of God, or the extremity of their suffering, we should have only partial understanding of the significance of their lives. These poetical writings are not sufficiently known, partly because they could be found only scattered here and there." O'Connell's work was pivotal because, "it is important to recognize that, in the eighty years since the anthology's original publication, every poet included here has been formally canonized or beatified by the Catholic Church" (Benedict J. Whalen, Lyra Martyrum).
O'Connell prepared a valuable Introduction, a "Bibliographical Note" for More, Howard, Walpole and Southwell, along with "Authorities" (from Challoner's Martyrology) for Thulis and Postgate, and additional footnotes throughout the text. Anticipating More's canonization by six months, O'Connell comments: "The most searching of all tests, the test of time, is proving the greatness of Sir Thomas More—the greatness of his learning, the greatness of his wisdom and the greatness of his sanctity. Four centuries, far from obscuring his fame have added to it, confirming that notable phrase used by the Emperor Charles the Fifth when the news of More's execution was brought to him that 'for himself he would have preferred to lose the richest city of his Empire than such a subject.'" This copy was finely-bound in contemporary morocco by M.B.S. Bird and signed by her on the rear dentelle inside the rear board. Bird, a little-known but accomplished turn-of-the-century woman bookbinder, was associated with Frank Garret and Douglas Cockerell and active in the Arts-and-Crafts movement. Thomas More was canonized by Pope Pius XI in May 1935—less than six months after the granting of the December 1934 Imprimatur. Robert Southwell, Philip Howard, and Henry Walpole were all among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. John Thulis and Nicholas Postgate were beatified among the Eighty-five Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Approbations. Benedict J. Whalen (editor), Lyra Martyrum (2nd edition, expanded and revised).