2015

Reliquiae Baxterianae 

Dr Williams's Library

This exhibition springs from the project to provide, for the first time, a fully annotated and reliable scholarly edition of the complete text of Richard Baxter's Reliquiae Baxterianae. The exhibition considers the context of the work, its material, literary and theological qualities and its later reception.

The Reliquiae Baxterianae 
Richard Baxter’s 800-page Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696) is an unrivalled primary source for early modern historical, ecclesiastical, cultural and literary studies. Its first-hand account of events from the 1620s to the 1680s is both a strikingly original autobiographical work of personal reflection and insight, and a powerful apologia in defence of Baxter’s moderate Puritan churchmanship.The new edition will enable Baxter’s first-hand account to take its proper place beside those of such better-known (and better-served) witnesses as Burnet, Clarendon, Evelyn and Pepys. Its original editor, the nonconformist minister Matthew Sylvester, confessed himself  ‘deeply sensible of my inability for such Work’ as editing Baxter’s ‘great quantity of loose Papers’ and he wrote feelingly of the oppressive weight of the task. His own description of the result of his labours as a ‘Rhapsody’ is apt, for the 1696 folio is formally confused, textually unreliable, and inadequately indexed. Its wealth of historical data are hence very difficult to access.

Of Baxter's appearance Matthew Sylvester comments "His Person was tall and slender, and stooped much; His Countenance composed and grave, somewhat inclining to smile, and, he had a piercing eye." From Elisha's Cry', a funeral sermon by Sylvester, printed with the 'Reliquiae'.

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Professor Neil Keeble introduces the Reliquiae Baxterianae
Sylvester's chief claim to remembrance is as the literary executor of Baxter who valued him for for his meekness, temper, sound principles, and great pastoral ability. In 1696, five years after Baxter's death, Sylvester issued the long-expected folio, ‘Reliquiae Baxterianae. Or, Mr. Richard Baxter's Narrative of the most Memorable Passages of his Life and Times;’ and appended his own sermon memorializing Baxter. The Unitarian historian Alexander Gordon wrote of his efforts: 'No book of its importance was ever worse edited.' Throughout the exhibition there are examples of the ways in which Sylvester’s edition is looked at afresh by the editorial team’                                                                                 Click on the image for further details.

Professor Neil Keeble provides an overview of 17th century religious history and politics and situates Richard Baxter's place in the succession of crises that shaped the British nation.

Map showing dissenting congregations throughout the country.

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English 17th century religion and politics

Original parchment certificate of Baxter’s deacon's orders with the Bishop of Worcester's (John Thornborough) signature & his seal in red wax. Richard Baxter Treatises iv.120 (RB/1/158). One of the earliest items in the Baxter Treatises.

A look at the editorial practices of the late 17th century and the dilemmas and difficulties facing Matthew Sylvester on receiving the complex texts that comprise the sources for the Reliquiae. Edmund Calamy's work on expanding and making more accessible the Reliquiae is considered. The video also includes a comparison of Matthew Sylvester's approach to the Reliquiae with John Toland's work on Edmund Ludlow's life.

Treatises i.7: an example of evidential material Baxter has instructed to be interpolated into the narrative of the Reliquiae Baxterianae.

Here Baxter is providing evidence of the willingness of his party to compromise and the need to lobby the King for clemency for ejected ministers.

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Dr Tom Charlton and Professor Tim Cooper discuss the range of material interpolated into the nararative.
On life writing and the Reliquiae Baxterianae
In this section we explore the place of the Reliquiae in the emerging genre of life writing. The conflicts and confrontations during period of the Civil War in England provoked a number of political and religious works by major figures such as Sir Edmund Ludlow and Sir John Reresby. Like the Reliquiae these works show an increasing interest in personal experience and subjectivity but the attempt in the Reliquiae to combine a fair and credible history of the period through a first hand account of events together with reflective and meditative personal writing it is somewhat inimitable and does not readily fit to our modern conception of autobiography.                                                                                       Click on the image for further details.                                             

Richard Baxter's 'A Holy Commonwealth' (1659). In chapter XIII Baxter rejects the call to give an account of his part in the wars - the turmoil of the coming years would convince Baxter of the necessity to counter Royalist histories of the period. He begins the Reliquiae Baxterianae in 1664.

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Professor Tim Cooper on the Puritan sense of necessity that, after 1659, impelled Baxter to write the Reliquiae

On the place of the Reliquiae Baxterianae in the emergence of the life writing in the 17th century. Professor Neil Keeble and Dr James Vigus consider the Reliquiae as an early example of introspective, reflective and meditative personal writing, the development of the genre of autobiography and the resurgence of interest in Baxter after the French revolution.

Nonconformity
Dr Alan Argent's catalogue entry tied with the relevant papers prepared by Baxter for the Savoy Conference, on the Liturgy. It is doubtful that the papers are in their original order, though their cataloguing has respected the order in which they were bound in the 19th century. Baxter's complaint that the bishops have not entered the conference with any intention of compromise is found throughout and commenting on the response from the bishops he notes that 'the straine of these papers we filled is like to perswade many that your designe is not the same with oures.'

A consideration of the religious and political tensions and confrontations which led to emergence of nonconformity from the Savoy Conference. Dr Alan Argent, Dr Tom Charlton and Associate Professor Tim Cooper discuss Baxter's role at the centre of this conflict and the part revenge plays in the shaping of the restoration Church of England.

The entry in the register for Baxter’s 1672 licence to preach.  The register was transcribed by G. Lyon Turner in his ‘Original Records of Early Nonconformity under Persecution and Indulgence’.  The ‘Indulgence’ referred to in this title was  a Declaration issued by Charles II allowing nonconformist ministers to preach publicly if duly licensed.  Its provisions lasted only a few months, however, as Parliament, supposing its intended beneficiaries were really the Roman Catholics, refused to ratify it.  Baxter refused to register under any denomination and after negotiation was allowed to register as a 'nonconforming minister'.                                                                 Click on the image for further details.

Arrest warrant for Richard Baxter.

Treatise i.17: 'To the Keeper of his Majestys Goale commonly called the New prison in clerkenwell Middsex...wheras it hat bin proven unto us uppon oath that Richard Baxter clerke, hath taken unto him to preach in an unlawfull assembly, conventicle, or Meeting, under Colour or pretense of exercise of religion.'

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Reception
The Stationers Register, Volume III. 1675-1708'. The Licensing Act (14 Charles II, c. 33), had allowed the Stationers Company the right to seize illicit editions and bar the publication of any book which had not been licensed by a warden of the Company, together with a government licenser and afterwards entered in what came to be known as the 'entry book of copies' or the Stationers' Company Register.That Sylvester still felt the need in 1696 to submit the Reliquae to the Register is indicative of his assiduous nature, and conservative, Presbyterian regard for law and authority. New freedoms in print culture had been created by the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 and so the 'Licensing Act' was allowed to lapse in 1695. 

On the reception of the Reliquiae Baxterianae on its publication and thereafter. Professor Neil Keeble, Professor John Coffey and Dr James Vigus discuss how Baxter's bestselling practical works often drew interest to the Reliquiae and the major figures who have used and been influenced by the Reliquiae including John Locke, John Wesley, and later Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Dr Williams's Library
Dr Williams's Library is a major research library which specializes in the history of Protestant nonconformity. Its collections include about 300,000 titles from the earliest years of printing to the present, and many thousands of manuscripts from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century. Although the Library’s strengths are in Protestant nonconformity, its collections include printed works and manuscripts of national and even international significance over a range of literary and religious subjects.

Dr David Wykes, Director of Dr Williams's Library, considers the origins of the Dr Williams's Library collection and the connection of Dr Daniel Williams to the work and life of Richard Baxter. About half of Baxter’s original manuscript is extant, much of it held in Dr. Williams’s Library. It is possible the Library once held the entire manuscript but, if so, portions were subsequently lost, and, of those that remained, a significant part afterwards went missing, to find its way into the holdings of the British Library, where it forms Egerton MS. 2570. Dr Alan Argent discusses the challenges posed in creating a catalogue of Baxter's Treatises.

Disorder and repair
Image: Guard book for the Richard Baxter Treatises. The Treatises, consisting of more than 2600 folios, were bound up haphazardly in seven volumes during the mid-nineteenth century. Prior to their conservation materials were tested and paper support analysed for most appropriate methods of treatment. The production of a calendar to the Richard Baxter Treatises collection by Dr. Alan Argent was essential to its conservation; this cataloguing work informed the conservator, Jane Giscombe, of the original order of the material and produced internal evidence to support decisions on disbinding and appropriate treatments.

Dr Williams's Library Conservator, Jane Giscombe, discusses the work undertaken to disbind and care for the Richard Baxter Treatises after their cataloguing by Dr Alan Argent. The treatises are the manuscript source for the Reliquiae Baxerianae. Giscombe also considers how the paper quality can give us clues to Richard Baxter's biography.

Image: the six copies of the Reliquiae Baterianae as held at Dr Williams's Library. Photographed while being examined by the editorial team.

Clockwise from top left these copies first belonged to the collections of: Theophilus Lindsey; Northampton College; Daniel Williams; Philip Dodderidge; Geoffrey Nuttall; Joshua Wilson.

'An Elegy for that Truly Reverend, Admirably Learned, and Eminently Holy Divine Mr Richard Baxter'.
This is one of several poems found in the Treatises dedicated to Baxter after his death. The eighth verse of the poem reads:

Within the Archives of his breast
Lay Records of all Ages past;
To Him Times Scenes So open'd
As if h'had Seen Great Plato's year;
So well did He all nations know
He Seem'd Surveigher of the World below.

Dr Williams's Library
Credits: Story

Thanks to Library staff and to the Trustees of Dr. Williams's Library for their support in the construction of this exhibition.

This exhibition has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK).

On camera and audio recordings:
Dr Alan Argent
Dr Tom Charlton
Professor John Coffey
Associate Professor Tim Cooper
Jane Giscombe
Professor Neil Keeble
Dr James Vigus
Dr David Wykes

Professor Neil Keeble, Emeritus Professor of English Studies at the University of Stirling, leads the editorial team consisting of Dr Tom Charlton, Stirling University, Associate Professor Tim Cooper, Senior Lecturer in the History of Christianity at the Department of Theology at Otago University, and Professor John Coffey, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Leicester. Publication of the edition by Oxford University Press is anticipated in 2018.

Conservation of the Baxter Treatises was funded by a grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust. The cataloguing of the collection was funded by the Jonathan Morgan Fund.

Curator and filmmaker: Gavin Clarke

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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