Book Chapter

Puritanism and literature


Keeble N (2008) Puritanism and literature. In: Coffey J & Lim PC (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism. Cambridge Companions to Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 309-324.

First paragraph: Puritanism was an intrinsically bookish movement. Just as the spread of Protestantism through Europe in the early sixteenth century was greatly facilitated by, if not dependent upon, the resources of the printing press, so the penetration by Puritanism of the nation’s religious, political and cultural life was achieved primarily through the printed word. Religious works comprised at least half the 100,000 or so titles that represent the total output of the press from the accession of Elizabeth in 1558 to the end of the seventeenth century.1 Of these, a very significant proportion – and during periods in the seventeenth century a majority – were Puritan. They included the century’s bestsellers which sold in unprecedented numbers: Arthur Dent’s fictionalised dialogue The Plaine Mans Path-way to Heaven (1601), went through over thirty editions by 1682; John Ball’s Short Catechisme (1615?) nearly sixty editions by 1689; Richard Baxter’s 600-page treatise on preparing for The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650) reached its fourteenth edition by 1688 and his evangelistic A Call to the Unconverted (1658), its twenty-eighth edition by 1696; the first part of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) reached its twenty-second edition by the end of the century.2

Puritanism; Early Modern Literature; Subjectivity; Literary Censorship; English literature Early modern, 1500-1700 History and criticism; Puritans; Puritan movements in literature

Title of seriesCambridge Companions to Religion
Publication date31/12/2008
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publisher URL…bn=9780521860888
Place of publicationCambridge