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Marprelate Tracts

The violent tone of these pamphlets which appeared in 1588-89, their vigorous and often crude humor at the expense of the bishops, the mystery of who wrote them and the fascinating circumstances of their printing-all these have made them seem to be more important than in fact they were within the Puritan reforming program. Written by a fictitious “Martin Marprelate,” there are eight extant: The Epistle, the Epitome, Certain Mineral and Metaphysical Schoolpoints, Hay any worke for Cooper (all printed by Robert Waldegrave); and Martin Junior, Martin Senior, More worke for the Cooper, and The Protestatyon of Martin Marprelat (all printed by John Hodgkins). All these titles are shortened forms. Their main importance lies in the fact that they spread alarm in official circles concerning secret printing presses and led to more repression of Puritans. There have been various suggestions as to the authorship of the pamphlets, e.g., John Udall, Thomas Cartwright, Job Throckmorton, John Penry, and Michael Hicks (Burghley's secretary). Whoever it was, he caused not a few leading ecclesiastics (e.g., Richard Bancroft) to write in reply.