John Knoxs First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558) was perhaps the first British political pamphlet, while earlier, in Europe, Martin Luther proved an effective pamphleteer. Back in England, the abrasive Martin Marprelate pamphlets realised the term paper bullets, while Elizabethans Thomas Nashe and Robert Greene dismissed pamphlets as vehicles for uninventive offerings. Titus Oates (1649-1705) fabricated the Popish Plot, a supposed Catholic conspiracy carried out by the Jesuits to kill King Charles. Oates even claimed the Queen was working with the Kings physician to poison the monarch. The Plot generated numerous publications, not to mention Oatess translation of An Exact Discovery, which originally appeared in 1617. This is a Dublin reprint.
Titus Oates, An Exact Discovery of the Mystery of Iniquity as It is Now in Practice amongst the Jesuits and Other Their Emissaries. Dublin: Reprinted [s.n.], 1679. DeB Irb 1679 E. Special Collections.
Titus Oates was eventually found guilty of perjury and sentenced to life imprisonment (he was later pardoned and granted a pension of £5 a week). As part punishment, he faced the pillory, where hordes of Londoners pelted him with eggs. He was also stripped, tied to a cart and whipped. On display is the account of The Tryal, Convictions & Sentence of Titus Otes, which sits alongside 87 other pamphlets on the Popish Plot and the subsequent trials. To manage such large format ephemeral publications, a previous owner has sensibly bound them up and given the thick volume the general title: Tracts and Trials 1678-1691. This practice was not unusual for pamphlet collections.
The Tryals, Convictions & Sentence of Titus Otes, Upon Two Indictments for Willful, Malicious, and Corrupt Perjury: at the Kings Bench-Barr at Westminster. London: Printed for R. Sare ..., and are to be sold by Randal Taylor, 1685. DeB Ec 1678 M. Special Collections.
In 1695, the lapsing of the Licensing Act in England allowed writers the freedom to print their propaganda on any subject without having to get prior approval. As a result, pamphlets on all sorts of subjects flourished. One active pamphleteer was Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), author of Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). In his unadorned English style, Defoe created hundreds of pamphlets on all sorts of topics: religious conformity, the Spanish throne succession issue, and satires on Tories and Dissenters. Indeed, his The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters, Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church caused him to be arrested and placed in a pillory on July 31, 1703. The anonymously written pamphlet on display was once attributed as Probably by Defoe. It has now been classified as not by him.
Anon., Reasons for a Royal Visitation; Occasiond by the Present Great Defection of the Clergy from the Government. London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1717. DeB Eb 1717 R. Special Collections.