Early Censorship in England
This section of the exhibition concerns the censorship of books in England, a kingdom that was long at the forefront of the effort to control religious literature. As early as 1408, England’s churchmen aggressively suppressed John Wycliffe’s English translation of the New Testament, and in 1526 Archbishop William Warham of Canterbury issued Europe’s first formal catalogue of prohibited books. Preceding all other such lists by two decades, it included William Tyndale’s English New Testament and seventeen other works by various “heretical” authors such as Jan Hus, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli. Between 1530 and 1555, further decrees by Henry VIII and his Catholic daughter Mary I prohibited the printing, import, sale, and possession of works by all of the principal reformers, and all English printing had to be approved by royal license. Censorship under Elizabeth I and subsequent Anglican monarchs remained stringent, but it was directed increasingly toward maintaining the political status quo within the kingdom.