17th-19th Century British Religious, Political, and Legal Tracts

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In addition to items here you will find more items in this collection in the legacy University of Missouri Digital Library. Link: 17th-19th Century British Religious, Political, and Legal Tracts.

The body of pamphlet literature of the 17th and 18th centuries is enormous. These pamphlets deal with every event and circumstance of the day, be it social, economic, legal, medical, political, or religious. Of the climate that conceived and nurtured the production of these brief writings, Samuel Johnson said:

There is, perhaps, no Nation, in which it is so necessary, as in our own, to assemble, from time to time, the small tracts and fugitive pieces, which are occasionally published: for, besides the general subjects of enquiry, which are cultivated by us, in common with every other learned Nation, our Constitution in Church and State naturally gives Birth to a multitude of performances, which would either not have been written, or could not have been made public in any other place.

This important collection of English tracts number approximately 20,000 and date from the mid 17th century (the .age of pamphlets.) through the 19th century. The foundation for this collection consists of approximately 17,000 pamphlets purchased from a Philadelphia bookseller named Ralph Howey for a dollar or two a piece. These items were purchased over a period of years by the University of Missouri-Columbia Library beginning in 1943. Since that time the collection has grown by several thousand items through purchase, donation, and transfer from the general stacks of the Ellis Library. Within the British Religious, Political and Legal Tracts Collection are pamphlets that deal with agricultural management, offering, for example, advice on the growing of fruit, the keeping of bees, the training of horses, and the destruction of common rodent pests. A large component of the collection is English government documents, including petitions and treatises addressed to both Houses of Parliament and the reigning monarch. Within the collection are also to be found a large number of religious pamphlets that range from sermons dealing with moral and doctrinal matters, including the evils of Catholicism, to political and administrative clerical issues. In excess of 200 pamphlets within the Collection deal with the Popish Plot of 1678. The works of most of the major protestant divines of the day are numerous: Tillotson, Hoadly, Sharp, Sherlock, Atterbury, Burnet, Calamy, Clark, Fleetwood.

Yet another component of the collection addresses economic issues such as public debt, taxation, commerce and trade, the East Indies, the South Seas Bubble and the Ship Tax. Some of the socially and politically minded publications deal with questions of slavery, liberty of the press, and accounts of trials. There are also a number of the pamphlets that speak to the foreign relations of England, the American rebellion, the union treaty, and the revolution in France.

The controversial nature of many of these pamphlets resulted in the pamphlets being issued anonymously, the true authors of the works known only by the printers of London, Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin and Edinburgh. However, approximately forty of the pamphlets have been identified as having been authored by Daniel Defoe.