Amsterdam: Gyles Thorp, 1610.
Quarto: 18.5 x 14.5 cm. , 226  p. Collation: *-**4, ***2, A-Z4, Aa-Ee4, Ff2
Bound in 17th c. stiff vellum, somewhat soiled. A nice copy of this very rare Continental Puritan imprint. With skillful, discreet paper repairs to outer blank margins of some leaves, no loss to text, some other marks and minor marginal soiling, very small worm trail in blank lower margin of some signatures. Rare. ESTC locates only 8 copies (4 in North America, 4 in the U.K.).
Provenance: It is highly likely that this book traveled from The Netherlands to England in 1651 in the possession of the author’s son, Zachary.
There are two ownership inscriptions at the front and rear of the volume, signed by “Richard Clifton” in 1659 and 1660. This Richard Clifton (1642-1664) was the son of the author’s son, Zachary Clifton (born 1589), and was therefore the grandson of the author. Zachary Clifton and his brothers had emigrated with their parents to Amsterdam in August 1608, two years before this book was printed. Zachary studied at the Universities of Utrecht and Leiden, receiving his M.A. from the latter in 1654. His son, the Richard Clifton who would one day owne this book, was born in The Netherlands in 1642, and returned with his parents and older brother to England in 1651 during the Commonwealth era. It is almost certain that he obtained this book from his father. According to information received from Sue Allan, historian at Scrooby Manor, Richard Clifton's books may have found their way to Warwickshire, and into the ownership of his clergyman brother Zachary Clifton Jr. (born Amsterdam 1633, died Wasperton 1715).
The “Plea for Infants”
In 1609, the Puritan John Smyth had become convinced of the error of infant baptism. Clifton was approached by two members of Smyth’s congregation and tried to get him to adopt the same views. Clifton refused but agreed to hear Smyth’s arguments. Smyth wrote to Clifton personally and made two propositions: 1. that infants are not to be baptized, and 2. that non-Christian converts are to be baptized into the Church. In Aril 1609 Clifton responded in a letter to Smyth arguing against those views. In turn, Smyth wrote responses to Clifton’s stated views and published them as “The Character of the Beast”.
Clifton was unhappy that Smith had published their private correspondence and resolved to respond in print. As he writes in the preface to the “Plea for Infants”, seeing that Smyth’s book is “spread abroad in the hands of many, I have thought good also to give warning to all that love the Lord Jesus and are careful of their own salvation, to take heed thereof.” Clifton says that Smyth began to stray when he sought to remove the translated Scripture from worship. Smyth’s error has now become more severe since he now sought to “destroy the covenant of Grace.” Clifton’s book marked the end of their debate.
Giles Thorp, Puritan Printer
When the Separatists first arrived at Amsterdam, they entrusted the printing of their works to Dutch presses. But around 1604, they established their own press, headed by Giles Thorp, a dedicated Puritan and a “worthy governor” of the Separatist congregation. While Thorp printed a considerable number of works before his death in 1622 or 1623, the “Plea for Infants” was one of only ten books to appear under his name. For more, see Sprunger, “Giles Thorp: English Separatist Printer” in “Trumpets from the Tower: English Puritan Printing in the Netherlands, 1600-1640” p. 84-89).
STC 5450; ESTC online (British Library, Cambridge University Trinity College, Lambeth Palace, Bodleian; Yale, Harvard, Union Theological Seminary New York, American Baptist Samuel Colgate Historical Library New York).