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Battle of the Bishops

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Last chance to save rare 16th Century printed and manuscript volume.

A rare 16th Century printed and manuscript volume documenting the heated argument between two Bishops over the right of Priests to marry has been sold to a foreign buyer and may soon leave the UK. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has imposed a temporary export bar on a volume which includes ‘A Traictise declarying and plainly prouyng, that the pretensed marriage of Priestes… no mariage’ (1554) in the hope that a UK buyer can be found for the work.

The book, by lawyer Thomas Martin and the Bishop of Winchester Stephen Gardiner, belonged to John Ponet (the previous Bishop of Winchester) who fled into exile following Queen Mary’s restoration of the doctrine and personnel of the Catholic church.

Unique annotations

The Traictise explicitly set out to refute the argument of Ponet’s ‘A Defence for mariage of priestes’ (London, 1549) and to justify the reintroduction of clerical celibacy. Although there are 22 other copies of the book in UK collections, this volume is unique in that it contains extensive annotations of the printed text and a book length manuscript that is part working notes and part draft text for Ponet’s own reply to Gardiner and Martin.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

The story behind this manuscript is fascinating – two Bishops at loggerheads with each other, both with equally strong convictions, but at polar opposites on the issue of clerical marriage. This volume contains a wealth of information about a time when the fate of the Reformation hung in a delicate balance, - there is so much more to learn from it and I hope it can remain here in the UK.

The work carries a recommended price of £116,500 and the export bar is now in place until 23 December 2013, but may be extended if a UK buyer declares a serious intention to raise the funds to buy the volume.

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