The Golden Legend

Jacobus de Voragine (c. 1230–1298).
The Golden Legend.
Translated and enlarged by William Caxton.
Westminster: William Caxton, [between 20 November 1483 and March 1484]. (06401)

This translation of the Legenda aurea by William Caxton (c. 1422–1491) is the first English edition of Jacobus de Voragine’s highly popular compendium of saints’ lives. In Bridwell Library’s copy, as in several others that survive, several leaves pertaining to St. Thomas Beckett (d. 1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, were removed or defaced. This was done in 1538 or shortly thereafter by order of Henry VIII (1491–1547). Following England’s break with the Church of Rome, the king had commanded the destruction of all memorials for St. Thomas Beckett in churches, chapels, altars, service books, and hagiographies because the English martyr personified “clerical supremacy” and allegiance to the papacy instead of to king and country. In this copy, the saint's name has been scratched from the page that concludes the partially excised chapter recounting the transfer of Beckett’s remains to his shrine at Canterbury Cathedrall.

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Early Censorship in England
The Golden Legend