The Reliquiae Baxterianae Project
Tuesday 20 September 2011 at 5.15pm
Dr Williams’s Library, 14 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0AR
A lecture to mark the public launch of the Reliquiae Baxterianae Project
Dr Tim Cooper (Otago) ‘1659 And All That: Richard Baxter, John Owen and the Reliquiae Baxterianae’
chaired by Professor Neil Keeble (Stirling)
Richard Baxter’s Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696) is a key text for early modern historical, ecclesiastical, cultural, and literary studies, but in its original printed form it is defective a number of ways. Its text is not entirely reliable and its wealth of historical data and immediately observed experiences during the Civil War, Interregnum and Restoration period is very difficult to access. An editorial team consisting of Professor Neil Keeble (University of Stirling), Professor John Coffey (University of Leicester), and Dr Tim Cooper (University of Otago) is contracted to OUP to prepare a five-volume edition which will for the first time provide a reliable text (based on the manuscript where this is extant in Dr Williams’s Library and the British Library), with full scholarly and editorial apparatus. An AHRC grant has made possible the appointment of Dr Thomas Charlton as the project’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow. The preparation of digitized copies of the manuscript material and keyboarded texts (funded by grants from the British Academy, the AHRC and the University of Otago) is now all but complete and sustained editorial work is about to begin. This lecture marks the public launch of the project.
In 1659 the brief rule of Richard Cromwell came to an end. For Richard Baxter it also brought an end to a season of high optimism for godly reformation in England, and he attached the blame for this disaster on John Owen. The accusation made sense in the context of a relationship that had been marked by strain and mutual dislike, and it put that relationship permanently beyond any hope of repair: 1659 was John Owen’s unforgiveable sin. Not only did it prevent any reconciliation between them, it altered Baxter’s posture towards the Congregationalists during the Restoration period and it lent an undertone of bitterness towards Owen in Baxter’s autobiography, the Reliquiae Baxterianae. That bitterness was softened in the editing process, but is very clear in the original manuscript. This lecture will elucidate the importance of 1659 in Baxter’s career, in his view of Owen, and in the shaping of the Reliquiae Baxterianae.