English Catholic book publishing, a brief history

Tony Castle

The Catholic book trade has a rich and distinguished tradition, as we find out in this brief look at its history. Tony Castle is from the diocese of Brentwood.

At Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, about 715 AD, one of the finest publishing events of all time took place. The monk, Eadfrith, completed his magnificent illuminated version of the Gospels. Many monks like him, over the centuries, up until the dissolution of the monasteries, saw it as their vocation to copy and make available the Books of the Bible and other spiritual works. There are still, in England and Wales, Religious who pursue this vocation. Prominent among these are the Fathers and Brothers of the Society of St Paul, the Daughters of St Paul and the Redemptorists. Many talented lay people, too, have dedicated themselves to this ministry.

Modern Catholic publishers, whether they realise it or not, walk in the footsteps of Blessed James Duckett. Brought up a Protestant, in the late 16th century James was converted to Catholicism by reading a book lent to him by his friend, Peter Mauson. He recognised the power of the published word and, on his arrival in London from the North, he launched himself into publishing and running a bookshop in the Strand.

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