Yet more from Isaac D’Israeli’s Curiosities of Literature, this time in celebration of Catalonia’s nationalist-socialist government’s attempts to reintroduce press censorship by the back door, the stick whose complementary carrot consists of liberal sums paid to anyone who prints favourable opinions (I’m on the CIA’s payroll):

A curious literary anecdote has reached us of the times of Henry VIII. Tonstall, Bishop of London, whose extreme moderation, of which he was accused at the time, preferred burning books to that of authors, which was then getting into practice, to testify his abhorrence of Tindal’s principles, who had printed a translation of the New Testament, a sealed hook for the multitude, thought of purchasing all the copies of Tindal’s translation, and annihilating them in the common flame. This occurred to him when passing through Antwerp in 1529, then a place of refuge for the Tindalists. He employed an English merchant there for this business, who happened to be a secret follower of Tindal, and acquainted him with the bishop’s intention. Tindal was extremely glad to hear of the project, for he was desirous of printing a more correct edition of his version; but the first impression still hung on his hands, and he was too poor to make a new one; he furnished the English merchant with all his unsold copies, which the bishop as eagerly bought, and had them all publicly burnt in Cheapside: which the people not only declared was “a burning of the word of God,” but it so inflamed the desire of reading that volume, that the second edition was sought after at any price; and when one of the Tindalists, who was sent here to sell them, was promised by the lord chancellor in a private examination, that he should not suffer if he would reveal who encouraged and supported his party at Antwerp, the Tindalist immediately accepted the offer, and assured the lord chancellor that the greatest encouragement they had was from Tonstall, the Bishop of London, who had bought up half the impression, and enabled them to produce a second!

You should read the read of this–and other chapters online. I think they’re brilliant.

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