Roman R. Dubinski. English Religious Poetry Printed 1477-1640: A Chronological Bibliography with Indexes. Waterloo, ON: North Waterloo Academic P, 1996. xxix+844pp. ISBN 0 921075 16 2.
Paul G. Stanwood
University of British Columbia

Stanwood, Paul G. "Review of English Religious Poetry Printed 1477-1640" Early Modern Literary Studies 5.1(May, 1999):6.1-5<URL:

  1. This splendid and beautifully produced bibliography should prove an indispensable reference work to all students of the English Renaissance, especially of its devotional poetry. The dates covered correspond to those of the Short-Title Catalogue, which is obviously appropriate. One wishes only that the middle and later years of the seventeenth century might also have been similarly analysed and included, but such a work must wait for another time and for an even larger volume. Roman Dubinski has given us the result of prodigious, long, and devoted labour, systematically recording the enormous body of religious verse in English printed between 1477 and 1640. He includes in his bibliography original poems, translations, and excerpts in both English and Scots verse, but he excludes religious verse that appears in dramatic texts. Altogether the bibliography contains 2456 entries, which embrace more than 3200 separate items in the STC, with over 11,600 individual poems being described, all of which Dubinski himself has examined.

  2. "Religious verse" is an elastic and expansive category, as Dubinski readily acknowledges. He recognises within its broad parameters lyric forms, such as spiritual songs, hymns, canticles, and psalms; narrative verse such as saints' lives, and verse based on scriptural characters or episodes; and devotional and didactic verse, including satires, polemics, and metrical paraphrases of various parts of the Bible. Although there are a number of specialised bibliographies that describe some of these forms, Dubinski's compilation subsumes or goes beyond them, especially William A. Ringler, Jr., Bibliography and Index of English Verse Printed 1476-1558 (1988); Elsie Leach, "English Poetry, 1600-1699: A Partial Bibliography," Bulletin of Bibliography, 23 (1961): 132-35; and John N. King, English Reformation Literature (1982). Dubinski has done what Ringler claimed was necessary in producing such a bibliography as the present one, and that is to seek out every English religious poem printed before 1640. He describes his procedure, which involved recording every poem in every item in the STC, then deciding which of them might be "religious"--the term being liberally applied: Once this process was completed, I turned to existing bibliographies of poetry in order to cross-check my findings. Most of these bibliographies list only the title of a volume without recording the contents in detail. They are thus not helpful in finding poems in works that are primarily in prose, or in finding quotations. The exception is Ringler's bibliography, which aims to give detailed information about every single poem or excerpt printed up to 1558. Thus, in cross-checking with Ringler I was able to pick up items I had missed. Conversely, Ringler's bibliography does not include some items that appear here (xi). Dubinski's work is characterised by such thoroughness, and one of its great values rests on rigorous attention to the details of each item; he gives, for example, an identifying first line for every poem.

  3. Almost half of the volume, with its chronological arrangement of poems, contains extremely helpful indexes: (1) an author/translator index; (2) a title index; (3) a first-line index; (4) a subject index arranged by various categories and sub-categories; (5) an index of metrical paraphrases of various parts of the Bible listed alphabetically; (6) an index of verse found in Hours and Primers and related works; (7) an index of verse found in works dealing with the Rosary; (8) a cross-index with STC numbers.

  4. Dubinski's important work arose from his desire "to discover the historical and literary context out of which the religious poetry of Donne and Herbert emerged" (x), his ambition being to provide a bibliography that might facilitate the study of these well known poets and also of the great host of unfamiliar writers surrounding them. Such a work as this cannot, of course, be read so much as browsed in and consulted. In a recent query from a research student studying the sonnet, I could refer to Dubinski's subject index which clearly indicates all sonnets, separately or in sequence. Here of course one found, besides Donne, other familiar names: Barnabe Barnes, John Davies of Hereford, Fulke Greville, Robert Southwell, and the rather less well known Sir William Moore, author of The True Crucifixe for True Catholickes (1629), whose entry points us to a modern text edited by William Tough (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1895). Moreover, one discovered the almost unnoticed Anne Lock, whose sonnet sequence is evidently the first in English, appearing in 1560 as a kind of supplement or appendix to Sermons of John Calvin, Upon the Songe that Ezechias made after he had bene sicke (briefly noticed in Spiller, 92-93). The index sends us to item 528 (under 1560), with accompanying details--as with all entries--of STC number, availability on University Microfilms (with reel number), and any modern edition. Anne Lock's sonnets have indeed been reprinted as Mrs. Locke's Little Book (A Lupton Reprint, London, 1973). Thus, through Dubinski's bibliography, some basic research on sonnets could be easily, quickly, and accurately undertaken.

  5. This bibliography is an immensely useful reference work that will help scholars not only to find but to discover works. The book is magnificently printed, and so far as I can ascertain, faultless. The price is also grand, but if not all scholars can afford it, no research library can be complete without it.

Works Cited


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1998-, Lisa Hopkins(Editor, EMLS).