ACTS is the name that has been applied from the earliest times of Christianity to the records of all that concerned the last days upon earth, the judicial examinations, the sufferings and death, the sayings and doings, of the Martyrs. Everything that belonged to those who gave their lives for God and were the champions of the Church, was most highly prized; and certainly the example of their constancy and fidelity was not less held in esteem than the material relics of their bodies, their property, or the instruments of their martyrdom. The Church took pains to secure faithful narratives of what befell her most glorious children, and the first duty of the Notaries was to see to the compiling of such records. These were read in the assemblies of the Faithful, and we have still traces of them in the historical Lessons of the Breviary. The various persecutions, however, rendered the preservation of these official Acts very difficult, for they were eagerly sought after, and, whenever the tyrant could obtain possession of them,. Destroyed, together with the Sacred Books. Not official records only were called "Acts," but the use of the word was extended to" include similar narratives of martyrdoms and of the events preceding them, though drawn up without authority by private individuals. This ha s in fact come to be the admitted meaning of the tenn. The splendid collection due to the unwearied industry of the Bollandists goes by the name of the Acta Sanctorum. In this sense the word is used in the title of this. volume. There is nothing official in these records. They are documents collect.ed together. for biographical purposes, and they are here printed in their integrity that the reader may not only know something more than has hitherto been known of the Martyrs themselves, but also of our sources of information respecting them. Hitherto the English reader has practically been. limited to Bishop Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests for his knowledge of the holy men, not priests only, but laymen, too, in full proportion, who, under Elizabeth and her successors, gave their lives for their religion. That book, which was compiled with the most conscientious care by the good Vicar Apostolic of London in the last century, has kept alive the memory of the Martyrs. Until comparatively recent times it was a popular book amongst English Catholics, but of late years literary taste has so changed that it has fallen into neglect. The time has come when a new book is required to take its place. The Lives of the English Martyrs must be rewritten, and the present volume is a contribution towards that work, and will make its execution comparatively easy. The documents in this volume are hitherto unpublished. In one or two instances a document quoted by Challoner finds place among them, in order that the reader might have the full story before his eyes, and now and again a paper has been printed here, though it has previously appeared in Brother Foley's Records; but these cases are so rare, that they do not prevent the series of papers from rightly bearing the title of "Unpublished Acts." Two different collections of these documents were possible, and each in its own way was desirable. For the Cause of the Canonization of the Martyrs it would have been most useful that a volume should have appeared in all respects resembling the two grand volumes, called Records of the English Catholics, for which we are indebted to the zeal and diligence of the Fathers of the London Oratory. Nothing could have been. better for the purpose of the Postulators of the Cause of the English Martyrs than that the documents now published should have appeared, each in its own original language, edited with the care and skill that the Oratorian Fathers have brought to bear on their volumes. But such a book would not have been popular, and another form seemed necessary if it was to help to spread a knowledge of the sufferings of our Martyrs amongst Catholics in general.
John Hungerford Pollen, Brother Hermenegild TOSF, Paperback, ISBN 10: 1503018172, ISBN 13: 9781503018174