Only one of the 40 engraved ‘story boards’ of vicious and licentious tragical histories.

John  Reynolds, active 1621-1650.

The trivmphs of Gods revenge against the crying and execrable sin of murther· Expressed in thirty several tragical histories. Written by John Reynolds. The sixth edition, very carefully corrected. To which is added, Gods revenge against the abominable sin of adultery. Containing ten several histories, never printed before. Illustrated with new sculptures

London : Printed by J. Bennet, for Thomas Lee, at the Turks head in Fleetstreet, over against Fetter-Lane-End, 1679.    Price $2,900

Folio 30 x 13 cm. Signatures: π² a-b⁴ B-O⁴; [A]² ²B-M⁴ ²N² ²2A-2M⁴.  F.H. van. Houe. Sculp ( Frederick Hendrick van Hove, 1628?-1698, engraver.) There are 30 engravings in the first (Murther) Part and 10 engravings in part two (Adultery) . In “The triumphs of Gods revenge” each book has a separate title page, dated either 1678 or 1679. Book VI has separate dated title page with imprint “printed by S. and B. Griffin for Thomas Lee.” This copy is bound in full calf recently reback and printed title mounted, not a beautiful copy yet a clean copy and a wonderful source for early modern morals and culture.

A ‘complete ‘first’ edition of Reynolds dramatic collection of tales of violent revenge and murder, highly influential for its insights into the psychology of crime, an inspiration for the Elizabethan drama The Changeling and hailed by Godwin as a source for his gothic novel Caleb Williams, illustrated with copper-engraved title page and elaborate wood-engravings. 

“In 1621 an Exeter merchant named John Reynolds published one of the earliest bestsellers in crime reporting The Triumphs of Gods Revenge” (Borowitz, Blood and Ink, 4).  ‘The Triumph of Gods Revenge’ is a series of fictional tales of murder and revenge. The bloodthirsty but moralistic tales relate scenes of duelling with swords and pistols and all ending with God’s judgement on the malefactors. The book was very popular and was a best-seller in its day. Reynolds was extradited from France and imprisoned by James 1 for his stories.

These also form part of the source material for Middleton’s Jacobean play The Changeling. J Clements essay for the Association of Renaissance Martial Arts says ‘In the Triumphs we are given a number of detailed accounts of duels and affrays that range from the honourable to the malevolent. Reynolds’ prose style more than adequately conveys the tension and drama of such violent encounters as well as offering insights into rapier duelling from the period. More interestingly, the narratives reveal a grasp of fencing and attention to the elements of the combats that suggests either he was borrowing from other sources or was writing from real-life accounts of various countries. The descriptions of the wounds are entirely consistent with our understanding of the nature of combat in the early 17th century with nearly edgeless blades of the later rapier.’ This exciting work, with its vivid tales of violent revenge, lust, murder and equally bloody punishment, is increasingly held as a turning point in crime literature, especially in its insights into the psychology of crime. Through highly detailed accounts that are “fundamentally concerned with retracing the origins of criminal rebelliousness,” Reynolds jars his readers into a sense of recognition, however hesitant, with criminals and their motives (Gladfelder, Criminality and Narrative, 34).

Notably inspiring revenge dramas such as Middleton and Rowley’s masterpiece, The Changeling (1622), “by 1670 Triumphs had gone into a fifth edition (the first to be profusely illustrated with woodcuts), and new editions were still appearing a century later. The curious work had not exhausted its appeal by the end of the 18th century when the English novel began to reflect social and political didacticism. William Godwin acknowledged Reynolds’s ‘tremendous compilation’ as a source of inspiration for his own 1794 novel of murder and repentance, Caleb Williams” (Borowitz, 4). 

Wing R1313; Lowndes, 2078.; Allibone, 1778.; ESTC (RLIN),; R022009