An Arrow Against All Tyrants: Introduction by Ian Gadd

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In 1646 in Newgate Gaol in London, a political activist, Richard Overton, penned a pamphlet that contained dangerous ideas. An Arrow Against All Tyrants asserted the inalienable rights of the individual.

'No man has power over my rights and liberties, and I over no man's... For by natural birth all men are equally and alike born to like propriety, liberty and freedom.'

The thoughts contained within were radical at a time of historic upheaval in England.

This book reprints Overton's bold, declamatory pamphlet, carefully typeset from the original at the British Library.

It is introduced by Ian Gadd, Professor of English Literature at Bath Spa University, who sets Overton's work into its literary and historical context.

An Arrow Against All Tyrants is deal for anyone interested in the tumult of radical ideas during the English civil wars and the both of human rights.

Introduction by Ian Gadd (excerpt)

In October 1646, somewhere on the streets of London, the bookseller George Thomason picked up a scruffily printed work entitled An Arrow Against all Tyrants and Tyranny by Richard Overton (fl. 1640-63) and, as was his habit, noted the date of his latest acquisition on its title-page. Thomason had been systematically collecting all sorts of printed items since 1640 and An Arrow was just the latest example of what he and his contemporaries would have called a pamphlet – a word that, of course, still has currency today but that lacks much of the potency and meaning that it had for Overton's first readers.

First of all, a pamphlet was not a book. This may seem a curious thing to say, especially as you're currently holding this book in your hands, but a 17th Century reader would have understood the distinction. For a start, a pamphlet was not bound. Many printed works in England in this period were sold unbound – as folded, printed sheets ó in the expectation that a purchaser would get them bound, but some kinds of printed items, including pamphlets, were never intended for binding. Instead, a pamphlet like An Arrowwould have been 'stab stitched': simply held together by coarse thread that had been stabbed through the left-hand margin when the pamphlet was closed. In contrast to the careful, precise, and hidden sewing of a book binding, stab-stitching signalled a pamphlet's sense of urgency and directness – and also its likely ephemerality.

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Canbury Press
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