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University Libraries - The Muggletonian Collection

The Muggletonian Collection

Collection Description

The Muggletonians, a small English religious sect dating from the mid-seventeenth century, followed the teachings of two founding prophets, John Reeve (1608-1658) and Lodowick Muggleton (1609-1698). In 1651-52, Muggleton and Reeve reported special revelations and announced themselves to be the "two witnesses" referred to in Revelation, ch. xi, v. 3-6 ("the Commission"). Their first book, theirTranscendent Spirituall Treatise (1652) was followed, after a period of imprisonment for blasphemy, by Reeve'sSix Principles (1656) and the jointly-written The Divine Looking-Glass or the Third and Last Testament (also 1656).

Following Reeve's death and the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Muggletonianism split and dwindled, and Muggleton developed a new doctrine that, since God no longer intervened in the world, prayer, formal services and evangelism were useless. Muggleton also engaged in furious polemic against the contemporary Quaker movement, notably in his A Looking-Glass for George Fox (1667) and An Answer to William Penn(1668). His autobiography was posthumously published in Thomas Tomkinson's Acts of the Witnesses (1699). The sect, though always small, maintained a continuous existence for nearly three hundred years. Interest in Muggletonianism revived in the 1750s, because of parallels with the teaching of Swedenborg, and again in the late 1820s, when many of the early texts were reprinted. As late as the 1920s, diminishing numbers continued to gather at annual festivals to read the founders' writings and sing their hymns. When the "Last Muggletonian," Mr. Phillip Noakes of Matfield, Kent, died in 1979, the movement's extensive archives went to the British Library.

Thomas Cooper Library's Muggletonian Collection comprises 39 different titles or editions, several in multiple copies. It is made up of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century printed material sold by Mr. Noakes's heirs. The earliest edition in the Thomas Cooper Collection is Reeve and Muggleton's A Remonstrance from the Eternal God . . . unto His Excellency the Lord General Cromwell (1719), while the latest is an 1880 reprint of John Saddington's Articles of the True Faith, originally published in 1675. Individual titles are catalogued in the library's online catalogue, USCAN. A keyword search including the terms "muggleton" or "muggletonian" and "suca" will bring up items in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. A more general search without "suca" will also include material available on microfilm.

Older studies of the movement include Alexander Gordon's The Origin of the Muggletonians (Liverpool, 1869) and Lytton Strachey's elegiac essay in his Portraits in Miniature (1931). More recent studies reflect the growth of interest in seventeenth-century radical millenarianism include a collection of essays edited by Christopher Hill, The World of the Muggletonians (London, 1983), and Kevin Lewis's Trevelyan Lecture, The Appeal of Muggletonianism (Durham, 1986). A fascinating account of the rediscovery of the Muggletonian archives and book-stock is given in E. P. Thompson's bookWitness Against the Beast (New York, 1993), 115-119.