Sir Thomas More


Bradner & Lynch

The Latin Epigrams of Thomas More, ed. Leicester Bradner and Charles A. Lynch (Chicago, 1953)


The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St Thomas More, (New Haven & London):

Volume 1: English Poems, Life of Pico, Four Last Things, ed. Anthony S. G. Edwards, Katherine Gardiner and Clarence H. Miller (1997). Volume 2: The History of King Richard III, ed. Richard S. Sylvester (1963; third printing, 1975). Volume 3, Part I: Translations of Lucian, ed. Craig R. Thompson (1974). Volume 3, Part II: Latin Poems, ed. Clarence H. Miller, Leicester Bradner, Charles A. Lynch, and Revilo.P. Oliver (1984). Volume 4: Utopia, ed. Edward Surtz, S.J., and J. H. Hexter (1965; fourth printing, 1979). Volume 5, Parts I & II: Responsio ad Lutherum, ed. John M. Headley (1969). Volume 6, PartsI & II: A Dialogue concerning Heresies, ed. Thomas M. C. Lawler, G. Marc'hadour, and Richard C. Marius (1981). Volume 7: Letter to Bugenhagen, Supplication of Souls, Letter against Frith, ed. Frank Manley, Germain Marc'hadour, Richard Marius, and Clarence H. Miller (1990). Volume 8, Parts I-III: The Confutation of Tyndale's Answer, ed. Louis A. Schuster, Richard C. Marius, James P. Lusardi, and Richard J. Schoeck (1973). Volume 9: Apology, ed. J.B. Trapp (1979). Volume 10: The Debellation of Salem and Bizance, ed. John Guy, Ralph Keen, Clarence H. Miller, and Ruth McGugan (1987). Volume 11: The Answer to a Poisoned Book, ed. Stephen Merriam Foley (1985). Volume 12: A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, ed. Louis L. Martz and Frank Manley (1976). Volume 13: Treatise on the Passion, Treatise on the Blessed Body, Instructions and Prayers, ed. Garry E. Haupt (1976). Volume 14, Parts I & II: De Tristitia Christi, ed. Clarence H. Miller (1976). Volume 15: Letters, Historia Richardi Tertii, ed. Daniel Kinney (1986).


The Canon

The canon of Sir Thomas More's works accepted here is that established in the multi-volume Yale edition. A possible addition, which has not been given a separate entry, is a Latin epigram Eiusdem in feneratorem, beginning ‘Hac non si sapis ire vis viator’. This appears, with authentic verses by More, in the currently untraced ‘[Utopia volume]’ and the text is printed in Christie's sale catalogue for 23 June 1993, lot 170, on p. 223.

Principal Manuscripts

The most important surviving autograph manuscripts of More are the Valencia Manuscript of De tristitia Christi (*MrT 19), which he wrote in the Tower before his execution, and his annotations in the Yale Prayer Book (*MrT 46), probably made at the same time. Other important manuscripts include the original scribal copy of five epigrammata which More presented to Henry VIII on his coronation (MrT 6), and various early transcripts of his major theological and historical treatises, as well as some of his verses. A number of these transcripts were probably produced, and distributed, by members of More's own circle during the reign of Queen Mary (1553-8), as well as by other Catholic sympathisers.

Letters and Documents

A considerable number of autograph letters by More survive, as well as documents signed or inscribed by him and letters written to him by members of his extended circle. These are variously published, and/or discussed, in The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, ed. Elizabeth Frances Rogers (Princeton, 1947); in Herbertus Schulte Herbrüggen, Sir Thomas More Neue Briefe (Münster, 1966); in Romauld I. Lakowski, ‘Sir Thomas More's Correspondence: A Survey and A Bibliography’, Disputatio, 1 (1996), 161-79; in H. Schulte Herbrüggen, ‘Three Additions to More's Correspondence’, Moreana, 20 (November 1983), 35-6; in H. Schulte Herbrüggen, ‘Seven New Letters from Thomas More’, Moreana, 27 (September 1990), 49-66, with a facsimile page (letters to Frans van Cranevelt, at the University of Louvain), also in Clarence C. Miller, ‘Thomas More's Letters to Frans Van Cranevelt’, with facsimiles, in Moreana, 31 (1994), 3-84; in The Last Letters of Thomas More, ed. Alvaro de Silva (Grand Rapids, 2000); and elsewhere.

Part of More's letter to Cardinal Wolsey, 3 September 1523 (British Library, Harley MS 6989, f. 16r) is reproduced in facsimile in Elizabeth Rogers, Correspondence (1947), facing p. 282. Part of another letter to Wolsey, 30 October 1523 (British Library, Cotton MS Galba B. VIII, f. 95), is reproduced in Petti, English Literary Hands, No. 17. More's letter to Henry VIII, 5 March 1533/4 (Cotton MS Cleopatra E. VI, f. 176v-7r) is reproduced in Facsimiles of Royal, Historical, and Literary Autographs in the British Museum (1899), Plate 8; in the Yale edition of More's Prayer Book (1969), p. xxviii; and in Henry VIII Man and Monarch, ed. Susan Doran (British Library, 2009), p. 158. Other facsimile examples of letters or documents by More include those in Isographie des hommes célèbres, tom. II (Paris, 1828-30); in J. B. Trapp and Hubertus Schulte Herbrüggen, ‘The King's Good Servant’: Sir Thomas More 1477/8-1535 (National Portrait Gallery, (London, 1977), passim; in Germain Marc'hadour, ‘Epistola ad Erasmum (xvii)o December 1526’, Moreana, 29 (November 1992), 103-10 (in the Public Library of Wroclaw, Poland); British Literary Manuscripts: Series I, ed. Verlyn Klinkenborg et al. (New York, 1981), No. 12 (Pierpont Morgan Library, MA 311: a signed lease, 1 June 1523); in Simon Finch's sale catalogue No. 8 (1991), item 72 (a signed indenture); and elsewhere. A photocopy of a document signed by More, 2 July 1527 (sold at Christie's, 19 September 1984, lot 350, to Harry Spiro, New York) is in the British Library (RP 2842).

More's letters and miscellaneous documents are not given separate entries below except for what are effectively epistolary essays — to a Monk, to Martin Dorp, and to the University of Oxford. These are included in the The Yale Edition of the Complete Works and are preserved in early manuscript copies (MrT 52-59) but not in their autograph originals.

For a discussion of More's English and Latin handwriting, with various facsimile examples, see G. Marc'hadour, ‘A Godly Meditation’, Moreana, No. 5 (1965), 53-72, and also Stephen Merriam Foley, ‘Scenes of Speaking and Technologies of Writing in More's Tower Letters’, Moreana, 35 (December 1998), 7-23.

Books and Manuscripts Owned or Inscribed by More

Besides More's annotated prayer book (*MrT 46), a few books have been recorded as once belonging to him (MrT 46-51), although evidence of authenticity is not always forthcoming.

Excluded here is an untraced exemplum of Jean Calvin, A Faythful and moste godly treatyse concernynge the most sacred sacrament of the blessed body and bloude of our sauiour Christ...translated into Myles Couerdale (London, [1549?], which allegedly bears on the title-page the inscription ‘Tho. More me possedit’. This volume was sold at Hodgson's, 6 November 1904, to Pearson, and is recorded in Mark English, ‘Lost Autographs of John Skelton, David Lyndsay, and Thomas More’, N&Q, 248 (December 2003), 385. The inscription could hardly have been written by Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor, however, some fourteen years or more after his death.

The Canon

The canon of More's works is established in the monumental Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St Thomas More. Excluded is a prayer beginning ‘Helpe me dere father’ ascribed to ‘sir Thomas Moore’ in Robert Parkyn's miscellany in the Bodleian (MS Lat. th. d. 14, f. 116v) - see A. G. Dickens, ‘A New Prayer of Sir Thomas More’, The Church Quarterly Review, 124 (1937), 224-37 - but which is actually by John Fisher, two of whose autograph drafts of the prayer are in the National Archives, Kew: see David Rogers, ‘St. John Fisher: An Unpublished Prayer to God the Father’, The Month, NS 7 (1952), 106-11. Also a two-line epitaph on ‘Jo: Calfe’, beginning ‘O Deus omnipotens vituli miserere Johannis’, is ascribed to ‘Tho: Morus eques’ in an early seventeenth-century miscellany in Chethams' Library, Manchester (Mun. A 4. 15, f. 86r: p. 138, edited in Grosart, The Dr Farmer MS, II, 158), but there seems to be no good reason to connect it with More. Various Latin and English versions of the epitaph can be found in numerous early seventeenth-century miscellanies, an English version first being published in Richard Johnson, The Pleasant Conceites of Old Hobson the Merry Londoner (London, 1607).

Lives of Thomas More

Entries are also given below (MrT 63-115) to the known manuscripts of the various early Lives of More, the most notable of which is that by his son-in-law William Roper (MrT 87-111). A four-page account of More, possibly based on one of these Lives, can also be found in a late seventeenth-century miscellany, perhaps compiled by a Jesuit, at Georgetown University [no shelfmark]. An exemplum of the printed edition of Cresacre More's Life (London, 1642) copiously annotated by Charles, second Baron Stanhope of Harrington (1593-1675), and once owned by Horace Walpole, is at the Folger (M2630 Copy 2) and is discussed, with a facsimile page, in G.P.V. Akrigg, ‘The Curious Marginalia of Charles, Second Lord Stanhope’, in Joseph Quincy Adams Memorial Studies, ed. James G. McManaway, Giles E. Dawson, and Edwin E. Willoughby (Washington, DC, 1948), pp. 785-801 (facing p. 800).

A one-leaf fragment of a Life of More, relating to his imprisonment in the Tower, is in the Bodleian, MS Rawl. D. 923, f. 261r-v.


An account of More's trial, with an epitaph and epigram on his death by Erasmus, is on ff. 2v-8v in a 23-leaf octavo volume of articles relating to Henry VIII, written in a single hand c.1560, in the London Metropolitan Archives (CLC/270/MS01231; formerly Guildhall Library, MS 1231). It was acquired by Alfred Cock, QC, in 1898 from H.S. Nichols, London bookseller.

The extensive papers of the editors of The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St Thomas More are now preserved in some 33 boxes in the Renaissance Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Peter Beal