Protestantism came of age amid the perils and persecutions of sixteenth-century England partly because of a brave man who was neither preacher nor politician—printer John Day. He was born during the reign of Henry VIII and entered his profession at age 22 during Edward’s brief Protestant rule. He became the most prominent publisher of Protestant materials in London, and was appointed at age 30 by King Edward to publish Poynet’s Protestant catechism. It was a feather in his cap. But when the king was succeeded by his Catholic half sister, “Bloody” Mary, the feather in his cap became a stone around his neck. His best authors perished at the stake, and he himself was imprisoned before somehow escaping abroad.

John Day spent his European exile traveling around, learning all he could of new printing methods, meeting young apprentices, and planning future work. When Protestant Elizabeth became queen, Day returned to London better equipped than ever. He was the first to print music; to cut, cast, and use Anglo-Saxon type; to introduce mathematical signs; and the first to make Roman and italic types used on the same line as regular print. He included pictures (woodcuts) in his books. And he was the first to print smaller sections of the Bible, which he advertised like this: “Printed in sundry parts for these poor, that they which are not able to bie the hole, may bie a part.”

After settling securely back into England, Day published all of Latimer’s sermons, then Ridley’s “Friendly Farewell.” But his most famous book was John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which went through repeated printings and became the most important book of its … well, of its Day. Business soared, forcing him into larger quarters near St. Paul’s Cathedral. The sign in front of his new shop featured a man pointing to the sun, saying, “Arise, For It Is Day.”

And many more Days followed. John had 13 children by his first wife and another 13 by his second. When he died on July 23, 1583, his son Richard carried on the family business of publishing quality Bibles and Christian materials for England and the world.

The Law of the Lord is perfect; it gives us new life. His teachings last forever, And they give wisdom to ordinary people.The Lord’s instruction is right; It makes our hearts glad.His commands shine brightly, and they give us light. (Psalm 19:7,8)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). July 23.

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