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Rare Books

Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections

This religious sect was founded in 1625 by John Reeve. His cousin, Lodowicke Muggleton, acted as spokesman for Reeve and took over leadership upon Reeve's death in 1658.

The tenets of the sect were "a mixture of rationalism and literalism." They believed most miracles to be parables (of a sort), but held that astronomy (i.e. the work of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton) was unscriptural and, hence, wrong. In the collection, there is a beautiful color plate book showing, with prints by George Baxter, their conception of the cosmos; see Isaac Frost. Two systems of astronomy. (London: Simpkin, Marshall, 1846) [(Ex) BS655 .F7q].

The sect had astonishing longevity despite its members being forbidden to proselytize. The Muggletonians remained active until World War II, when their meeting house in London was destroyed in the Blitz. The last member of the group died in 1979.

For details about this collection of over 40 books published in London between 1756 and 1880, see: "Muggletonians" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XLI, 3 (Spring, 1980), pp. 252-254 [full text]. Also see Christopher Hill, Barry Reay, and William Lamont. The World of the Muggletonians. (London: Maurice Temple Smith, 1983) [(Ex) BX8698 .H54 1983].

Also see an appendix in E.P. Thompson, Witness against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law (1994) [(F) PR4148.P6 T47 1993] in which Thompson relates how he tracked down the last of the Muggletonians and found an archive of Muggletonian manuscripts in eighty old apple boxes at the back of a furniture depository in Tunbridge Wells. Evidently this material was later transferred to the British Library.