JOHN FIELD (1545-88) was the administrative heart of the Elizabethan puritan movement and a propagandist convinced of the power of print (ODNB; Collinson, “John Field and Elizabethan
Puritanism”; Collinson, Movement). Field began his involvement with printing as a researcher
for the 1570 edition of John Foxe’s Actes and Monumentes. In the early 1570s he co-authored
the Admonition to the Parliament and managed the press on which it and several subsequent
Presbyterian manifestos were produced. While Field would continue occasionally to publish
titles of his own, he saw his major role as providing “a helping hande, in the furtheraunce of any
profitable worke, that may bee for thy building up in Jesus Christ” (Field, “Epistle,” in Viret, A
faithfull and familiar exposition
, ¶2r). One way to further the cause was to use the press, and
Field edited or translated and arranged the publication of numerous important works by British
and continental reformers. Another was to record the experiences of those involved in the
movement. With help from sympathizers throughout the country, Field spent years gathering
grievances, transcripts of trials and interrogations, stories of clerical scandals, and other
information related to the repression of reform. Patrick Collinson suggests that Field learned the
propaganda value of such material while working with Foxe; in essence, this register imitated
Foxe’s attempt to present the history of a movement through the lives of those persecuted on its
behalf (“John Field,” 146-47). Hostile contemporaries interpreted these efforts to document
communal experience in this light. At the trial of John Udall, for example, one of the examiners
asked Udall why he kept notes of his conferences with the bishops and their officers.
Recognizing the use Field and others made of this kind of information, John Young, bishop of
Rochester, supplied an answer: “Because he and such like might apishly imitate the Martirs of
former times, and accompt themselves persecuted by us as those were by the Popish Bishops”
(Udall, New discovery, 3).

Field died seven months before the first Marprelate tract appeared. But Matthew Sutcliffe
included him among the four writers who had collaborated in the Marprelate project, along with
Job Throkmorotn, John Penry, and John Udall (Answere, 70v). The charge was not an unfair one.
Sutcliffe knew that Penry had been in communication with Field in 1587, and he assumed that
the Marprelate tracts had drawn on material supplied by Field through his register. He was
almost certainly correct: Henry Sharpe deposed that Penry had told him that the Epistle printed
notes found in Field’s study after his death (document 10). While the attribution to the deceased
Field was politic (it is clear from the depositions that Sharpe had a tendency to ask too many
questions), it was in a general sense accurate. Martin Marprelate implicitly refers to Field’s
compilation mid-way through the Epistle, when he warns the bishops that they should note “what
a perilous fellow M. Marprelate is: he understands of all your knavery, and it may be he keeps a
register of them: unless you amend, they shall all come into the light one day” (Black, ed.,
Marprelate Tracts, 33). Martin’s threat to make “known unto the world” the less flattering
actions of the church and its officers invokes the idea of scrutiny that underlay Field’s carefully
compiled community memory, and the public display of this record would characterize the
polemical strategy that Martin and other contemporaries would call “Martinism.”