John Bunyan



John Brown, John Bunyan (1628-1688) His Life, Times, and Work, revised edition by Frank Mott Harrison (London, Glasgow and Birmingham, 1928).


Joyce Godber, ‘John Bunyan's Signature’, Bedfordshire Magazine, 6 (1957), 47-9.

Harrison, Bibliography

F.M. Harrison, ‘A Bibliography of the Works of John Bunyan’, Supplement to the Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 6 (1930 [for 1932]).


Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor, 3 vols (Glasgow, Edinburgh and London).

T.J. Brown

T.J. Brown, ‘English Literary Autographs XXXIII’, The Book Collector, 9 (Spring 1960), 53-5.


Lost Manuscripts

No autograph literary manuscripts by Bunyan are known to survive. His manuscripts are lost despite the fact that at least fourteen of them are recorded as being preserved after his death, and purchased in 1691 from his son John, one of them serving as printer's copy as late as the mid-18th century. In the Mercurius Reformatus of 11 June 1691 an advertisement appeared stating that John Bunyan ‘hath left behind him Ten Manuscripts prepared by himself for the Press before his death’ and that his widow was ‘desired to print them (with some other of his Works, which have been already printed, but are at present not to be had) which will make together a Book of 10s. in sheets, in Fol.’ (Harrison, Bibliography, pp. xxv-xxvi). The resulting Folio edition of Bunyan's Works, which was published in London in 1691-2, was the work of Charles Doe, comb-maker of Southwark. In what he proclaimed on the title-page was only ‘The First Volume’ of his intended edition, he printed ‘Ten of [Bunyan's] Excellent Manuscripts prepared for the Press before his Death, never before Printed’. The number of pages in the volume ran to ‘about 155 Sheets’ instead of ‘near a Hundred and Forty Sheets’, the number previously proposed to subscribers, the error of computation arising from ‘the smallness of the Writing of the Manuscripts’ (Harrison, Bibliography, pp. 65-6, and see also Brown-Harrison, pp. 415-28). The ten manuscripts printed in this form contained the following works: An Exposition on the Ten first chapters of Genesis and part of the Eleventh, Justification by imputed righteousness, Paul's Departure and Crown, Israel's Hope Encouraged, The Desires of the Righteous Granted, The Saint's Privilege and Profit, Christ a Compleat Saviour, The Saints' Knowledge of Christ's Love, The House of the Forest of Lebanon and Of Antichrist and his Ruine, and of the Slaying of the Witnesses. The titles of four further works remaining in manuscript are mentioned by Doe in another publication six years later. Two of the four — A Pocket Concordance to the Scriptures and A Christian Dialogue — are not known ever to have been printed and the manuscripts (like all the others) are unaccounted for. The third additional work — The Heavenly Foot-Man — was published by Doe as a separate volume in 1698. Doe observes in the volume (in a catalogue of Bunyan's works) that ‘The four Books following [viz. the four additional works remaining in manuscript] were never yet Printed, except this now of the Heavenly Footman, which I bought in 1691, now six years since, of Mr. John Bunyan, the eldest son of our Author’ (Harrison, Bibliography, pp. 69-70, and Brown-Harrison, pp. 429-30). The fourth additional work — A Relation of the Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan — was not printed until 1765, the publisher being James Buckland, who was probably acting at the instigation of Samuel Palmer, editor of the Nonconformist Memorial (Harrison, Bibliography, pp. 70-1). Buckland's copy-text was later described by Joseph Gurney in The Evangelical Magazine, 21 (1813), 148, as a manuscript ‘in Mr. Bunyan's hand-writing’, a ‘very fair’ copy ‘sewed up in a little book’, and as having been purchased in the summer of 1765 from Bunyan's ‘aged and infirm’ grand-daughter [Hannah Bunyan] at Bedford for five guineas. The circumstances of this purchase suggest either that the manuscript acquired by Doe in 1691 was subsequently re-acquired by the Bunyan family in Bedford or else that two manuscript copies were preserved — one purchased by Doe, the other retained by the family. In any event, none of these manuscripts has come to light in more recent times; neither (apart from those copied out in the Church Book) has any of Bunyan's original letters which, according to Doe, were ‘many’.

Alleged Examples of Bunyan's Handwriting

In the absence of Bunyan's literary manuscripts, various other documents, signatures and inscriptions have been attributed to him over the years. Of these probably only two have an undoubted claim to authenticity and have been given entries below (BuJ 3-4).

Other alleged examples of Bunyan's handwriting — chiefly signatures — range from the possibly authentic to the undoubtedly spurious. Where uncertainty persists, it is because signatures alone — which may quite legitimately be subject to considerable variation during a person's lifetime — are rarely sufficient evidence on which to base positive judgments (especially when, as in this case, there is so little authenticated autograph material for comparison); also because there were apparently several John Bunyans living in the Bedford area in the writer's lifetime (two at Cranfield and one at Streatley, for example). For the record, however, the following is a list of alleged miscellaneous specimens of Bunyan's hand known at present (though others may well turn up in due course):


Signature of ‘John Bynyon’ on a petition to the Committee of the Eastern Association signed by ‘att lest a Hundred persons inhabitinge wthin the three Hundreds of Newport Pagnell in the Countie of Bucks’, arguing in favour of the disbanding of the garrison at Newport Pagnell, [1640s, before June 1647].

Hitherto unrecorded. Possibly the signature of the teenaged John Bunyan, future author, who served in the garrison at Newport Pagnell between c.October 1644 and c.July 1647 (see below). No other signatures by Bunyan of such an early date are known.

University of Kansas, MS E107, f. 384.


Signature of ‘John Bunyan’ on a petition to Oliver Cromwell signed by 36 citizens of Bedfordshire; 12 May 1653.

Facsimiles of the signature in Offor, I, xxxviii; in Godber, p. 47, No. 3; and in Brown-Harrison, after p. 122. Authenticity accepted by George Offor and by Harrison; rejected by John Brown, Godber, Sir Hilary Jenkinson and T. J. Brown.

Society of Antiquaries, MS 138, ff. 141-2v.


List of applications for licences to preach by Congregational ministers in Bedfordshire and adjoining counties, including the name of John Bunyan [1 May 1672].

Facsimile examples in Godber, p. 47, No. 1; Brown-Harrison, after pp. 122 and 216; and in Ray Rawlins, The Guinness Book of Autographs (London, 1977), p. 32. Authenticity accepted by Godber (as ‘easily recognizable as the hand in the Church Book’) and by Harrison, but rejected by T. J. Brown (who regards the hand as closer to that of Bunyan's fellow pastor Samuel Fenn)

National Archives, Kew, SP 29/321/58 (Museum, case W6).


Signatures of ‘John Bunyan’ and his wife ‘Elizabeth B’ (the latter written twice) on the title-page of an exemplum of The Whole Book of Psalmes (Cambridge, 1637) [STC 2675].

Formerly bound with 5 below. Owned in the USA after 1873 by the Claflin family. Facsimile of the title-page in Paul Kaufman, ‘Bunyan Signatures in a Copy of the Bible’, BC, 8 (Winter, 1959), 427-8. Possibly genuine and, if so, they include the only known examples of the signature of Bunyan's second wife, Elizabeth (d.1691).

Privately owned in the USA (?).


Signature of ‘John Bunyan’ on the title-page of the New Testament in a printed exemplum of The Holy Bible (Cambridge, 1637).

Formerly bound with 4 above, and owned by the American statesman Charles Sumner (1811-74). Bookplate of Richard Blofeld.

Recorded in Brown-Harrison, p. 489, and in Paul Kaufman, loc. cit.

Harvard, Houghton STC 2326.


Signature of ‘John Bunyan, his Booke, 1658’ cut from an exemplum of St Augustine, Opera (Basle, 1489) once owned by one Thomas Wynyngton.

Facsimile (apparently of this, described as cut from a volume of St Augustine's Works, 1580) in the catalogue of the R. B. Adam Library (New York, 1929), III, after p. 41. The volume sold at Sotheby's, 17 June 1858, Lot 227, to Bumstead.

The Adam Library was sold to Donald and Mary Hyde (Lady Eccles) and is currently untraced.


Signature of ‘John Bvnyan’ written in capital letters at the foot of each title-page in the three volumes of an exemplum of John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (London, 1641), the date ‘1662’ added to the name in the third volume.

Acquired (according to Robert Southey) in the 1780s by Mr Wontner and later, in 1841, by the Bedfordshire General Library; offered for sale by the Bedford Literary and Scientific Institute at Sotheby's, 26 May 1911, Lot 720 (withdrawn). Facsimiles of the title-page in the third volume in the Sotheby's sale catalogue and in The Connoisseur (June, 1911) p. 133, and of a ‘signature’ in Godber, p. 48, and elsewhere. Facsimile of some other 17th-century writing in the volumes in Offor, I, xxxvii. Authenticity rejected by Godber and by T. J. Brown. Also recorded in Brown-Harrison, pp. 154, 487.

Pierpont Morgan Library, E-3 113 C (19331-3. v. 1-3).


Signature of ‘John Bunyan his Boock’ in an exemplum of Lancelot Andrewes, XCVI Sermons (London, 1635) owned in 1855 by George Offor. Facsimile of signature in Offor, I, xxxviii. Authenticity rejected by T. J. Brown.

Sotheby's, 27 June 1865, Lot 2021. Probably destroyed in a saleroom fire.


Signature of ‘John Bunyan’ on the title-page of an exemplum of Vavasor Powell, A New and Useful Concordance to the Holy Bible (London, 1673).

Owned before 1822 by the Rev. Joseph Tysoe. Facsimiles of the signature in Offor, I, xxxviii; Godber, p. 47, No. 4; and Brown-Harrison, after p. 122. Apparently the signature of Bunyan's son, John, also responsible for ‘12’ below.

Facsimiles of the signature in Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor, 3 vols (Glasgow, Edinburgh and London), I, xxxviii; Joyce Godber, ‘John Bunyan's Signature’, Bedfordshire Magazine, 6 (1957), 47-9, p. 47, No. 4; and John Brown, John Bunyan (1628-1688) His Life, Times, and Work, revised edition by Frank Mott Harrison (London, Glasgow and Birmingham, 1928), after p. 122.

Bristol Baptist College, G. R. Display case.


Two lines of writing cut from a printed book.

Ascribed to Bunyan by Olinthus Gilbert Gregory in 1837. Authenticity rejected by T. J. Brown.

John Rylands University Library, Manchester, MS 347/197.


Tiny slip of paper, pipe-shaped, containing the words ‘Lord deliver me from a deceitful heart in this work’, ascribed to Bunyan by O[linthus] G[ilbert] Gregory (fl.1830-40s).

Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Gratz Collection, British Authors, Case 10, Box 27.


Signature of ‘John Bunyan’ as witness on two deeds, Harrowden, 28 September 1678.

Facsimile of one signature in Godber, p. 47, No. 5, and in The Moot Hall, Elstow (Bedfordshire County Council, 1952), flyleaf. Evidently the signature of Bunyan's son, John, whose Will (signed in 1728) is in the Bedfordshire Record Office (ABP/W 1729-30/112) [facsimile of the signature in Godber, p. 47, No. 61], and who also signed ‘9’ above and a document of 1697 sold at Sotheby's, 24 July 1978, Lot 1, to Alan Thomas.

Bedfordshire Record Office, AD 2031, and F 453.


Allegedly ‘Autograph Signature, — “John Bunyan, 1682”’, on the flyleaf of a printed exemplum of [Thomas Hayne], The Life and Death of Dr. Martin Luther (London, 1641), bound with works by Luther in English translation (1575-1641).

American Art Association, New York, 26 January 1922, lot 33, with a reduced facsimile of the ‘signature’ in the sale catalogue (which seems unlike that of John Bunyan the author).


A printed exemplum of The Holy Bible (London, 1675), not signed by Bunyan but with the inscription on a flyleaf ‘Hannah Bunyan Born the 17. Day of Septemb in the Year of our Lord 1694’ and, in an 18th-century hand, ‘NB This is the Bible which the celebrated Mr. John Bunyan used in the Pulpit’.

Later inscribed ‘Samuel Palmer July. 18. 1759’ and with an inscription by Samuel ?Whithead recording its purchase from the sale of Palmer's books on 15 March 1814.

In 1990 privately owned in London.


A printed exemplum of The Holy Bible (1653) allegedly owned by John Bunyan, reportedly sold at Sotheby's, March 1909 (but not apparently recorded in sale catalogues then). Recorded in W.C. Hazlitt's annotated exemplum of his A Roll of Honour (1908) [British Library, Cup.410.g.343, opposite p. 258].

Other Documents

Various other documents relating to Bunyan have been preserved and, for the most part, are cited by his biographers. Some of the most notable may be mentioned as follows. At the age of sixteen, when he was eligible for military service, Bunyan became a soldier in the Parliamentary garrison at Newport Pagnell commanded by Sir Samuel Luke, where he served between c.October 1644 and c.July 1647. For evidence of this, see Brown-Harrison, pp. 46-50. His name (‘John Bunnion’) appears on the muster rolls of Newport Pagnell in these years — viz. in the list of ‘Leiut Colloll Cokayn his Company Mustered the 4th: of January 1644’ (27th name in the first column). This list is in the National Archives, Kew, SP 28/121B, p. 30, and negative reproductions of the relevant pages appear in Brown-Harrison, after p. 46.

It is thus possible that Bunyan was the ‘John Bynyon’ who, with many other citizens of Newport Pagnell, signed a petition calling on the Parliamentary authorities to disband the garrison there (see No. 1 above). A reference to ‘one Bunyan, of Bedford, a tinker, [who] was countenanced and suffered to speak on his pulpit to the congregation’ appears in articles against William Dell, rector of Yelden, annexed to an unsuccessful petition of 20 June 1660 by Royalist citizens of Yelden, preserved in the Parliamentary Archives (it is cited in HMC, 7th report (1879), Appendix, p. 102, and quoted in Brown-Harrison, p. 118).

Various Bedford Gaol lists containing Bunyan's name, between 1662 and 1672, are preserved among Assize records in the Bedfordshire Record Office (HSA 1662 W1; HSA 1665 S1; HSA 1667 W58; HSA 1668 S1 and W1; HSA 1669 W1; HSA 1672 W20). Two of these lists (for 1668 and 1672) were formerly offered for sale in Quaritch's catalogue No. 629 (1945), item 226. A facsimile of one of the lists for 1668 (with the name ‘John Bunnyon’) appears in the pamphlet The Moot Hall, Elstow (Bedfordshire County Council, 1952), after p. 14. A memorandum, dated 6 October 1672, certifying that Bunyan showed the Mayor and Aldermen of Leicester his licence to preach (his licence, dated 9 May 1672, being ‘to teach as a congregationall p[ar]-son being of that perswasion in the house of Josias Roughead in the Towne of Bedford, or in any other place roome or house Licensed by his matie’) is now in the Leicestershire Record office (BR 11/5/84). It is recorded in HMC, 8th Report (1881), Appendix, p. 440, and edited in Brown-Harrison, pp. 234-5.

The warrant for Bunyan's second arrest, dated 4 March 1674/5, is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library (MA 39).It is reproduced in facsimile in British Literary Autographs, Series I, ed. Verlyn Klinkenborg et al. (New York, 1981), No. 52, and (reduced) in Brown-Harrison, after p. 266. A 19th-century photograph of the document (made when it was in the possession of W. G. Thorpe of the Middle Temple) is in the Bunyan Meeting Museum, Bedford. F. G. Emmison, in ‘The Writer of the Warrant for the Arrest of John Bunyan’, Publications of the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, 12 (1928), 97-8, presents arguments for identifying the scribe as the public notary and deputy registrar William Johnson.

A few documents signed by Bedfordshire justices who played a part in Bunyan's imprisonment are in the Bunyan Meeting Museum, Bedford. Some twelve deeds relating to a Bunyan family in Buckinghamshire, possibly a branch of the author's family, between 1572 and 1670, were sold at Sotheby's, 12 October 1976, Lot 514, to H. J. Webb.

Relics and Miscellanea

Various alleged ‘personal relics’ of Bunyan are preserved, chiefly at the Bunyan Meeting Museum, Bedford. The majority are listed in Brown-Harrison, pp. 487-90. They include items which are traditionally claimed to be Bunyan's chair, table, anvil, marquetry cabinet, grandfather clock (owned by his family), pulpit (at Zoar Street Chapel, Southwark), flute, violin, keys, prison plate, walking stick, jug, cup, ring, candlesticks and Bibles, as well as the church doors at which he stood in Bedford.

For various illustrations of these items, see Brown-Harrison, plates after pp. 272, 368 and 420; Offor, I, lviii, lxxv, lxxvi; Cyril Hargreaves and M. Greenshields, Catalogue of The Bunyan Meeting Library and Museum, Bedford (Bedford, 1955), after p. 22; F. T. Wells, Story of John Bunyan Museum (London, 1957), passim; and in other pamphlets and postcards offered for sale at the Bunyan Meeting Museum.

An eighteenth-century account of Bunyan's life by John Lewis, minister of Margate, is in the Bodleian (MS Rawl. C. 409, ff. 2-34). The autograph manuscript of Robert Southey's life of Bunyan, dated 13 March 1830, is in the Pierpont Morgan Library (MA 413). A nineteenth-century Latin translation of The Pilgrim's Progress by William Massey, entitled Peregrinantis progressus, together with a short life of Bunyan also in Latin, is in Aberdeen University Library (MS 385).

Peter Beal