Collecting antiquarian books is really a process of discovery during which some remarkable stories unfold.
Our edition of The Pilgrim's Progress, for example, cannot be said to be the most beautiful, most unique or oldest copy in the world - given that the book was written in the 1670s. However, it's interesting in that it was published by the Religious Tract Society, an Evangelical publishing house that aimed to publish material encouraging the spread of the Christian religion. The society, initially small, expanded by epic proportions and one of its founders, David Bogue, would also go on to found the world's most prominent Bible publisher of the 19th century, the British and Foreign Bible Society. The same David Bogue, incidentally, lived in Penang, Malaysia, as a missionary.
Although the Religious Tract Society has altered its form many times since its founding, for example, to become the United Society for Christian Literature in 1935, its publishing tradition continues till this day. In 1931, the printing arm of the Religious Tract Society was renamed The Lutterworth Press, which is now one of Britain's oldest independent publishing houses. Today, it prints books of all genres, and has been responsible for bringing authors like David Attenborough into the public eye.
The Pilgrim's Progress' theme - the soul's journey to God - was not a new idea in 17th century England. Here is a beautiful pre-Christian England ballad (modified to suit Christian beliefs), with the same theme, and sung at wakes and funerals: