The Book Of Common Prayer
Prior to the Reformation, the Church of England had its various service books in Latin, consistent with the Roman conception of the Mass. But in the reign of Edward VI, following through on the initiatives of Henry VIII, these books were in the year 1549 simplified, translated into English, and combined into one book called The Book Of Common Prayer. Three years later a revised book was issued, but was little used. During the reign of Queen Mary the Church of England reverted to Latin Service books, as Mary favored Catholicism. But in 1559, in the reign of Elizabeth, the prayer book of 1552, slightly revised, was reissued in English. The circumstances surrounding the appearance of the 1559 printing were dramatic. The years of Mary's short reign were tense, as the issue of who was the recognized head of the English church, Monarch or Pope, had not yet been settled. Mary had outlawed the Book Of Common Prayer and provided many martyrs for the later editions of John Foxe's famous book. So, when Elizabeth came to the throne in November, 1558, there was uncertainty as to what would ensue. As it happened, Elizabeth's reign would consolidate the ground gained by Reformation forces throughout England and Ireland.
The Book underwent a minor revision in 1604 under James I, and a more extensive one under Charles II in 1662. After the American Revolution at the General Convention of the American Church in Philadelphia in 1789, the first American Prayer Book was published, being a revision of 1662 edition, but remaining essentially the same book. This Prayer Book went through several slight revisions in succeeding years. In 1892 a more complete revision was made, and again in 1928. Finally, in 1979, a radically new Book of Common Prayer was adopted.
As with the Holy Bible itself, the Book of Common Prayer offers the collector a rich and wide variety of approaches. Whether you collect fine bindings, historically significant printings, or even Civil War material (there was a Book of Common Prayer printed in Richmond, VA in 1863), there is something here for everyone.
Here is a brief description of one of the Prayer Books we have in stock. It is a three volume facsimile of the Book of Common Prayer from 1551. It was taken from the manuscript which resides (at least in 1847) in Dublin, Ireland, and was put together by the Ecclesiastical History Society in London in 1849. This edition is so complete that even the blanks are present as in the manuscript. Bound in their original paper covered boards with gold-stamped devices, this mostly unopened set is in very good condition and came to us from the Sir James Stephen Library in Dublin, where it apparently did not circulate, given the sets good state of preservation.
Copyright 1996 - 2001 C. Dickens Fine, Rare and Collectible Books, Atlanta, Georgia