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Forthcoming book: Book of Common Prayer–Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662

September 28, 2011

10/25/11 Update:  this book is now in print and I have reviewed it here.

Oxford sent me its new Fall religion catalogue, and one book that caught my eye is by Brian Cummings (Sussex): The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662.  This blurb describes this book as follows:

The words of the Book of Common Prayer have permeated deep into the life and literature of the English-speaking world. For nearly five hundred years, and for countless people, it has provided a background fanfare for a marriage or a funeral march at a burial. Yet this familiarity hides a violent and controversial history. When it was first produced, the Book of Common Prayer provoked riots among Catholics, and 4,000 died in a rebellion in Devon and Cornwall to oppose it. In the civil wars of the seventeenth century, it was banned by radical puritans, who believed it encouraged superstition and idolatry, and it caused riots all over Scotland. Conversely, with the spread of the British Empire, it was translated into a host of global languages and adopted as the basis for forms of worship in the United States and elsewhere.

This edition presents the work in three different states: the first edition of 1549, which brought the Reformation into people’s homes; the Elizabethan prayer book of 1559, familiar to Shakespeare and Milton; and the edition of 1662, which embodies the religious temper of the nation down to modern times. All texts are freshly edited from original copies, preserving much of their original appearance, orthography, and punctuation. The Introduction explains the historical significance of the book and the controversial process by which it was put together and revised, the changes to the text from the Reformation to the Restoration of Charles II and the 1662 version, and the significance of the book for everyday life and for the history of the English language and its literature. The book includes a glossary, extensive notes, and two appendices.

9780199207176The catalogue somewhat surprisingly calls it “the first edition for the common reader.”  But frankly they had me at the mention of “original appearance, orthography, and punctuation.”

Even better, Brian Cummings is not a theologian but a literature professor, and his book The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace was well-reviewed (although still on my to read list).

This was of course a rapid period of evolution in religion and language in England, and a glance at the Amazon look-inside feature reveals that this volume has over 100 pages of notes, and extensive appendices and introduction.  It appears to be laid out a bit in the style of Oxford’s World Classics volumes, but at an Amazon price of only $18.78, it looks like a worthy purchase in hardcover format.

(PS:  By the way, the Oxford catalogue this season was quite strange.  P. 42 advertises the second edition of The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion while p. 17 pushes the first edition of the same volume, both in ways suggesting that each of those editions are the definitive editions to get.  And I could not find any mention in the catalogue of one of Oxford’s major new volumes:  The Jewish Annotated New Testament.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2011 8:53 pm

    Looks like a good read, and a good buy. (And it’s strange that Oxford isn’t mentioning yet The Jewish Annotated New Testament.)


  1. Book review: Oxford’s Book of Common Prayer–Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662 « BLT

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