“AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION, IT IS FOR MOST ENGLISHMEN SECOND ONLY TO THE BIBLE”
BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER. The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments… London: Robert Barker and the Assignes of John Bill, 1638. Tall quarto, contemporary full calf gilt rebacked with original spine laid down, raised bands, all edges gilt. $6800.
1638 edition of the Book of Common Prayer— the magisterial treasury of ritual, prayer and Scripture that has indelibly shaped the piety and literature of the English-speaking world— finely printed in extensively ornamented Gothic type and handsomely bound in contemporary calf-gilt.
Born of Thomas Cranmer’s desire for liturgical texts upon which all of Europe’s Protestant, English-speaking churches could agree, and which all English-speaking believers could easily comprehend, the Book of Common Prayer, first issued in 1549, has become what Diarmaid MacCulloch calls “one of a handful of texts to have decided the future of a world language.” “Cranmer had been a Cambridge scholar (he had held a lectureship in Biblical studies) and a diplomat, before being plucked by Henry VIII to be archbishop, and he almost certainly did not imagine that he was writing one of the great, abiding works of English literature… But the acute poetry, balanced sonorities, heavy order, and direct intimacy of Cranmer’s prose have achieved permanence, and many of his phrases and sentences are as famous as lines from Shakespeare or the King James Bible” (The New Yorker). Beyond its vocabulary and phraseology, the prayer book is “for most Englishmen second only to the Bible” (PMM 75). Bound with a contemporary edition of Sternhold and Hopkins’ popular metrical psalter. Text mostly set in Gothic type, with large, decorative woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces. Griffiths 1638:1. STC 16409. Armorial bookplate. Scattered pencil markings and marginalia; contemporary owner signature to leaf [B8v]. Blank leaves bound in between [R4] and [R5], [2C7] and [2C8], [B6] of “Forn and Manner of Making and Consecrating Bishops…” and metrical psalter.
Occasional light soiling and dampstaining. Minor expert paper repairs to edges of first and last dozen leaves, only barely affecting printing on title page. A few other minor expert paper repairs, not affecting text. Contemporary calf-gilt handsome. An excellent volume.