Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662

Article excerpt

The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662. Edited by Brian Cummings. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, Pp. lxxiv, 821. $29.95.)

In view of the increasingly apparent reluctance among many Anglicans to embrace the proposed Anglican Covenant, it would seem manifestly obvious that the Book of Common Prayer stands easily poised for long-delayed recognition as the time-tested fifth ingredient of the socalled "instruments of unity" within the Anglican Communion. Indeed, current interest in this staple feature of Anglicanism continues to rise, and this can be seen in the number of commentaries recently published and also in the number of editions of it that are being produced, either fine or scholarly and whether written under single or multiple authorship. The volume presently under review is one such example of this output, in this instance produced by a single editor, Brian Cummings, who is professor of English at the University of Sussex. It is attractively and indeed finely printed, and compares quite favorably both in size and in general appearance with the new Everyman's Library edition edited by Diarmaid MacCulloch (1999). The book by Cummings is some three hundred pages longer, offers texts from three of the seminal years, and provides rather more commentary, whereas the edition by MacCulloch provides less in the way of secondary information and offers a full text of the 1662 and a somewhat shorter text of that of 1549. Each has a convenient ribbon-marker. They are both easy to use and quite reasonable in cost. If one has the interest, I would recommend buying them both.

Now let us return more directly to the volume currently under review, edited by Cummings, which modestly admits to being no more than a "snapshot" or even a "palimpsest" of the originals, and not itself "definitive," but which seems in its own way to be every bit as faithful to the basic texts as the book edited by MacCulloch. In both cases one can detect minor editorial compromises, as every good historian would expect, although Cummings seems a bit more ready to admit them and to explain the principles he has followed. …

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