The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography

Overview

"A beautifully lucid introduction to the origins and use of one of the most significant religious texts in the English-speaking world. Alan Jacobs helps us to understand not only the book but also the Christian sensibility of the whole Anglican tradition and the culture it nourished."?Dr. Rowan Williams, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge

"The Book of Common Prayer, often thought of as a source of Anglican stability, has led an interesting life of many changes. Jacobs ...

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Overview

"A beautifully lucid introduction to the origins and use of one of the most significant religious texts in the English-speaking world. Alan Jacobs helps us to understand not only the book but also the Christian sensibility of the whole Anglican tradition and the culture it nourished."—Dr. Rowan Williams, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge

"The Book of Common Prayer, often thought of as a source of Anglican stability, has led an interesting life of many changes. Jacobs tracks them all like a shrewd detective."—Garry Wills, author of What the Gospels Meant

"From pious aspiration to ruthless politics, and from bonfires of hated communion rails to the Star Wars prayer, the history of the Book of Common Prayer, in Alan Jacobs' hands, is both an education and a bright panorama. I can hardly remember another read so swift yet at the same time so helpful."—Sarah Ruden, author of Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time

"Few texts have had as much influence on the language, culture, and religious life of English-speaking nations as the Book of Common Prayer. Alan Jacobs masterfully distills its history with a poetic touch that is at once scholarly, reverential, and highly engaging. There is no better introduction or guide to the Book of Common Prayer than this one."—Carlos Eire, author of A Very Brief History of Eternity

"Alan Jacobs traces the life of the Book of Common Prayer as it has grown and changed over its four-hundred-year history, responding to social and historical conditions and to its own inner convictions and complexities. Many books have been written about the Book of Common Prayer, but this one is uniquely compact, illuminating, and moving."—Edward Mendelson, Columbia University

"This book is a pleasure to read. Alan Jacobs's writing is informed, lucid, accessible, and witty. I know of no other work that is comparable."—R.W.L. Moberly, Durham University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is a worthwhile introduction for anyone interested in how Anglican services have taken their present form. It demonstrates that unity in diversity across the provinces of the Anglican Communion stems, in no small way, from the book of 1662 built on Cranmer's earlier work. While references to Ireland are sparse, the joy of this biography is that it explains our Anglican heritage of worship in very accessible language."—Robert Marshall, Church Review

"Professor Jacobs has followed carefully all that happened regarding the book and its changes. He is sensitive to the opinions of those on both sides of each controversy and his book is both informative and interesting. Be sure to read the final Notes section, lots of good info there, too."—Lois Sibley, Reviewing Religious Books

Library Journal
11/01/2013
Jacobs (Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program, Baylor Univ.; Original Sin: A Cultural History) provides a fascinating, fast-paced account of the 464 years of "life" that the Book of Common Prayer has both enjoyed and suffered. Often involved in political as well as religious controversy; revised according to dominant theological, political, national, and linguistic needs; beloved, demonized, and disregarded, the book was revered for its stately style and literary parallelism but eschewed by others for its set forms of prayer that did not engage in charisma and emotion. It was almost killed, then resurrected. The book continues to "live" a varied and global existence. Conceived to unite English people in the same form of worship, it itself became pluriform and a source of controversy; intended to promote the salvation of Christian people, it caused the violent death of its life giver Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, among others. VERDICT General readers will enjoy the peregrinations of the Book of Common Prayer itself and will profit from Jacobs's cultural and religious insights and commentary. Anglophiles and students of ritual, literature, and religion will also gain appreciation of the paradoxical nature of human language and actions.—Carolyn Craft, emerita, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691154817
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/29/2013
  • Series: Lives of Great Religious Books
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 175,562
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Jacobs is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University. He is the author of several books, including "The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction" (Oxford) and "Original Sin: A Cultural History" (HarperOne), and he has edited W. H. Auden's long poems "For the Time Being" and "The Age of Anxiety" (both Princeton).

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Table of Contents

Chronology ix
List of Figures xi
A Note on Texts xiii
Introduction The Archbishop in His Library 1
Chapter 1 One Book for One Country 7
Chapter 2 Revision, Banishment, Restoration 45
Chapter 3 Becoming Venerable 61
Chapter 4 The Book in the Social World 91
Chapter 5 Objects, Bodies, and Controversies 113
Chapter 6 The Pressures of the Modern 149
Chapter 7 Many Books for Many Countries 181
Appendix The Prayer Book and Its Printers 195
Acknowledgments 201
Notes 203
Index 231

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