The Book of Common Prayer is one of the most influential books in history. First published in the reign of Edward VI, in 1549, it was a product of the English Reformation following the break with Rome. For nearly five centuries, it has formed the order of worship for established Christianity in England. More listeners have heard these prayers, it is said, than the soliloquies of Shakespeare. As British imperial ambitions spread, the Book of Common
Prayer became the primary instrument (at least as much as the King James Bible) of English culture, firstly in Ireland in 1551. When the Puritans fled to America in 1620 it was to escape the discipline imposed by of the Book of Common Prayer, yet the book came to embody official religion in America before and after
Independence, and is still in use.
Today it is a global book: it was the first book printed in many languages, from north America to southern Africa, to the Indian sub-continent.
In this Very Short Introduction Brian Cummings tells the fascinating history of the Book of Common Prayer, and explains why it is easily misunderstood. Designed in the 1540s as a radical Protestant answer to Catholic "superstition", within a century (during the English Civil Wars) radical Christians regarded the Book of Common Prayer as itself "superstitious" and even (paradoxically) "Papist". Changing in meaning and context over time, the Book of Common Prayer has
acted as a cultural symbol, affecting the everyday conduct of life as much as the spiritual, and dividing conformity from non-conformity, in social terms as well as religious, from birth to marriage to death.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 160
Weight: 124 g
Dimensions: 175 x 113 x 10 mm
Insightful * Mary Laven, Times Literary Supplement *
[Brian Cummings's] text is challenging, informative, and even swashbuckling, by turns ... His book is a must for all, but, take it slowly and savour it: a huge amount is packed into these 120 pages. * Stephen Platten, Church Times *
The Book of Common Prayer: A Very Short Introduction is an excellent summary of the origins of The Book of Common Prayer and its impact on history, from the Tudors to the present. Cummings's accessible prose makes for an enjoyable read that is not overburdened with technical or theological jargon. * Tanner J. Moore, Reading Religion *
One of the foremost British scholars of Renaissance and Reformation literature, Brian Cummings has given us a vivid and multi-dimensional portrait of how one of the most influential books in the English language was constructed, reconstructed, and disseminated across several centuries, helping us see just how it played the role it did in shaping a common imagination as well as a common spirituality. * Rowan Williams, Master, Magdalene College, Cambridge *