The Book of Common Prayer.
The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of1549, 1559, and 1662. Brian Cum-mings, editor. Oxford University Press. [pounds sterling]16.99. Ixxiv + 820 + [i] pages. ISBN 978-0-19-920717-6. The Book of Common Prayer--BCP or simply Prayer Book--was until very recently one of the foundation stones of the reformed' English Church. The editor seeks not just to produce a religious book but to reach out to all who value the magnificent prose of the BCP. He also reminds readers that there has never been one Prayer Book. In the event there have been five: 1549, 1552, 1559, 1604, and 1662 not to mention 1928. The editor has chosen three--1549, 1559, and 1662. The first was the great Reformation textbook of the church; the second was issued in the first year of Elizabeth Is reign and revised the 1552 edition which was virtually stillborn; the 1662 edition marked an attempt to draw together the church which had suffered so horribly under the Puritans and the regicidal dictator, Cromwell. It is this last version which has had the longest and arguably the greatest impact on English life here and in the English-speaking world. In addition Prof. Cummings has included the Black Rubric of 1552 (important for comprehending fully the church's understanding of the Eucharist), and additional services (1662-1685), e.g. for the Martyrdom of Charles I, the Restoration of Charles II, Guy Fawkes Day. the Ordinal, prayers for special occasions, and the commemoration of the Fire of London. In addition there are the XXXIX Articles, the Psalms, Degrees of Kinship, and the Churching of Women (1549). As if this were not enough there is a valuable and extended introduction, chronology and impressive notes which make this treasure-trove of English religion a most valuable book. (J.M.)