Elizabethan Prayer Book
The Prayer Book of 1559 was the third revision for the Anglican Church,
and was brought about by the accession to the throne of Elizabeth I and
the restoration of the Anglican Church after the six-year rule of the
Catholic Queen Mary. It was in use much longer than either of its predecessors
- nearly 100 years, until the Long Parliament of 1645 outlawed it as part
of the Puritan Revolution. It served not only the England of Elizabeth
I, but her Stuart successors as well. This was the first Prayer Book used
in America, brought here by the Jamestown settlers and others in the early
Elizabeth's coronation portrait, in 1559.
in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, commemorating the first
BCP service in the U. S., by Sir Francis Drake's chaplain, 1579.
This Book was a conservative
revision of the 1552 edition, with the effect of making it somewhat less
"Protestant". It put to a halt the movement in the previous two
Prayer Books towards a more Protestant church. Some of the few changes made
- Dropping the very
last rubric in the Communion service (called the "Black Rubric"),
which had sought to assure that kneeling during Communion did not in
any way imply worship of the elements;
- Combining the
two versions of the sentences used for administration of the elements
during Communion from the previous two Prayer Books;
- Dropping prayers
against the Pope from the Litany; and
- Adding a rubric
to Morning Prayer prescribing the use of traditional vestments.
number of Saints' days and festivals were added to the Kalendar in 1561;
these are also noted. Some minor changes were also made in 1604 on the
accession of James I. The most important of these was to lengthen the
Catechism by adding sections on the Sacraments.
changes may be seen by comparing this text with that of the 1552 Book.
translation used for the Biblical texts of this prayer book was that of
the Great Bible of 1539; this was also the source for the Psalter for
this and for all Prayer Books down through the US 1928 BCP.
Coverdale translation of the Psalms, not strictly part of this BCP, but
very important to it, is online, in PDF
Communion Service is also available online in
Other versions of the 1559 BCP available online include:
- A 1562 printing (Griffiths 1562/1), from the Benton Collection at the Boston Public Library, via the Internet Archive.
- Also from the Benton Collection, a 1581 printing (Griffiths 1581/1).
- A mostly-complete Elizabethan
Prayer Book (apparently Griffiths 1584/1), thanks to the Univ. of Pennsylvania.
- Another, apparently Griffiths 1582/2, from the
Internet Archive; has several leaves missing in the front.
- Another from the Benton Collection, from 1599 (Griffiths 1599/1).
- Griffiths 1611/1 from the Internet Archive; also several leaves missing in the front.
- We have a 1623 “Bible version” (Griffiths 1623/1).
- Google Books has a
post-restoration edition printed in London in 1660
- A reprint of the 1559 BCP is also available online
as part of Liturgies and occasional forms of prayer set forth in the
reign of Queen Elizabeth, William Keatinge Clay, ed. (1847; Griffiths
the Internet Archive
- Google Books has two of the Pickering (typeset) facsimiles from 1844: one of the first
(1559) printing (Griffiths 1844/28), and the other of the 1604
edition (Griffiths 1844/29) reflecting the changes made then. The 1604 edition is also available from the Internet Archive.
- The Internet Archive has a 1605 printing (Griffiths 1605/2) from the BPL.
- We also have online a Latin translation of the
1559 BCP, first published in 1560 and the first Welsh translation, from 1567.
All of these but the first are available as PDF graphics; the copy from the Univ. of Penn. is presented as a series of photographs. "Griffiths" indicates references appearing in David Griffiths' Bibliography of
the Book of Common Prayer.
on the text:
The text is presented in two formats: HTML and PDF (or Adobe
Acrobat). The HTML text used here is from a reprint, The Prayer Book
of Queen Elizabeth 1559, published in 1890 by Griffith Farran Okeden
& Welsh (Greiffiths 1890/7). That text, in turn, appears
to be taken from an edition published by Richard Grafton of London in
1559. It uses completely the original language and spelling, which are
largely retained here. Changes introduced in 1604 are taken from an original
edition published in 1634. The Book of Common Prayer, 1559, edited
by John Booty and published by the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1976,
and Liturgiae Britannicae, by Willian Keeling (publ. 1851), were
also consulted. Additionally, The State Prayers and other Variations
in the Book of Common Prayer, by Frank Streatfeild (1950), was used
for the variations in the State Prayers found in the Litany.
HTML text of the reprint has been modernized as follows:
- When a vowel would,
in modern usage, be followed by an "m" or "n", this
was sometimes indicated by the vowel-macron, or the vowel with a horizontal
line over it, and the "m" or "n" was omitted. As
the vowel-macron is not part of the standard ASCII character set, these
characters have been replaced by their modern equivalents; i. e., the
"m" or "n" has been added.
- The letters "j"
and "v" were hardly, if ever used in the original text, being
represented by "i" and "u", respectively. The text
here replaces "i" and "u" with "j" and
"v", as appropriate.
- The "u"
in words starting with that letter (e. g., "us") was represented
by a "v"; we have replaced the "v" with "u"
in such cases.
- The lower case
"s" was often represented by something which looks much like
a modern-day "f"; the modern "s" is used everywhere
- If a word is obscure
or has a different meaning today, the modern equivalent is noted in
brackets in the text.
- The reader will
quickly notice that spelling was not standardized then as it is today.
Many words have a number of different spellings within the text. This
can be easily seen, for example, in the Benedicite omnia opera
in Morning Prayer, where "Lord" sometimes has a final "e",
and sometimes not, and usually is capitalized, but sometimes not; and
"praise" is is sometimes spelled with a "y" and
at other times with an "i". It is important to note that spelling
was also not uniform among the different printings of this book.
The fonts and general
appearance of the text did not (as far as I can determine) change greatly
over the different printings of this book. In later printings, however,
spelling became more and more standardized and more like that used today.
By 1600, for example, the vowel macron appears to have disappeared, while
the the transposition of u's and v's lasted at least until the 1630's.
Its appearance in 1634 can be seen in the PDF version, which does not
use any of the modernizations mentioned above.
the HTML text, we do have several images of pages of the 1559 original
placed at appropriate places so you may see just what the original looked
like. Typically, the text was in blackletter ("Old English")
in the original, and the rubrics in italics or in Roman type. As blackletter
is not a common font, nor is it particularly readable, the text here is
in Roman and the rubrics in italic.
to be expected that this edition, which is more than 400 years old, uses
some archaic English words. What might not be expected is that certain
words used here have entirely different meanings nowadays than they did
in the 1500's. Some of these, with their definitions with respect to this
hinder, prevent (i. e., opposite to what it means today)
to go before.
Sometimes means "parson"
Sometimes means "travel"
The PDF text is taken
from an original edition published by Robert Barker in 1634; it is intended
to appear as much like the original as possible.This particular edition
is listed in David Griffith's Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer
as 1634/1, and appears to be similar to editions published by Barker throughout
the 1630's. The basic PDF text comes from the older HTML text already
on the site, adjusted to agree with the 1634 copy in spelling, punctuation,
The woodcuts and
other decorations all come from this particular book, although they
weren't necessarily used in the places you see them in the PDF text.
This is because, due to the book's binding, it was not possible to
scan in woodcuts and other decorations on the pages on the right-hand
The fonts used were
and Founder's Caslon, from HW Caslon
& Co. (now sold by ITC). These were chosen for their similarity to
the original text, and the fact that they contained all the required
ligatures and other special characters.
The PDF files, because they include as graphical elements the
woodcuts used as initial capitals, are relatively large files, ranging from
1 to 3 megabytes each. All the files are also available
as a single PDF file (size = 9.7MB)