"The Book of Common Prayer" by Alan Jacobs
A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)

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Mr. Jacobs has an obvious affinity for the prayer book, and doesn't seem to care much for recent attempts to "modernize" worship. But his account is bereft of sentimental regret, and he is aware of the difficulties intrinsic to restricting religious expression to a set of prescribed texts.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer--from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today--became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many.

The book's chief maker, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian worship throughout England. But as Jacobs recounts, the book has had a variable and dramatic career in the complicated history of English church politics, and has been the focus of celebrations, protests, and even jail terms. As time passed, new forms of the book were made to suit the many English-speaking nations: first in Scotland, then in the new United States, and eventually wherever the British Empire extended its arm. Over time, Cranmer's book was adapted for different preferences and purposes. Jacobs vividly demonstrates how one book became many--and how it has shaped the devotional lives of men and women across the globe.

 

About Alan Jacobs

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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).
 
Published September 30, 2013 by Princeton University Press. 247 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for "The Book of Common Prayer"
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by John Murphy, Ph.D. on Dec 31 2013

Within its final chapters, poignancy emerges as the original text fades; the Anglican Church, full of its own debates as again traditionalists and progressives contend for control, revises and updates its core text.

Read Full Review of "The Book of Common Prayer": ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Barton Swaim on Oct 04 2013

Mr. Jacobs has an obvious affinity for the prayer book, and doesn't seem to care much for recent attempts to "modernize" worship. But his account is bereft of sentimental regret, and he is aware of the difficulties intrinsic to restricting religious expression to a set of prescribed texts.

Read Full Review of "The Book of Common Prayer": ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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