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The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662 Hardcover – Aug 18 2011
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"Cummings' annotations are superb and very much worth reading in full. He desribes with patience and scholarly tact the many subtleties of variation among these editions and the reasons for them. His achievement is all the more impressive because these subtleties often seem boundless...Cummings's authoritative edition helps readers understand how a politically fraught, theologically disputatious era managed to produce such a masterpiece--insofar as such a miracle can be understood at all."--Books and Culture
"Cummings, whose previous book was the brilliant and groundbreaking Literary Culture of the Reformation, is a scholar exquisitely sensitive to the intricacies of grammar and linguistics. Here--in his lapidary introduction, comprehensive glossary, rich explanatory notes, and meticulous, plainly written annotations--he elucidates the doctrinal, social, political, historical, and literary reverbations of a monumentally significant work."--The Atlantic
"Magnificent edition" -- Diarmaid MacCulloch, London Review of Books
"Superb edition...excellent notes and introduction" -- Rowan Williams, Times Literary Supplement
"[I]f this edition makes the prayer book texts available to--and appreciated by--more general readers, it will have served its admirable purpose." -- Catholic Historical Review
"Magnificent edition" --Diarmaid MacCulloch, London Review of Books
"Superb edition...excellent notes and introduction" --Rowan Williams, Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Brian Cummings received his BA at Cambridge University, where he also took his PhD under the supervision of the poet Geoffrey Hill and the church historian Eamon Duffy. He was previously a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge before moving to Sussex. He was a British Academy Exchange Fellow at the Huntington Library, California, in 2007 and is currently a research professor holding a three-year Major Research Fellowship with the Leverhulme Trust (2009-12).
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(I hate this system which makes my criticism of this particular version look like a criticism of the book itself, but Amazon doesn't allow us to make subtle distinctions in these reviews. I felt I had to put the one-star warning lest someone buy the Kindle version and not see the problems until after the 7-day return deadline.)
So now, the Book of Common Prayer is of course a marvelous work in all its classical editions, but I was most mystified by some of the choices made here by editor Brian Cummings. The introductory matter states "An ideal edition of the Book of Common Prayer would include all this  material in its varieties, and also those of 1552, 1604, and 1928. This edition is not that ideal." So at least it's honest, admitting it's not ideal. And I can understand why it's not practical to put in every possible text. But some omitted sections make it severely lacking as a tool for comparative liturgy.
The 1549 BCP is missing the Introits, Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, under the excuse that this section is substantially identical to that in the 1662 text. But this is very regrettable, because the 1549 book used (along with those of 1552 and 1559) an entirely different and older scriptural translation from the Authorized Version used in 1662. It would be very instructive to compare these, but this volume does not afford us that opportunity. Additionally, since the BCPs after 1549 did not include Introits at all, I don't understand why Cummings couldn't have at least included a little table telling us which psalm went with which day in the 1549 lectionary, even if he was unwilling to print them all out.
Neither of the two Edwardine Ordinals is included, which is a real shame since they changed a lot compared to the one in 1662.
The 1552 BCP is entirely absent, but I don't mind this omission too much, since no one ever really used that book for long.
With 1662 we have an edition with pretty much all of its materiel. Including, I must add, the "State Services" for the Gunpowder Treason, the Martyrdom of King Charles I, the Restoration of King Charles II, which were sadly removed from the BCP by the Victorians. Besides these it also includes even more obscure services like a lament over the Great Fire of London and a form for the "King's Healing". I was extremely pleased to see all these.
Finally, the book is marred by a typo - or at least a very odd inconsistency - in the 1662 Offices. The Suffrages after the Creed in Morning Prayer read "O Lord, save the Queen", but the corresponding Suffrage in Evening Prayer has "O Lord, save the King". I assume the latter is the correct one, since it's meant to replicate the text as it existed in 1662, when Charles II was reigning.
My only critique is that of following the notes. I always have two fingers stuck between pages to flip back and forth and haven't found a way to alternate between them. I don't know how else he could have done it without interrupted the flow of the prayer book itself (which maintains it's originality.) But oh well, I don't fault it at all, it's just something I noticed.
The commentary however, often reflects an unseemly modern anti-Christian bias. The notes on the order of matrimony for example, present the interesting lacuna that the radical Puritans did not object to the traditional prohibition of the marriage rite during fast and holy days. But it also jeers that prohibition by stating that people "being mammals" can mate the whole year long; insinuating that the postponement of the marriage rite and its limitation to certain times of the year is an absurd contradiction of our "animal" nature.
Memo to Prof. Brian Cummings: Christianity is a supernatural religion founded on elevating spirituality above carnality, man above the level of mammalian beast. To contrast animal nature with the demands of the Church is to completely misunderstand the Christian at his most fundamental level of vision and commitment. Cummings could not resist the compulsion to sneer at Christianity with his attempts at wisecracks sprinkled throughout the book. The editors at Oxford University Press either didn't care, or they encourage this sort of thing.
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