Common prayer: change, revision, and adaptation

In this example of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, a number of saints’ names have been re-inserted by a reader, including the controversial ‘T. Bek’—Thomas Becket, venerated as a saint by the Roman church. St Thomas’s feast was suppressed and his sainthood rejected by Henry VIII in a proclamation of 1538 on the grounds that Thomas was ‘untruly called’ a martyr—one way of expressing the fear that venerating a man who opposed his monarch could inspire seditious acts. The insertion attests to the challenge of suppression, as readers remembered and recorded practices ostensibly abolished. Yet even these re-insertions do not have obvious meanings: the reader who reinscribed St Thomas into the calendar also inserts various astrological events of note (‘Sol in Leone’ marks the transit of the sun into the sign of Leo on July 14, and the beginning of the ‘dog daies’ is noted in the margin) and makes several notes collating this version of the BCP with ‘the new book’ (i.e., a later version with substantive changes). It is possible that his or her interest in ‘T. Bek.’ was reverential or nostalgic, but it is equally possible that the insertion emerged from simple historical or bibliographic comparison. BW

The booke of the common prayer and administracion of the Sacramentes, and other rites and ceremonies of the Churche (London: Edward Whitchurch, June 1549).

LPL: H5145.A2 (1549)**

Further reading:

Alison Chapman, ‘Now and Then: Sequencing the Sacred in Two Protestant Calendars’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 33 (2003), pp. 91-123.

Brian Cummings, ed., The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662 (Oxford, 2011), esp. pp. 751-4.

David Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (Berkeley, 1989).

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