Common prayer: the time of the living

Books of Common Prayer recorded life-time as well as church time. The offices for baptism, marriage, sickness, and death follow one another like the narrative of a human life, generalised to the scale of the community that shares them. Many copies are annotated with the dates of life events, as their owners use them to chronicle the major milestones in the lives of their families. In this copy, which belonged to the Adeane family of a small Gloucestershire village for over a century, multiple generations of births are recorded: first a generation born in the 1640s and 50s, recorded in the margins of the order for baptism, and then skipping a few generations, with a new set of Adeanes entering the world and the community represented by this book, recorded in the margin of the order for matrimony pictured here. This story continues in a devastating way in the order for burial in the same book.

Book of Common Prayer (London: Robert Barker, 1603).

YML: XVII/3.C.24

Further reading:

Adam Smyth, Autobiography in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2010).

William H. Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Early Modern England (Philadelphia, 2007).

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