Family memories in a Book of Common Prayer

The notes in this volume, a copy of the 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, reveal that this copy of the first English liturgy took a new significance for generations of owners as a record of personal and family history. Seemingly first purchased by a ‘Thomas Whyple’ in 1562, the final pages are covered with notes of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths of the Whipple family and their relatives. The author of these notes, who seems to be not Thomas but another family member, writes in the first person, recording their own birth in 1535 and the deaths of their parents. On another page in the volume another owner, William Priest, has added his own family notes, recording his own birth, marriage, children and bereavements. The two note-makers were born fifty years apart and the connection between the two is not entirely clear, although both lived in the Norfolk village of Dickleburgh. Beyond this, they clearly shared the urge to record family lives and losses, turning this Book of Common Prayer, itself an artefact of Reformation history by Priest’s lifetime, into an intensely personal archive of personal and familial memory. CL

The booke of the common prayer and administracion of the sacramentes, and other rites and ceremonies of the Churche: after the vse of the Churche of England (London: Edward Whitchurch, 1549).

CUL: Sel.3.218, ‘Certayne notes’

Further Reading

William H. Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia, 2008), pp. 76-7.

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