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    The Book of Common Prayer - 1552


The Second Prayer Book of Edward VI

To many in the English religious establishment under Edward VI, the 1549 Prayer Book was only a first step in a movement towards a more Reformed and Protestant religion. Many, such as Martin Bucher and Peter Martyr, objected to not only the services themselves, but also to what they believed to be overly-elaborate altars and vestments for the clergy. Archbishop Cranmer was himself one of these reformers, and the result was the revision of 1552, which intended to move the Church in a more "Protestant" direction.


Title page, 1552 BCP


King Edward VI
King Edward VI

The changes made in this prayer book were extensive, and included, among others:
   Added the Introductory Sentences, Exhortation, Confession and Absolution to Morning and Evening Prayer.
   Many changes were made in the Communion office, including addition of the Decalogue, omission of the Introit, a new prayer of Consecration, rearrangement of parts of the service, etc. The Communion service was also altered to make ambiguous the traditional Catholic doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the elements. A rubric, called "the Black Rubric" (so-called as it was printed in black in 19th century versions) was added only days before final printing, over many objections, and sought to assure that kneeling at the Communion did not in any way imply adoration of the host.
    The exorcism, annointing, the chrism, and triple immersion were omitted from the Baptism service.
    The use of reserved sacrament was left ambiguous in the Visitation of the Sick.
    The Burial service was drastically shortened, omitting Communion, prayers for the dead, and the psalms.

The book was introduced towards the end of 1552, and only preceeded the death of the young and sickly King Edward (pictured at right) by six months. Edward was succeeeded by Queen Mary, who quickly outlawed the Book of Common Prayer and restored the Latin rites of the Roman Catholic Church. So this prayer book never even came into general usage in England. Nevertheless, the 1552 Book of Common Prayer has had lasting impact, as the next revision (1559, on the accession of Elizabeth I) was based very closely on it.

The text used here is from a reprint, The First and Second Prayer-Books of Edward VI, published in 1910 as part of Everyman's Library. This book appears in David Griffiths' Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer as 1910/10. The text originally appears to be taken from an edition published by Edward Whitchurche (or Whytchurche) of London, or from a 19th century reprint thereof. It uses completely the original language and spelling, which are largely retained here.
    The text of the reprint has been modernized as follows:

  • When a vowel would, in modern usage, be followed by an "m" or "n", this was often indicated by the vowel-macron, or the vowel with a horizontal line over it, and the "m" or "n" was omitted. As the vowel-macron is not part of the standard ASCII character set, these characters have been replaced by their modern equivalents; i. e., the "m" or "n" has been added.
  • The letters "j" and "v" were hardly, if ever used in the original text, being represented by "i" and "u", repectively. The text here replaces "i" and "u" with "j" and "v", as appropriate.
  • The lower case "s" was often represented by something which looks much like a modern-day "f"; the modern "s" is used everywhere here.
  • If a word is obscure or has a different meaning today, the modern equivalent is noted in brackets in the text.
  • The reader will quickly notice that spelling was not standardized then as it is today. Many words have a number if different spellings within the text. This can be easily seen, for example, in the Benedicite omnia opera in Morning Prayer, where "Lord" sometimes has a final "e", and sometimes not, and sometimes is capitalized, and sometimes not; and "praise" is usually, but by no means always, spelled with a "y" instead of "i".

For more information about this Prayer Book, we have reproduced the Introduction which appeared in The First and Second Prayer-Books of Edward VI, written by Edgar C. S. Gibson, Bishop of Gloucester.

In any older book, one will typically find a few textual variants among the various printings, and this book is no exception. Four of these printings were compared in The Two Liturgies ... Set forth in the Reign of King Edward VI (Parker Soc., 1844, Griffiths 1844/9). Two of these were printed by Whitchurche, and two by Grafton, but, it was not possible to match them with editions listed by Griffiths. Variants found in more than one printing, other than obvious differences in spelling, typos, etc., are indicated in the text.

In addition to the links below, Holy Communion from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer is available from Linda Howell's 1662 BCP site. The Communion Service is also available online in modern spelling.
    Also, an outline of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer is available on the 1662 BCP site.
    The Internet Archive has two books from the Benton Collection at the Boston Public Library: one, likely Griffiths 1552:2 includes the Ordinal, and the other omits it but includes the Psalter and Godly Prayers. These appear to be the only original copies available on the web.
    Google Books has an 1844 typeset facsimile of this book (Griffiths 1844/27).
   Finally, the Internet Archive has a modern-language reprint of the 1552 BCP, The two books of Common Prayer set forth by authority of Parliament in the reign of King Edward the sixth, William Cardwell, ed. (1838 1st ed., Griffiths 1838/22; 1852 3rd ed., Griffiths 1852/28) in PDF and plain text formats; the 1838 edition is also available from Google books, as PDF graphics.



ii. Of ceremonies, why some be abolished and some retayned.
iii. The ordre howe the Psalter is appointed to be read.
iv. The Table for the order of the Psalmes to be sayd at Mornyng and Evening prayer.
v. The order how the rest of holy Scripture is appointed to be read.
vi. Propre Psalmes and Lessons at Morning and Evening Praier, for certayne feastes and dayes.
vii. An Almanack.
viii. The Table and Kalendar for Psalmes and Lessons, with necessarie Rules apperteynyng to the same.
ix. The order for Mornyng Prayer and Eveninge Praier throughout the yere.
x. The Letanie.
xi. The Collectes, Epistles, and Gospels, to be used at the ministracion of the holy Communion, throughout the yere
xii. The order of the ministracion of the holy Communion.
xiii. Baptisme both publique and private.
xiv. Confirmacion, where also is a Catechisme for children.
xv. Matrimonie.
xvi. Visitacion of the sicke.
xvii. The Communion of the sicke.
xviii. Burial.
xix. The thanksgiving of women after childe-birth.
xx. A Comminacion against sinners, with certain praiers to be used divers tymes in the yere.
xxi. The fourme and maner of makyng and consecrating of Bischoppes, Priestes, and Deacons.


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