The Book of Common Prayer
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    1789 U. S. Book of Common Prayer:
The 1790 First Edition


After an unfortunate experience with a Proposed Book of Common Prayer, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved a final Book of Common Prayer three years later, in October of 1789. The first printing of this book, by Hall and Sellers of Philadelphia, occurred the following year, and this first edition is what is presented here.

The book was very similar to the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer, with few significant changes made, other than the fact that the communion service followed the Scottish form rather than the English. This book did not include several services (the Ordinal, Consecration of Churches, and Institution of Ministers) nor the Articles of Religion, as these would not be approved for another ten years or so.

This book was succeeded in 1793 by the first Standard Edition, which made a few minor, mostly typographical, changes. For those interested, we have a much more detailed history of these editions elsewhere on this web site.

The book is listed in David Griffiths' Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer as 1790/13. One will notice that the book is fairly small (duodecimo, about 17 x 11cm), but Adobe Acrobat should allow you to increase the size for improved legibility or printing, if desired. One will also notice that it uses the old-style "long s" (which looks much like the letter "f"); this usage did not disappear from American Prayer Books until just about the year 1800. It is also available as PDF graphics from the Internet Archive.

We also have a partial folio edition of 1790. This is a rare printing which contains only those sections of the Book of Common Prayer which differed significantly from the English 1662 Book, and was intended to be inserted into English folio altar books for use by the priest in church services. As it is a folio, it is large in size (39 x 24cm) and is printed in "leaded great primer", meaning what is now known as the Caslon typeface with large leading, or spacing between the lines, so as to make it easier for public reading. This book is listed as Griffiths 1793/12, but, although it has no title page nor publication data, it was clearly printed before 1793; a hand-written note in my copy gives a date of 1790. The copy used here matches exactly the description of a "unique copy" of the partial folio edition mentioned by Gibson.

Both Books are presented as a series of Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files (or as single files) which are intended to be an exact reproduction of the original in every way. The files were originally created in Adobe InDesign and use the same font (HW Caslon's Caslon OldFace), and have the same dimensions, line and page breaks, etc., as do the originals.

Clicking on any of the links below should bring up the file as an Adobe Acrobat file; if this does not work, you may need to get the Adobe Acrobat Reader (it's free). All the files below are also available together as a single file. Note that this file is fairly large (about 1.4MB) and so may take a while to download. We also have the partial folio edition available as a single file.

As always, we welcome your comments and corrections.




1. THE Ratification of the Book of Common Prayer
2. The Preface
3. The Order how the Psalter is appointed to be read 
4. The Order how the rest of the Holy Scripture is appointed to be read. 
5. Table of Lessons of Holy Scripture to be read at Morning and Evening Prayer throughout the Year. 
6. The Calendar. 
7. Tables and Rules for the Moveable and Immoveable Feasts, together with the Days of Fasting and Abstinence throughout the Year. 
8. Tables for finding the Holydays. 
9. The Order for Daily Morning Prayer. (folio)
10. The Order for Daily Evening Prayer. (folio) (includes the Litany.)
11. Prayers and Thanksgivings upon several Occasions, to be used before the two final Prayers of Morning and Evening Service. (folio - does not include all the prayers)
12. The Collects Epistles, and Gospels, to be used throughout the Year.
13. The Order for the Administration of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion. (folio)
14. The Ministration of Public Baptism of Infants, to be used in the Church.
15. The Ministration of Private Baptism of Children, in Houses. 
16. The Ministration of Baptism to such as are of Riper Years, and able to answer for themselves.
17. A Catechism; that is to say an Instruction to he learned by every Person before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop. 
18. The Order of Confirmation, or Laying on of Hands upon those that are baptized, and come to years of Discretion. 
19. The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony
20. The Order for the Visitation of the Sick
21. The Communion of the Sick.
22. The Order for the Burial of the Dead
23. The Thanksgiving of Women after Child birth, commonly called, The Churching of Women.
24. Forms of Prayer to be used at Sea
25. A Form of Prayer for the Visitation of Prisoners.
26. A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for the Fruits of the earth, and all the other Blessings of his merciful Providence. (folio)
27. Forms of Prayer to be used in Families.
28: Selections of Psalms, to be used instead of the Psalms for the Day, at the discretion of the Minister. (folio)
29. The Psalter, or Psalms of David.

Note that the book additionally contains under a separate title page, The Whole Book of Psalms in Metre; with Hymns suited to the Feasts and Fasts of the Church and other Occasions of Public Worship, also published by Hall & Sellers in 1790.

My copy of the book has 12 pages missing or damaged, covering the last page of the Private Baptism of Infants, all of the Baptism of Adults, and the Catechism. Layout for these were taken from another edition published by Hall & Sellers in 1800, which has virtually identical pagination.

The folio edition also includes the Table of Lessons, and a page of hymns.


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