The Book of Common Prayer
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    The 1892 U. S. Book of Common Prayer




THE history of the movement in the American Episcopal Church, which has resulted in the preparation and adoption of the Standard Prayer Book of 1892, has been told by numerous liturgical writers, tho by no one more fully and fittingly than Wm. R. Huntington, D.D., D.C.L., of New York, a leading actor in it all. It is not too much to say that to this eminent scholar and divine are chiefly due both the inception and the successful completion of a masterful and sustained effort which has given to a national Church a book of offices and a manual of devotion as nearly perfect as it is possible that such a work should be. The enthusiasm with which the report of the Joint Committee appointed by the General Convention of 1889 to prepare and report a "Standard" comprising the changes already ratified by the Conventions of 1886 and 1889, as well as those to be acted upon by the Convention of 1892, indicated the satisfaction with which the completed results of the revision were regarded. The Committee had been chosen on the broadest principles of comprehension. The chairman, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Croswel Doane, has been the leader of the revision movement in the House of Bishops; and by his address and adroitness, coupled with a perfect familiarity with every question involved and a readiness to meet every possible objection, won the thanks of the House as well as the personal commendation of its members. The Bishop of Iowa, Dr. Stevens Perry, was named second on the list as representing the opponents of the revision, whose course, if not generally or even often successful, served at least to prevent the possibility of any radical divergence in the finished and accepted revision from the English Prayer Book. which might in the using tend insensibly to widen the separation of the various branches of the Anglican communion. The third bishop was the genial and large hearted Bishop of New York. Dr. Potter, who, amid the engrossing and never-ending duties of a practically metropolitical See, found time for the work of the committee, and contributed in no small degree to the successful issue of its work. The Rev. Dr. Huntington, rector of Grace Church, New York, was facile princeps among the representation of the House of Deputies on this committee. With a witching mastery of style, of "English undefiled," a purist in his choice and use of words, and a knowledge in detail of every phrase and sentence of the textus receptus of the Book of Common Prayer, he was of all men in the American Episcopal Church the one for the position which came to him as his acknowledged right. Time, pains, study, cost, were as nothing to him in bringing to a satisfactory result the work pre-eminently his own.

The Rev. Dr. Kedney, one of the professors at Seabury Divinity School, at Faribault, Minn., represented the scholarship and the theological and liturgical lore of the upper valley of the Mississippi. The Rev. Samuel Hart, D.D., a professor in Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., and Secretary of the House of Bishops, was the working member of the committee to whose critical examination of each sentence, word, letter, punctuation point, and whose judgment as to the style of type and the arrangement of the texts, the singular beauty of the page and the marvelous accuracy of the text of the completed Standard are due. Through the munificence of a lay member of the committee, whose name will ever be associated with this revision, every needed reference work, however rare or costly, was provided. No similar body ever entered upon its labors with a more perfect and complete critical apparatus. The report presented by the Rev. Dr. Hart, as Secretary of the Joint Committee, to the Convention of 1892, itself an exquisite bit of typography, gives not only the particulars of the committee's work but also indicates the wide erudition and scholarly labors of its author.

Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, of New York, was the first named of the laymen of the committee, and the time and thought this eminent financier gave to the actual work of the preparation of the Standard attested the interest and importance with which he regarded the revision. That the completed and perfected Standard, just issued from the De Vinne press, appears in the sumptuous form which makes it confessedly the finest production of the American printer's art is due to Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, who from the moment of his appointment as a member of the committee on the Standard has never ceased devising liberal things for the furtherance of the work. Mr. Joseph Packard, an eminent lawyer of Baltimore, and a son of the beloved and revered Hebrew Professor of the Theological Seminary of Virginia, near Alexandria; and ex-President Samuel Eliot, LL.D., of Trinity College, Hartford, a historian, a scholar, and an earnest and devoted churchman, made up the number of the committee. Through the generosity of Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, besides the copy for the archives which will be the "sealed book" of the American Episcopal Church, each of the nine members of the Joint Committee, together with the Presiding Bishop, Dr. Williams, of Connecticut, and the President of the House of Deputies, Dr. Morgan Dix, will receive a copy of the folio Standard entirely printed on vellum, of which but twelve will be printed, and the ever-appreciating value of which can readily be understood.

The meetings of the committee were usually held in the study of the rector of Grace Church or in one of the rooms of Grace House, New York; and altho a session in New York involved the travel of a couple of thousand miles each for at least two of the committee, the meetings were always well attended and proved to be of intense interest. Every objection raised in connection with any mooted point was most carefully considered. The decisions reached were in nearly every case unanimous, and these meetings will be long and most pleasantly remembered by each member of the committee.


This article appeared in a newspaper devoted to Church matters, The Independent, probably in 1893. The Report of the Joint Committee, Report of the Joint Committee appointed to prepare a Standard Book of Common Prayer, is available from Google Books.

The typography of the proposed "Standard" was committed to the Bishop of New York, the Rev. Dr. Huntington, and Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan. The De Vinne Press was selected as the one most likely to secure satisfactory results. A style of type known as the ”Columbian," was urged by the printers; but the advice of such experienced publishing houses as the Messrs. E. and J. B. Young & Co., of the Cooper Union. New York, induced the committee to adopt the English great primer type, so well known from its use by the Queen's and University printers. A very fair reproduction of the great primer was made by our best American type-founders, and was used in the printing of the book. The typeface used in this Book is known now as "de Vinne".

It was the wish and hope of the committee that their completed work should be presented to the General Convention of October, 1892. In spite of the warnings of experienced publishers that a reasonably perfect book could not be produced within the time at the disposal of the printers, an edition was struck off and placed in the hands of the bishops, and clerical and lay deputies, some days before the close of the session.


This volume, a remarkably handsome specimen of book-making, was issued simply for the use of the Convention in determining the "Standard." No copies were placed on sale; and it is within the personal knowledge of the writer that one hundred dollars was refused for a copy which an enthusiastic collector of Americana tried to procure. The few extra copies of this edition were sent to Church dignitaries abroad, and the book is to-day a liturgical rarity.

The Standard was no sooner subjected to the critical examination of professional proof-readers, especially those of the great Bible presses in England, at which the first editions for general use were to be printed, than nearly fifty minute errors of a typographical nature were detected, besides the presence of a number of broken or imperfect letters which had not been replaced by others. These errors were at once reported to the official "Custodian," the Rev. Dr. Hart, and their correction, as authorized by him, was cabled to the printers abroad; so that the editions put upon the market early in 1893, especially those bearing tile imprimatur of the Messrs. E. and J. B. Young & Co. and of James Pott & Co., were as nearly perfect as was possible at that stage of publication. The editions, which were simply photolithographic reproductions of the General Convention edition, perpetuated necessarily the typographical errors to which we have alluded.

It is this volume which we have presented as the 1892 Standard. It appears in David Griffiths' Bibliography of the Book of Common Prayer as 1892/5.

It still remained the duty of the Committee on Printing to prepare and print the limited edition of the Standard, as corrected, for the use of the various dioceses and jurisdiction in determining any controversies that might arise as to the text; to issue an edition in folio with foliated borders for subscribers only; and to superintend the preparation of the vellum Standard, par excellence, for the archives with the autograph attestation of the committee, and the eleven additional vellum copies, similarly attested, of which I have already spoken. The superb, large paper folio, issued in limited edition for subscribers, is now before us. Sumptuously bound in parchment, with clasps of brass similar to the tall folios of the medieval issues from the press, this monumental work has received the loving care and devotion of a most accomplished and experienced bibliophile, Mr. Daniel Berkeley Updike, of Boston, whose taste and skill are apparent on every page. The decoration of this commemorative edition of the Standard on large paper, marks an epoch in American book-making. No such work for appropriateness of decorative treatment, for typography, for paper, for press-work, for binding, has hitherto appeared on this continent.


Griffiths 1893/6

Griffiths 1893/7

The treatment adopted by Mr. Updike is, with necessary modifications, that of the old-time manuals of devotion. In a work in which no initial letters with medieval blazonry of gold, silver and color could be introduced, and which was practically printed in the style and type of modern days, the decoration contemplated could only conform to the typographical requirements already known. The method that commended itself to Mr. Updike's judgment was a simple but singularly efffective treatment of flat, decorative borders in which about thirty trees, flowers and plants, chosen with reference to their acknowledged symbolism and arranged in conformity to liturgical requirements and principles, furnished the subjects. As a basis of the plan, the Benedicite omnia opera Domini Domino was happily chosen. In Mr. Updike's own words:

"The whole scheme of decoration, therefore, is based on the Benedicite and follows out the train of thought suggested by this hymn, by using in the borders, when possible, plants connected by some association of ideas with the seasons and offices of the Church, and by introducing verses of the Benedicite at certain parts of the book, which need accentuation."

Where all is beautiful and each detail commends itself to the eye and to the judicial sense as well, we may note that the very lining-paper of the parchment cover — which is itself elaborately and appropriately decorated — is skillfully adorned with "English roses and Scotch thistles with scrolls bearing the words Hosanna—Alleluia, these plants being chosen in allusion to the Scotch and English origin of the American Episcopate." In these exquisite borders in black and white, the Advent season is decorated with the trumpet vine. For Christmas the box is used. At Epiphany we have "a garland of myrrh, roses and daffodils." The Sundays, known as the "esima" Sundays, have the bordering of the old English Lenten herb, tansy; while Ash Wednesday and through Lent until Passion Sunday the hyssop is the decoration used. Palms fittingly border the Palm-Sunday services. In Holy Week, passion flowers are used until the Maundy Thursday office, when a narrow border of grapes is introduced.

Plain ruled lines without adornment, inclosing Old and New Testament verses, mark the Good Friday Gospel. Easter lilies come with Easter-even, and in richer treatment with the Queen of Feasts, continuing until the Ascensiontide. The trumpet vine again appears on Holy Thursday, and at Whitsuntide columbine, and at Trinity the clover or trefoil. The Saints' days have their deckings of palm branches and lilies, and All Saints' Day has its border of divers flowers of evident significance. Matins and Evensong have rich, wide borders on a black ground; for the one the morning-glory is used, for the other Canterbury bells.

In this beautiful work the Prayer Book itself, as we have shown, has been the guide for its own adornment; and the completed work is instinct with the liturgical spirit, and is, in fact, redolent of devotion.

Title page of this Book (Griffiths 1893/7); clicking on the image will bring up a much larger version.

"Typical" page from Updike's version for subscribers; clicking on the image will bring up a much larger version

There have been seven "Standards" prior to the adoption of this Standard of 1892. Before the completion of the organization and unification of the Episcopal Churches in the United States there had been published, in 1786, in an edition of about four thousand copies, a tentative Prayer Book, known among liturgiologists as the "Proposed Book." This work, issued under the charge of a committee of the Convention of the Episcopal Churches in the Middle and Southern States held in 1785, chiefly represented the opinions and taste(?) of the celebrated William Smith, D.D., Oxon., formerly Provost of the College and Academy of Philadelphia. and first Bishop-elect of Maryland. The Rev. Dr. William White, of Philadelphia, and Charles Henry Wharton, D.D., of Delaware, the first convert to the American Episcopal Church from the Roman obedience, were the other members of this committee; but the correspondence, still preserved among the archives of the General Convention show how predominant the influence of Dr. Smith was in the preparation of this hasty and uncritical revision. Even Dr. Smith confessed ere the "Proposed Book" was fairly out from the press, in a letter to the Rev. Dr. Parker, of Boston, April 17th, 1886 :

"We can only, in the different States, receive the book for temporary use till our churches are organized, and the book comes again under review of Conventions having their Bishops, etc. as the primitive rules of episcopacy require."

The "Proposed Book" was never in general use. On the consecration of Drs. White and Provoost and their return as bishops in the English line of succession to their respective sees, Bishop Seabury of Connecticut, addressed them with a view of forming one American Episcopal Church and "mentioned the old Liturgy as the most likely bond of union." The New England churchmen and many of their brethren in New York held the same opinion, and in the unification of the American Church at the second General Convention of 1789, the "Proposed Book" was ignored, and "the old Liturgy" was practically made the basis of the revision of that year, the results of which appeared as the "Standard of 1790." published by Hall and Sellers, of Philadelphia. This rare volume was sold the past year in New York for $125. Its predecessor, the "Proposed Book" brought in Philadelphia in the spring of 1893 $50, and at a later sale in New York commanded the highest price it has ever reached—$125. The second "Standard" appeared in New York from the press of Hugh Gaine in 1793.

The 1792 Standard is Griffiths 1790/13; the 1793 Standard is 1793/10.


It was printed in octavo, and is to-day a book of great rarity. This is the edition formally set forth as a "Standard." The Bishop of New York, Dr. Provoost; the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Moore, afterward Bishop of New York; the Rev. Dr. Abraham Beach, of Trinity, New York, and Dr. William Samuel Johnson, formerly of Stratford, Conn., were appointed the committee to “superintend the printing of a correct edition of the Common Prayer Book," and to authenticate it when published. The third "Standard" was issued in 1832, under the superintendence of a committee consisting of Bishop White, the Rev. Drs. Frederic Beasley and Bird Wilson, and the Hon. William Meredith. This edition was printed from stereotype plates. New "Standards" were set forth in 1832 and 1838; but they proved unsatisfactory, and in 1845 the sixth "Standard" appeared, carefully prepared by Thomas Winthrop Coit, D.D., LL.D., and was accompanied by a liturgical report of great interest and value. In 1871 the seventh "Standard" was set forth. It failed to supersede the edition of 1845, or equal it in accuracy or value. The painstaking labors of Dr. Coit made the work of the committee reporting the Standard of 1892 comparatively easy. In estimating the service rendered to the Church by the Rev. Drs. Huntington and Hart, the preparatory work of Dr. T. W. Coit must be remembered. The Standard of 1892 was thus nearly or quite a century in its evolution. It will be, we may well believe, a full hundred years ere it shall give place to the ninth "Standard," which is yet to appear.

N. B., the "ninth Standard" is, of course, the 1928 BCP, which appeared only 35 years after this one.

The 1832 Standard is Griffiths 1832/29; 1838 Standard is 1838/32; 1845 Standard is 1845/36

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