Timeless Treasures for Lasting Wordsby Karen Moore on April 16, 2012
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and the 350th birthday of another magnificent monument—the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The 1662 edition is rich in language that speaks to the heart and soul—it is meant to be read out loud. The familiar cadences are beautiful, soothing, direct and impactful.
Although there have been numerous editions of the BCP, you may recognize text from the 1662 edition. At the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, they chose Cranmer’s “Solemnization of Matrimony” liturgy for their marriage vows in Westminster Abbey. The familiar: “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part.” And the ring exchange: “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” The words are as exquisite today as they were 350 years ago.
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, compiled the various prayers, collects, and orders of worship that eventually emerged as the 1662 prayer book. However, before it could be published in its final form, Cranmer was burned at the stake by Queen Mary, who was King Henry VIII’s daughter by his first wife. Still, his legacy endures. For several hundred years, the book has influenced authors including: Shakespeare, John Milton, the Brontë sisters, T. S. Eliot, John le Carré, and P. D. James.
I have been collecting antique copies of the BCP for several years. The collection has several hundred copies from large editions to micro editions. When seeing the collection, the question always gets asked. “How did you get started?’ Well, I bought a small Victorian copy about six years ago and have continued to identify unique copies to add to the collection. I have always loved the smell and feel of old books—and I now have a lot of them!
When asked, if I have read the BCP. I can say, “Yes. I read from it daily.” If you would like to read from the 1662 edition of the BCP, go to www.bcponline.org