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  • National Prayers: Special Worship since the Reformation. Vol. I: Special Prayers, Fasts and Thanksgivings in the British Isles, 1533–1688 ed. by Natalie Mears, Aladsair Raffe, Stephen Taylor, and Philip Williamson
  • Michael G. Witczak
National Prayers: Special Worship since the Reformation. Vol. I: Special Prayers, Fasts and Thanksgivings in the British Isles, 1533–1688. Edited by Natalie Mears, Aladsair Raffe, Stephen Taylor, and Philip Williamson, with Lucy Bates. [Church of England Record Society, Vol. 20.] (Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, an imprint of Boydell and Brewer. 2013. Pp. clxx, 766. $170.00. ISBN 978-1-84383-868-5.)

This first volume of a three-volume reference work has been compiled by a group of four early-modern historians (with assistance from another) working in various universities and institutes in Great Britain. The goal of the work is to provide the official decrees and actual worship texts issued for national use in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and colonial territories from the establishment of an independent Church of England until 2012.

The editors have attempted to provide a comprehensive resource for instances of national worship. Volume I contains all extant examples of special worship from the announcement of a thanksgiving service to mark the birth of Princess Elizabeth in 1533 to an order for prayers throughout the country because of the danger of invasion by William of Orange in 1688.

The introduction is both for this volume and for the whole series. It offers a detailed description of the organization of the edition, providing for each service the date and occasion, a commentary on the event and prayer, bibliographical information, the text of the order, the text of the prayer (if available), other versions of the prayer, other texts associated with the prayer, additional sources used in the commentary, and examples of sermons given for the event. For each prayer there are two main primary sources: the order establishing the prayer and the actual prayer text.

The introduction then explores the question: what is national worship? This genre emerges from forms practiced in the medieval Catholic Church in England and then evolves within the Church of England (and its related bodies in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland) until the reign of James II. Discussed are the authority of the orders, the geographical extent of the orders, and the similarities and differences among them. This is followed by a detailed overview of the forms of the orders and the kinds of worship ordered by reign and by territory, divided in half by the period of the Commonwealth. There is a detailed description of the forms of printing used and the methods of transcription and patterns of distribution.

A detailed list of all the forms of national worship (1533–2012) then follows, allowing the reader to get an overview of the whole range of events and prayers types with their geographical extent and the cause for the order. [End Page 650]

A helpful section describing the ordinary forms of worship in the Book of Common Prayer allows the reader to be able to situate special forms of national worship within the normal pattern of praying. Whether the special form is a brief prayer inserted within a regular service or a more elaborate reworking of a prayer form can be traced with the information in this section. Finally, there is a list of the official publishers of the forms of national prayers.

The bulk of the volume is taken up by the texts of the orders and of the prayers (when these latter are available). One example may suffice to give a sense of the whole: The first national prayer included that still retains the text of the prayer is from 1544, “Services and processions during the military campaign in France.” The commentary details Henry VIII’s military plans and situates the prayer within his overall strategy. The order is a “Royal mandate to archbishop of Canterbury, 8 June 1544.” The “Form of prayer” begins with a lengthy “Exhortation to prayer,” followed by “The letany and svffrages,” and a series of versicles and prayers.

This volume (and the whole set) will be a great resource to historians of various types: social, political, military, economic, printing...


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