While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, "Dearly
beloved, we are gathered together here. . ." or "Ashes to ashes,
dust to dust," we may not know that they originated with The "Book
of Common Prayer," which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of
the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer
book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs
tells its story. Jacobs shows how The "Book of Common Prayer"--from
its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the
England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today--became a
venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life
The book's chief maker, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of
Canterbury, created it as the authoritative manual of Christian
worship throughout England. But as Jacobs recounts, the book has
had a variable and dramatic career in the complicated history of
English church politics, and has been the focus of celebrations,
protests, and even jail terms. As time passed, new forms of the
book were made to suit the many English-speaking nations: first in
Scotland, then in the new United States, and eventually wherever
the British Empire extended its arm. Over time, Cranmer's book was
adapted for different preferences and purposes. Jacobs vividly
demonstrates how one book became many--and how it has shaped the
devotional lives of men and women across the globe.
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