Yes, I'm Jewish. Yes, the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is an Anglican - or, actually, originally Church of England - book. But, it's still a book, and I got to play with a really old edition at work last week at St James' Anglican Church, which was very cool, and gave me an opportunity to feel a bit like a curator again (white gloves and all) which is what I trained to be...
This year is the 350th anniversary of the BCP, which was published in 1662. The actual history of the book isn't something I know a huge amount about, but there is a marvelous article coming out in Parish Connections - the monthly magazine at St James' - so I'll try and remember to post a link to the parish website when that's been uploaded, because it's well and truly worth a read.
Getting to have a look at this rather choice edition of the BCP came about because of said article - because the Rector told me we had a 'rather important' edition of the book in the parish archive, and we should get it out and photograph it - a. for documentation purposes, and b. to have images to accompany the article. So, it was brought up from the archives - and I'd been expecting something small - think of your granny heading off to a church service with her prayer book tucked under her arm.... But no - HUGE archive box landed on the spare desk in the office. So, I though to myself, "That's a lot of packing." But, no!!! I opened the box and there was this enormous, ancient, leather bound, gorgeous thing!
It was published in 1814. It's an altar copy for the priest to read from and lead the services. It's, as I said, leather bound. The end papers - which you can just see a glimpse of at the end of one of the images, are lovely marbled paper. Most of it is in excellent condition. There are some pages that have had some attempts made at restoration, and others - there's one pic showing this - that has had hand written inserts added to change the text after Queen Victoria came to the throne.
The photographs were all taken by Chris Shain. He's a professional photographer, who also happens to be a parishioner, who is just so very, very good. You can find a link to his business site here. So, here are some of Chris's lovely images - with many thanks to him for permission to include here: