This appendix is intended simply to acquaint unfamiliar readers with the text of the Book of Common Prayer, which, for such an important book, is relatively little known to people outside the Anglican Communion. To do this as straightforwardly as possible, I will focus this account on the 1549 Prayerbook – a text which, while subsequently (and sometimes substantially) revised, established the foundational structure and content of all Prayerbooks to come. The vast majority of 1549 survived not only in the Elizabethan BCP, but also into that of the present day. And focusing on the first Prayerbook also enables some clearer discussion of its sources, context, and immediate significance.
The original title of the Book of Common Prayer, as given on the title page of Edward Whitchurch's edition of June 1549, was “THE booke of the common prayer and administracion of the Sacramentes, and other rites and ceremonies of the Churche: after the use of the Churche of England.” This comprehensive title provides a wealth of information about the book: the first two and last eight words explain its provenance, status, and uniqueness, while those in between give a full account of its contents. I'll address each phrase of the title in turn.
“THE booke.” Until the eleventh century, ritual texts were organized by office; each position had its own specific text for the Mass.