After some hesitation, I have given this five stars (i.e. I have reviewed it for what it is, rather than what it should have been.) It is an essential work for anyone interested in the history of the Book of Common Prayer (especially at Amazon's 2011 price!) Its Unique Selling Point is that it prints the original 1662 text of the Book of Common Prayer (not easily obtainable, as I explain below) - just in time to coincide with its 350th anniversary. Brian Cummings's introduction is very good, but perhaps much too abbreviated, leading to some imprecision. The notes are excellent, but difficult to follow because they are cumulative - you need to check that a point hasn't already been made against an earlier text. Again, fuller notes could always have been made (e.g. the doxology to the Lord's Prayer is never properly explained.)
The title is misleading because only shortened versions of the 1549 and 1559 editions are included, and the full texts are not easily reconstructable from the information given - they are, however (if regrettably) probably the most readily obtainable versions of those editions. (The 1552 edition - a key work - is not included, and neither are the 1550 and 1552 ordinals - the latter is a serious omission, as it is almost identical to the Elizabethan one, and would thus have supplemented the 1559 text.) The texts given are lightly modernised (e.g. for i/j and u/v) - this is perfectly satisfactory for the 1662 text, but less so for the 1549 and 1559 texts, especially as contractions and elisions are also silently expanded.
Serious students really need to supplement this book with E.C.S. Gibson's 1910/1948 Everyman "The First and Second Prayer Books of Edward VI", last re-issued by the Prayer Book Society in 1999, which gives the full text of the 1549 edition and a shortened version of that of 1552 (but which can be completed using the 1549 text), as well as full texts of the 1550 and 1552 Ordinals (the Psalter is not, however, included.) Unfortunately, that book is out of print, and only available in dubious Print-On-Demand reprints.
Those interested in the 1559 Prayer Book really need to get J. Booty's edition: The Book of Common Prayer, 1559: The Elizabethan Prayer Book
- which is cheaper from US Amazon!
The reason the work under review is the only one to have the original 1662 text is simple: the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is still the official liturgy of the Church of England and is restricted to the official publishers: the Queen's Printer, Oxford University Press, and Cambridge University Press. Most editions claiming to be "1662" are actually the latest text - and that includes Diarmaid MacCulloch's otherwise excellent Everyman edition of 1999: The Book Of Common Prayer: 1662 Version: 1662 Version (Includes Appendices from the 1549 Version and Other Commemorations) (Everyman's Library classics)
- Everyman were only able to get permission to print the 1958 edition with later amendments! For the present book, Oxford University Press were able to give themselves permission...