John E. Booty's edition of The Book of Common Prayer, 1559, first published by the University Press of Virginia for the Folger Shakespeare Library in 1976 and long out of print, is now being reissued in the same handsome format as the original edition. In her foreword to the 2005 reissue, Judith Maltby writes, "It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of the 1559 Prayer Book.... Shakespeare was clearly shaped by a culture in which the vernacular was remarkably vigorous."
Booty's text derives from a rare copy of the Elizabethan Prayer Book printed by Richard Jugge and John Cawode in 1559, now part of the Josiah Benton Collection of the Boston Public Library. Booty modernized spelling and punctuation, but took care not to distort the style and cadence of the Elizabethan text. To place the Prayer Book in its original cultural setting, he wrote a lengthy critical essay that traces the book's history and use during the sixteenth century. Helpful bibliographical notes enable readers to appreciate all the nuances of particular services and their contents. Particularly useful are the general index and the index of biblical passages, features unavailable in other editions of the Prayer Book.
Through this magnificent document one begins to understand not only the Anglican church but also the Elizabethan culture in which Shakespeare lived, for this was one of the books that helped shape Renaissance England in all of its vitality and greatness. As Booty reminds the reader in his preface, each Sunday "in the parish churches and in the cathedrals the nation was at prayer, the commonwealth was being realized, and God, in whose hands the destinies of all were lodged, was worshiped in spirit and in truth."
Published in association with the Folger Shakespeare Library