Exhibition features rare 16th century Books of Common Prayer from the Drew collection.

LD_0515_CommonPrayer_SQ_0159“Til death do us part.”

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

“Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

These phrases, in regular use today, originated in the 16th century Book of Common Prayer authored by Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury under Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI of England.

Drafted as part of religious reforms enacted by Edward VI following Henry VIII’s break from Rome, several original editions of the Book of Common Prayer are on display in the “Comfortable Words: Anglican Piety and the Book of Common Prayer” exhibit at Drew now through October 23, 2015.

Highlights of the exhibit include

  • A first edition printed in 1549 in London during the reign of Edward VI
  • Editions printed in the 1600s by printers to King Charles I and II
  • Editions from the 1700s, including the first American edition
  • Editions bound by Queen Victoria’s bookbinder in the 1800s

In addition to their singular contribution to the spread of the Protestant Reformation, the Books of Common Prayer on display are also works of art. The books were created by some of the world’s leading craftsmen: Joseph Zaehnsdorf, Francis Bedford, Samuel Mearne and England’s master typefounder and printer, John Baskerville, The book covers are of ivory, velvet, copper and silver and include detailed artwork, original woodcuts, a fore-edge painting and exquisite bindings and engraving.

The exhibition, organized by the Special Collections and University Archives Department at Drew University, is dedicated to the memory of Fred and Mary Louise Maser, who donated their collection of more than 150 prayer books to Drew in 1978. Kenneth E. Rowe C’59, G’69, professor emeritus of church history at the Drew Theological School and formerly the Methodist librarian, curated the exhibition with assistance from Chris Anderson, Masato Okinaka, Kim Magnell and Cassie Brand of the Special Collections and University Archives Department.

More information about the exhibit can be found on the library’s site.