For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Anglican Breviary

There is a remarkable piece of history and liturgy in my hands - indeed I have hardly set it down since I came in the door to find a fat package from the States awaiting me. It is the Anglican Breviary, saved from oblivion by one determined and persistent enough to organise its re-printing. To read more, follow this link. The price is - well, don't tell my wife - not low but not ridiculous for what it is.

It was produced in the United States, in the heyday of Anglo-Catholicism, the early 1900s, when the Anglo-Catholics were the strongest and most evangelically active wing of Anglicanism. The Anglican Breviary was an almost direct translation of the Roman Breviary, using the Coverdale Psalter, the Authorised King James Version and Keble's translations of the Breviary's hymns. Even the extra-biblical readings of Matins are translated into antique English. Following the wane of Anglo-Catholicism, and the drastic Catholic reforms of the Daily Office after the Council, the book was little used and fell out of print.

It is a beautiful book, the entire office in a single manageable volume. I am looking forward to using it in bits and pieces - the Antiphons especially - alongside the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham. I have a dream of getting together various bits of the Divine Office in English, creating a massive bank of all its parts in small media files, and then creating "playlists" for each day and feast, of Lauds, Vespers etc. for people to play (and pray) in their earphones on their way to and from work. If anyone would like to pay to commission a college choir (King's or John's would be fine) to record it all for me, I'd be much obliged.

Postscript: I have since discovered that this book was out of print since 1973 when, in 1998, a twenty-two year old enthusiast decided to fund a reprint. This was not the vanity project or hobby of a rich man - astonishingly, he scraped the funds together for the printing from a series of credit cards, and was then able to pay for subsequent reprints from the money raised from the first sale. But at the time of the first print, there was absolutely no guarantee of this outcome. Now there is a story: of love for a book and a tradition, and a lot of faith.

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your review, especially the postscripted story. I wonder if you might tell us: (1) on average, what is the point size of the font used (8, 10, 12, etc) and, (2) are all 150 psalms present? I fear I'm too late in ordering a new copy as the publisher has not replied to my queries. Nevertheless, if I can read the words and all psalms are present I'll put forth the effort to seek out a used copy.

    PAX,

    Richard
    Flower Mound, TX

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  2. I ordered my copy through the page http://www.anglicanbreviary.net/ordering.html although I did e-mail the address on the website first to check that a copy would arrive (it took a couple of weeks coming from the US to England). There is an address there for Daniel Lula (dlula97@hotmail.com), who I believe is pretty much responsible for the re-print, and I think that he has a stockpile of copies. So you will get one even if the publisher isn't printing at present.

    The font is pretty much uniform, size 10 I would guess. There are nearly 2000 pages but it is about the size of a medium-size Bible. The Psalms are all present, but they aren't set out in a separate Psalter as in the Book of Common Prayer: they are present in the "Ordinary" which is the set prayer for that particular Hour on that day of the week (e.g. at Sunday Lauds Ps. 93, 100, 63 & 148 are printed as part of the "Ordinary").

    One says almost the entire Psalter every week rather than monthly, and the schema it follows for the Psalms is that of the 1911 Roman Breviary after the reforms of Pius X, because it is more or less a translation of this.

    I prefer the pre-1911 schema but it takes a lot longer, and I admit I don't say all of the Matins Psalms, nor do I have the time to recite Psalm 119 every day between Prime and None. I am working on a little website that will give a revised version of this older Breviary in Prayer-book English rather than Latin, with shorter Matins and also a shorter version for the Hours during the day but full Lauds and Vespers. I hope to post about this with an address to the new site in the next few months.

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