Welcome to Saturday Book Review time! On most of the Saturdays this year we’ve been looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value. Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.
Today we’re going a bit weird and looking at a Bible. Not just any Bible, but the King James Version. And not just any KJV Bible, but the 400th anniversary 1611 facsimile edition. There are a few of these around, so the one I’m specifically dealing with here is the one from Hendrickson Publishers. You can find others, like from Zondervan, which omit the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon, but that’s lame. We’re Anglicans, and have all the books!
And, more importantly for the purposes of this review, this facsimile edition has the Daily Office Lectionary in it, as conformed to the then-current 1559 Prayer Book. Looking through this lectionary is a massive education for the modern Anglican, as the history of daily lectionaries has wandered quite a bit over the centuries since. Here’s a sample:
A quick run-down of what we’re looking at here…
- The far-left column, I must admit, I haven’t figured out.
- The second-left column is the day of the month (1-31 in this case).
- The next column has the letters A-g in repetition, allowing you identify the day-of-the-week throughout the month without having to be year-specific.
- The next column, labeled Kalend. at the top is the older Roman/medieval dating system.
- The large column notes feasts and fasts: Nicholas Bish[op] on the 6th, Conc[eption] of Mary on the 8th, O Sapientia on the 16th, Fast on the 24th, Christmas on the 25th, etc.
- The “Psalms” column tells you which day of the month’s psalms to use each day… for the majority of the year it’s identical to the actual day of the month, but there is one exception.
- The last four columns give you the OT and NT lessons for Morning and Evening Prayer. Here are a few samples, to help you with the typography:
- December 1st: Esa. xiiij (Isaiah 14), Actes ii (Acts 2), Esa. xv (Isaiah 15), Hebr.7 (Hebrews 7).
- December 21st: Pro.xxiij (Proverbs 23), xxi (Acts 21), Prou.24 (Proverbs 24), 1.John1. (1 John 1).
- December 27th: Eccleſ.v (Ecclesiastes 5), Reuel.i. (Revelation 1), Eccle.6. (Ecclesiastes 6), Reuel.22 (Revelation 22)
As you may be able to see, here, the space-and-ink-saving pattern was not to repeat the name of the current book being read when it’s in continuity with the day above. Christmas Day reprints Isaiah for the OT lessons because, although Isaiah was already the book being read at the time, the chapters to be read are different from the daily sequence.
You’ll also note that whole chapters were read at once. The versification we’re used to today was invented in 1557 and first printed in 1560, which means they did not exist when the first prayer books were printed in 1549 and 1552. The lectionary from those, continued here in 1611, therefore, could not rely on verse numbers to delineate Scripture readings! There are a couple footnotes in this lectionary to adjust the readings’ start and end points, using phrases rather than verse numbers.
There are, of course, some typographical distinctions that make this book difficult to read at first. The “long s”, ſ, is only used in the lectionary tables and in titles, never in the regular text of the scripture. (And, to dispel anachronistic use, never at the end of a word.) The letters u and v are treated as the same letter, u being in the middle of a word and v at the end of a word. So, the phrase “leave us not” is instead printed “leaue vs not“. You can also find the occasional typographical error, in which a u or an n is turned upside down – they’re the same “letter” from the printer’s perspective, just a matter of which-way-up-it’s placed on the printing block.
Anyway, I share this here because it’s a fantastic resource that modern Bibles sadly lack. As American Anglicans we barely even have a functioning Bible to support our lectionaries, much less a Bible that reprints the lectionary in the front to aid our devotions with the Offices. Considering how much arm-twisting it took just to get an ESV Bible with the additional books we need, chances are we’ll never have an ESV Bible with the full Anglican resources available. So it’s all the more important we learn about these resources of old.
On a fun sidenote, this KJV edition is also a handy thing to have when dealing with those who insist on the KJV Bible being the only legitimate Bible, because the original KJV has the books “called apocrypha” which they dread, plus a number of footnotes to supplement the primary translation, not to mention the lectionary tying it explicitly to the Common Prayer Book tradition which such fundamentalists would also despise. Knowing our own history, unsurprisingly, can help inoculate us against various errors of the present day.
The ratings in short:
This isn’t a particularly easy edition to find; there are other similar editions out there which omit all the things that make this a genuine Anglican book. It also takes some getting used to in terms of reading it; though it’s not as difficult as some people make it out to be. This is, after all, Early Modern English.
Devotional Usefulness: 4/5 if Applicable
Obviously this is just a Bible with the lectionary. You can’t pray the Office with this, or follow the Eucharistic lessons. But as Bible-reading-plans go, this one is very simple and very strong. It does omit significant portions of a few books, like Leviticus, Numbers, Ezekiel, and Revelation, though when you understand that the goal of a daily lectionary is common prayer, those omissions begin to make a lot more sense.
Reference Value: 4/5
Although this is a very specific snapshot of a very specific piece of Anglican liturgical history, this Bible and lectionary are very informative. If all you’ve ever seen are the 1928 and/or 1979 Prayer Book lectionaries, you’ll look at the 2019 book’s daily lectionary and wonder what on Earth our committee was up to. But if you look a this, the original daily lectionary, you’ll find that the 2019’s lectionary is incredibly more in step with historic Anglicanism Indeed, the daily lectionary is one of the worst features of both the 1928 and 1979 Prayer Books due to their complicated and convoluted reading order and their decreasing coverage of scripture.
Honestly, this is a book I think most Anglicans ought to have, clergymen especially. Try a year on this lectionary sometime, maybe even in this translation, too. It’s honestly hard to beat.