Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    A "Hidden" Book of Common Prayer

    [Thomas Cranmer and others]. [The Booke of Common Praier, and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies in the Church of Englande.] London: Rycharde Jugge and John Cawood, [1559]. Octavo. Lacking title page and front matter, the work starts at B8. Paper loss in lower margin page H4 with some loss, small cuts in outer margins of colophon and leaf v7. [Bound with:] Psalms of David [N.p., n.d.]. Octavo. A contemporary copy with no title page. Leaves E4, F1, and J4 torn and missing paper with loss of text. [Bound with:] Certayne sermons appoynted by the Quenes Maiestie : to be declared and read, by all persones, vycars, and curates, euery Sonday and holy daye, in theyr Churches: and by her graces aduyse perused a[nd] ouersene, for the better vnderstandyng of the simple people. [Imprynted at London : In Powles Churchyarde by Richarde Jugge and John Cawood printers to the Quenes Maiestie], Anno. M.D.L.ix [1559]. Quarto. Title page with small tears and chips repaired, holograph pen annotations on recto and verso, bound after its own leaf A3; lacking last leaf. [Bound with:] An unidentified contemporary book of church music. Quarto. Lacking title page and front matter, leaf ciiii torn with paper loss, not affecting text. Leaf D4 significant paper and text loss, paper loss in upper corner repaired of final leaf, missing last pages.
    Binding rebacked, old full leather boards blind stamped with rules and decorative border surrounding a letter "R", modern spine with four raised bands and "The Collectes Epistles" blind stamped in second compartment. Bookplate with holograph name of "Anne C. Morrel", printed bookplate of Harold Marshal on front pastedown, and bookplate of J. Maitland Thomson on rear pastedown, two paper slips with holograph pen notes tipped in on rear free endpaper. Old leather boards rubbed, cracked, and crazed; text block margins trimmed with some loss to running titles, edges darkened, some page tears and paper loss, dampstains, holograph pen marks and annotations, smudges and soiling, occasional holes and trails from biopredation, and pages lightly cockled. Overall a fascinating book in poor condition.
    An intentionally difficult book to describe, having been bound to avoid undue attention from both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, during a period of religious upheaval. With the exception of the incomplete music book, which has 223 numbered pages, the pages are unnumbered, and several are either missing or bound out of order. An interesting bibliographic puzzle for anyone with an interest in sixteenth century English Church history. From the Anne Calpurnia Morrel Collection.
    Please visit for an extended description of this lot.

    More Information:

    The Hidden in Plain Sight: A 1559 Book of Common Prayer

    "It was a time of turmoil and danger. For five years Henry VIII's oldest daughter, Queen Mary, a devout Catholic, had purged England of adherents to Henry's Church of England. Around three hundred Protestant heretics, including Thomas Cranmer (the author of the first Book of Common Prayer), were condemned by the inquisition and burned at the stake. Hundreds more were imprisoned, or stripped of their possessions for even having a copy of the book. Those copies found were destroyed. Queen Mary even considered having her half-sister Elizabeth executed.

    "When Queen Mary died and Elizabeth became queen, she outlawed the Roman Church. The Roman Catholic clergy left England for the Continent, or converted back to the Church of England with the rest of the population. A new version of the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1559. But it was still a time of danger. There were threats of invasion from Spain through Ireland, and from France through Scotland. Much of northern England was in rebellion in 1569-1570. A papal bull of 1570 specifically released Elizabeth's subjects from their allegiance, and there were plots against her life by the Roman Catholics. Any of these, if successful, would return England to the Roman Catholic Church and another inquisition.

    "Realizing the potential dangers, the owner of the book (R) had it bound together with two other innocent documents, a book of Homilies (sermons) and a book of church lyrics). He removed the distinctive title page, and had the spine stamped with the words "The Collects Epistles". As a result, it escaped detection for over 450 years.

    "It was discovered by Pat M. Bruno, a well-known Californian book binder and bookman, in a box of old books he purchased from the sale of a private library in Canada. He subsequently sold it to Anne C. Morrel, a collector of theological books. The spine was in shreds, so she had him replace it with distressed leather, carefully blending it into the leather covered boards on the sides. The rest of the book was retained in its original state. It and others items are currently being sold by her Living Trust.

    "The book is 7 inches high by 5 1/4 inches deep by 2 3/4 inches thick. The sides are aged, tooled leather. It is a remarkable reminder of the dangers of the Elizabethan Age, and an example of the bookmaking art of the time. It will make an inconspicuous example of the consequences of religious intolerance in your collection for another 450 years."


    -W.B.E. 2014

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2015
    8th-9th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 526

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $100,000 (minimum $14), plus 20% of any amount between $100,000 and $1,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $1,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on Apr 8, 2015 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 November 12 - 13 Space Exploration Signature Auction.

    Learn about consigning with us

    You reach a customer base that is in many ways completely unknown to the major auction houses, and your marketing to this base is as professional as one could hope for. As I continue to wind down my holdings.
    Michael Z.,
    Hawthorne, NY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search